Single cells are the building blocks for all biological systems; yet they are inherently complex with intricate networks of dynamic biomolecular assemblies made up of proteins, coenzymes, ligands, DNA, RNA and lipids. In addition, these molecular assemblies are dynamically changing their sizes, conformations and intermolecular interactions in response to specific chemical, environmental or biological cues. In Heikal laboratory, we are using fluorescence microscopy (confocal, two-photon, TIRF, and wide-field) and spectroscopy (time-resolved fluorescence, time-resolved anisotropy, FLIM, and FCS) to investigate molecular and cellular biophysics. These noninvasive and quantitative approaches complement traditional biochemical techniques on purified biomolecules from cell lysates.
Our interdisciplinary research interests are focused on understanding the molecular underpinning of cellular processes such as energy metabolism in living cells, mitochondrial dysfunction, biomimetic membranes, and immunoglobulin E receptor signaling. We are also interested in studying protein dynamics, protein-protein interactions, and macromolecular crowding in controlled environments. In addition, we are developing fluorescence-based micro-spectroscopic tools, image processing algorithm and modeling.
Students in Heikal laboratory (both undergraduates and graduates) are trained on a number of analytical, biophysical, and biochemical methods that include cell culture, model membrane assemblies, molecular dynamics, optical microscopy and ultrafast laser spectroscopy. Different aspects of scientific research (e.g., experimental design, data and image analysis, critical thinking, writing, communication and teamwork skills) are also emphasized. The students in Heikal laboratory also gain an appreciation of interdisciplinary research at the interface of traditional disciplines.
- Vladimir V. Ghukasyan and Ahmed A. Heikal have co-edited a book entitled, "Natural Biomarkers for Cellular Metabolism: Biology, Techniques, and Applications", which will be published by Taylor & Francis, CRC Press (October 7, 2014, 408 Pages, ISBN: 9781466509986), Series in Cellular and Clinical Imaging (Senior Editor: Ammasi Periasamy).
- John Alfveby defended his MS Thesis successfully on July 21, 2014. The final thesis was accepted by the Graduate School, University of Minnesota, on August 29, 2014. John will be applying for a PhD program for Fall-2015 following a year of job experience. Congratulations John and Best Wishes.
- Ahmed Heikal has participated in a session on "Spectroscopy in Kinetics and Dynamics" in the upcoming "69th International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy", June 16 - 20, 2014, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain. He also chaired a Mini-symposium on "Spectroscopy in Kinetics and Dynamics."
- Paul Yager, Corey Geehan, and Chang Thao were named the winners of the "Ilenda Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research" during the "2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium" at UMD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. The symposium took place on May 1st, 2014 and the Keynote Speaker was Professor Nils Petersen, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Canada. Congratulations to Paul, Corey and Chang.
- Professor Martin Gruebele, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Biophysics and Computational Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, visited UMD for an invited seminar entitled, “Protein Stability and Folding Kinetics in Living Cell”. The seminar took place on May 1, 2014.
- Ahmed Heikal has just published a peer-reviewed paper entitled, "Time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy and fluctuation correlation analysis of major histocompatibility complex class I proteins in fibroblast cells", Methods, (66) 283-291 (2014). This paper was published in a special issue of Methods, entitled "Advanced Light Microscopy Imaging in Biological Sciences."
- Randi Timerman (undergraduate) and John Alfveby (MS candidate) from Heikal Group have presented their research (two posters) at the 58th Biophysical Society Meeting, San Francisco, CA (February 15 - 19, 2014). Chang Thao, Holly Israelson, Jillian Bartusek, Dhanushka Wickramasinghe, and Robb Welty were also co-authors.
- Ahmed Heikal was an invited speaker at the 11th Annual Advanced Imaging Techniques Workshop, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, January 29 - 31, 2014. His talk was entitled, "Bioenergetics and Diffusion in the Crowded Milieu of Living Cells". The workshop was sponsored by Molecular Imaging Center / Cancer Research Laboratory at UC Berkeley, Becker & Hickl GmbH (Berlin, Germany), and Boston Electronics.
- Ahmed Heikal served as an external examiner of a PhD thesis at The Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME), University of Toronto, Canada, on July 25th, 2013.