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2019 Fellow

Megan Engel

Theoretical Statistical Physics

PhD Institution
University of Oxford
Postdoctoral institution and lab

Brenner Group, Harvard University

Next Steps

Schmidt Science Fellows Additional Study Grant at Harvard University

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, informing the rational design of new molecules. As a Schmidt Science Fellow, Megan worked with Michael Brenner at Harvard University to acquire knowledge of machine learning techniques. She now continues her work at the Brenner Group on an Additional Study Grant, focused on developing novel approaches to map self-assembly processes with unprecedented accuracy.

Improving our understanding of how nature has harnessed the laws of physics to drive molecular three-dimensional assembly processes has applications in treating diseases that result when these processes go awry, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. This understanding will also help us design ever better self-assembling nanomachines for almost boundless applications.

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