About our Work
Unraveling the Mysteries of Life Itself
How do nerve cells communicate with one another? How can complex organisms develop from a single cell? What regulates our "internal clocks"? Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry are concerned with the molecular processes that drive and regulate the complex processes of life itself. These processes are not easily observed, however. They play out in the cellular nanocosmos and are invisible to the naked eye. Common microscopes allow us to track bacteria and observe individual cells, however they reveal very little about what happens deep in the interior of living cells.
A Sharpened Insight into the Cellular Nanocosmos
A focal point of the institute's research is to develop techniques that permit us to see into the molecular world. Ultra-high-resolution fluorescence microscopy, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, electron cryo-microscopy and atomistic computer simulation are some of the methods that scientists here have successfully used to put proteins – the tiny nanomachines of living cells – under the magnifying glass. Their objective is to shed light on the mechanisms with which proteins fulfill their varied functions in the cell, for example as molecular motors, chemical factories, photo cells and sensors. Even cellular logistics are managed by proteins. Currently the question of how substances are transported between the cell's various compartments is being studied at the institute in more depth.
How is the Blueprint of Life Implemented?
In addition, scientists here are investigating how the blueprints for proteins are made readable as well as examining the mechanics of ribosomes, so-called "protein factories". Proteins can only fulfill their tasks in the cell when built correctly. How quality control functions in their construction is thus a key topic of research at the institute.
From Solar Energy to Movement - Molecular Dynamics
Many phenomena in the inanimate natural world can also be attributed to molecular processes. Many molecules, radicals and atoms in the atmosphere react with one another after having been generated and animated by solar radiation. The study of internal molecular dynamics is another imporant field of research at the institute.
Diversity - the Key to New Ideas
In order to gain insights into such complex life processes, scientists from a diverse range of disciplines and 50 different countries work together at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry. Many different languages can be heard daily around the campus, as well as healthy debates about projects, ideas and results. Intensive collaboration between biologists, chemists, physicians and physicists is a way of life here, and also extends far beyond the institute's walls to include a multitude of scientists, scholars and specialists worldwide.