Awards Database

Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2012

Kingshuk Ghosh

University of Denver

Designing biological toys: genetic switches, and clocks

Ghosh’s research involves statistical physics, a branch of science that has proven useful to model complex systems such traffic flow, stock market behavior as well as various biological processes. Ghosh’s own research spans various branches of science including chemistry, mathematics, physics and non-traditional areas such as modeling traffic flows. University officials say he was hired in 2008 to expand research capabilities in biophysics and theoretical physics. He is the director of DU’s newly formed program in molecular and cellular biophysics. As an early-career teacher, Ghosh has received high praise from DU physics and astronomy majors, who acknowledge his commitment to teaching, willingness to help beyond regular class and office hours and his ability to explain the most complex material and concepts in simple terms. DU officials note these same students generally describe his class to be one of the most challenging they have taken so far. Ghosh received the Cottrell Scholar Award (CSA) based on his peer-reviewed proposal that included both research and teaching projects. Ghosh’s CSA research project involves developing a new theoretical approach to model what are called “dynamical fluctuations in small-number systems.” In Ghosh’s research, the term refers to the changing physical forces at play in such things as genetic switches, the molecules that turn various segments of DNA in cells on and off. It is part of his ongoing work to understand the way heat and motion play out when protein molecules fold or misfold – folding is the process by which proteins perform their functions within the cell. Meanwhile, Ghosh’s CSA education project is focused on creating two multidisciplinary classes – an introductory seminar for freshmen, and a biophysics class for advanced undergraduates. The multidisciplinary aspect of these classes is important because today’s scientists are increasing asked to address complex problems that often cross traditional fields of study. Ghosh said his seminar will offer a non-traditional approach employing quantitative reasoning to model complex systems. Students will be asked to solve problems in economics, weather forecasting as well as biology and physics. “It promises to offer something for everyone, both science and non-science majors,” he said.

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