Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Randy W. Larsen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian Space, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Zhang, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Venkat Bhethanabotla, Ph.D.


Photothermal methods; Protein; Metal-Organic Polyhedra; Layered Materials


Despite the plethora of information regarding cellular crowding and its importance on modulating protein function the effects of confinement on biological molecules are often overlooked when investigating their physiological function. Recently however, the encapsulation of biomolecules in solid state matrices (NafionTM, sol-gels, zirconium phosphate,etc.) has increased in importance as a method for examining protein conformation and dynamics in confined space as well as novel applications in biotechnology. Biotechnological applications include, but are not limited to, bioremediation, biosensors, biocatalysts, etc. In order to better utilize solid state materials as substrates for biological molecules an understanding of the effects of encapsulation on the detailed dynamics associated with physiological function is required as well as a complete characterization of the physical properties associated with the space in which the biological molecule is to be confined. The focus of this research is to probe the effects of confinement on the thermodynamics of ligand photo-release/rebinding to the prototypical heme protein, myoglobin, encapsulated within sol-gel glasses utilizing photoacoustic calorimetry (PAC) and photothermal beam deflection (PBD). Optical spectroscopies (including optical absorption and fluorescence) have also been employed to characterize the molecular environments of materials including Zr-phosphate and metal organic polyhedral (MOPs), thought to be good candidates for novel bio-hybrid materials. The assembly mechanisms associated with MOPs were also examined in order to develop a foundation through which new, bio-compatible MOPs can be designed. Overall the results presented here represent a technological breakthrough in the application of fast calorimetry to the study of proteins in confined space. This will allow for the first time the acquisition of detailed thermodynamic maps associated with the well-choreographed biomolecular dynamics in confined environments.