Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship awarded to Jolijn Onvlee

27 July, 2017

Jolijn Onvlee, postdoctoral researcher in the Controlled Molecule Imaging Group, was awarded a prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for her research proposal regarding the hydrogen bond dynamics in indole-water.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation promotes research collaborations between excellent foreign and German researchers. The foundation has awarded Jolijn a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers for her proposal entitled ‘Unraveling the ultrafast dynamics of hydrogen bond formation and breaking in the indole-water complex’. The fellowship will allow her to perform this research project in the CMI group of Jochen Küpper for two years starting from fall 2017. She will investigate the indole-water complex, which serves as a model system for interactions between proteins and water. The indole and water molecules are connected to each other by a hydrogen bond. The ultimate goal of the project is to construct a so-called molecular movie, in which we can track the ultrafast structural changes of the indole-water complex when the hydrogen bond breaks. 

In order to construct this molecular movie, Jolijn will combine experiments and theoretical models. Theoretically, the first step is to construct potential energy surfaces that describe the interactions between the indole and water molecules as function of distances and angles between them. These potentials can subsequently be used as input for various techniques to theoretically study the dynamics in the system upon hydrogen bond breaking. Optimally, the positions of the atoms in indole-water are computed as function of time, resulting in a theoretical molecular movie. With the so-called Laser Induced Electron Diffraction (LIED) technique, an experimental molecular movie can be constructed with atomic spatial and ultrafast temporal resolution. These theoretical and experimental molecular movies will help us to elucidate the dynamics of hydrogen bond breaking in indole-water in the highest detail and to develop a better general understanding of these important interactions in chemistry and biology.

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