Professor Gopinathan's research focuses on a variety of problems in biophysics, soft condensed matter and the interface between the two fields. His group uses theoretical and computational techniques from different areas in soft matter and statistical mechanics including polymer physics, elasticity and anomalous transport.
The group's primary research area is Biological Transport which involves understanding how transport occurs in biological systems across different levels of organization and scale — ranging from macromolecules and vesicles being transported within the cell and across membranes to cells to communities of cells and higher animals across geographical scales. In the cellular context, the environment is structurally complex and exhibits unique dynamical properties. This results in novel types of transport phenomena and effects that in vivo systems manage to remarkably exploit. Examples include polymer transport across membrane pores, macromolecular transport through nuclear pores and motor driven intracellular transport. At higher levels, problems studied include eukaryotic cell motility, bacterial community motility and foraging in higher animals.
In addition, his group is involved in a number of other projects including drug design, colloidal dynamics, self-organization at surfaces, the geometry and dynamics of elastic sheets, transport in disordered systems and fluctuation induced forces.
Biology offers a rich and rewarding field for applying ideas and techniques from physics, resulting in exciting research that not only delves into the machinery of life but also enriches and advances physics. Professor Ajay Gopinathan's main interest lies in understanding the inter-relationship between the non-equilibrium nature, structure, mechanical properties and function in biological systems.
Current research involves using methods from soft condensed matter physics (statistical mechanics, polymer physics, elasticity) to address various issues such as different aspects of cell motility including force generation and membrane dynamics, protein translocation across membrane pores, kinetic control of the cytoskeletal network, the structure and function of biopolymer aggregates and the diffusion of macromolecules in crowded, sticky environments.
Research is conducted using a combination of analytical and computational techniques, often in collaboration with experimental groups. Other interests include colloidal dynamics, self-organization in polymeric systems and statistical mechanics of biological and artificial networks.