Alumni Profile

Physics PhD Alumni Wins WAGS-ProQuest Award for Thesis

February 23, 2018

Dr. Momčilo Gavrilov holds a PhD in Physics from SFU. Gavrilov is the winner of the 2017-2018 WAGS-ProQuest Innovation in Technology award recognizing his innovative application of technology to scholarship for his thesis, "Experiments on the thermodynamics of information processing." 

Since graduating from SFU, Gavrilov began working as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow with Prof. Taekjip Ha's The Ha Lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to study the helicase activity of biological motor proteins.

Gavrilov explains, "I study how a motor protein drives a single DNA molecule through a small opening or a nanopore. This nanopore method further allows me to explore the efficiency, energetics, and speed of different biological motors with the goal to better understand how biological systems process information." This is similar to his work at SFU, where he studied how artificial and modeled systems process information.

"However, unlike in my previous project, studying information in biology requires a multidisciplinary approach; therefore, my new project gives me an opportunity to closely collaborate with biologists, biophysicists, and chemists and learn many new and exciting concepts and techniques." he notes. 

Being recognized by this award is a true honour of his important contributions to the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary fields of and within the sciences. "This recognition further encourages me to continue my work in a similar direction and explore related phenomena in biological systems. The WAGS-ProQuest award is also an important validation of my work at SFU and I believe it will give more confidence to new students in Prof. John Bechhoefer's lab to continue work on similar and related topics."

While it is difficult to predict where Gavrilov will go next, it is certain that he will continue making important strides with his significant research. 

"My current goal is to get familiar with several different biophysical tools here at Johns Hopkins and combine them with the tools I developed. I see myself working on problems at the interface between different disciplines and applying new findings towards more general products. For example, the motor protein that I currently study can be used to understand how some biological systems process information; on the other hand, the same motors can be applied to read out a DNA sequence. With the engineered and improved motors, we can increase the speed and accuracy of current DNA sequencing methods."

Gavrilov is grateful for the support he received during his doctoral studies at SFU. "I would like to thank my PhD supervisor, Prof. John Bechhoefer, for giving me an opportunity to work on a very exciting project at SFU. I would also like to thank to SFU and its Physics Department for providing me with various funding during my graduate study."

Being recognized for this award, having his PhD thesis published by Springer and an NSERC postdoctoral fellowship since leaving SFU have been tremendous highlights for Gavrilov and are indicative of the bright future ahead for him.

Gavrilov receives a Certificate of Award, $1500, and travel expense to attend the WAGS Annual Conference and Awards luncheon in Las Vegas in March. 

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