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Piotr E. Marszalek

Piotr E. Marszalek

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

My research focuses on investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), which I study at a single molecule level. My main approaches are experimental scanning probe microscopy techniques and computational methods involving Molecular Dynamics simulations and ab initio quantum mechanical calculations. The ultimate goal of this research is to understand the above-mentioned relationships at an atomic level and to apply the knowledge gained towards elucidating basic phenomena such as: molecular recognition that mediates interactions between proteins and sugars, mechanotransduction that underlies mechanical sensing and hearing in all organisms, and protein folding that is fundamental to all biology. Our DNA research is aimed at exploiting atomic force microscopy techniques to develop new ultra-sensitive assays for detecting and examining DNA damage, the process underlying carcinogenesis, and to increase our mechanistic understanding of DNA damage and repair processes. This research, in addition to its basic science aspects will lay a foundation for the future use of AFM technologies in the nanoscale DNA diagnostics with a potential to directly benefit human health.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Contact Information

  • Office Location: 3387 Fciemas Building, Box 90300, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5381
  • Email Address:


  • Ph.D. Electrotechnical Institute (Poland), 1991
  • M.S. University of Warsaw (Poland), 1985

Research Interests

Investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), at a single molecule level.

Courses Taught

  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • BME 494: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • EGR 391: Projects in Engineering
  • ME 331L: Thermodynamics
  • ME 555: Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 592: Research Independent Study in Mechanical Engineering or Material Science
  • ME 759: Special Readings in Mechanical Engineering
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment
  • PHYSICS 493: Research Independent Study
  • PHYSICS 495: Thesis Independent Study

In the News

Representative Publications

  • Josephs, EA; Marszalek, PE, Endonuclease-independent DNA mismatch repair processes on the lagging strand., Dna Repair, vol 68 (2018), pp. 41-49 [10.1016/j.dnarep.2018.06.002] [abs].
  • Li, Q; Scholl, ZN; Marszalek, PE, Unraveling the Mechanical Unfolding Pathways of a Multidomain Protein: Phosphoglycerate Kinase., Biophysical Journal, vol 115 no. 1 (2018), pp. 46-58 [10.1016/j.bpj.2018.05.028] [abs].
  • Plata, CA; Scholl, ZN; Marszalek, PE; Prados, A, Relevance of the Speed and Direction of Pulling in Simple Modular Proteins., Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, vol 14 no. 6 (2018), pp. 2910-2918 [10.1021/acs.jctc.8b00347] [abs].
  • Gimsa, J; Wysotzki, P; Perutkova, Š; Weihe, T; Elter, P; Marszałek, P; Kralj-Iglič, V; Müller, T; Iglič, A, Spermidine-Induced Attraction of Like-Charged Surfaces Is Correlated with the pH-Dependent Spermidine Charge: Force Spectroscopy Characterization., Langmuir : the Acs Journal of Surfaces and Colloids, vol 34 no. 8 (2018), pp. 2725-2733 [10.1021/acs.langmuir.7b04199] [abs].
  • Marszalek, PE, Warhammers for Peaceful Times., Biophysical Journal, vol 114 no. 1 (2018), pp. 1-2 [10.1016/j.bpj.2017.10.043] [abs].