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Megan Engel

PhD Institution: Ph.D., University of Oxford Class: 2019 Fellow Postdoctoral institution and lab:

Brenner Group, Harvard University

Specialism: Theoretical Statistical Physics

Megan completed her DPhil in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her research explored biological self-assembly, the process by which proteins and nucleic acids can build themselves from one-dimensional strands of building blocks into functional three-dimensional shapes.

Megan’s research involved collaboration with experimentalist nanotechnologists to combine computational and experimental approaches to better understand self-assembly processes, which informs the rational design of new molecules. As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Megan will join Michael Brenner at Harvard University, where she aims to acquire knowledge of machine learning techniques. She wants to build predictive algorithms in order to map the natural self-assembly process with unprecedented accuracy. If we can understand how nature has harnessed the laws of physics to drive molecular three-dimensional assembly processes, we can use this understanding to understand diseases that result when these processes go awry, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This will also help to design ever better self-assembling nanomachines for almost boundless applications.

Megan is driven to use her Fellowship year to ask not ‘physics questions’, ‘chemistry questions’, nor ‘biology questions’, but fundamental problem-based questions that will break down traditional disciplinary silos.