Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ivaylo Ivanov


The most critical biochemistry in an organism supports the central dogma of molecular biology: transcription of DNA to RNA and translation of RNA to peptide sequence. Proteins are then responsible for catalyzing, regulating and ensuring the fidelity of transcription and translation. At the heart of these processes lie selective biomolecular interactions and specific dynamics that are necessary for complex formation and catalytic activity. Through advanced biophysical and computational methods, it has become possible to probe these macromolecular dynamics and interactions at the molecular and atomic levels to tease out their underlying physical bases. To the end of a more thorough understanding of these physical bases, we have performed studies to probe the motions and interactions intrinsic to the function of biomolecular complexes: modeling the dual-base flipping strategy of alkylpurine glycosylase D, dynamically tracing evolution and epistasis in the 3-ketosteroid family of nuclear receptors, discovering the allosteric and conformational aspects of transcription regulation in liver receptor homologue 1, leveraging specific contacts in tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase 2 for the development of novel inhibitor scaffolds, and detailing the experimentally observed connection between solvation and sequence-specific binding affinity in PU.1-DNA complexes at the atomic level. While each study seeks to solve system-specific problems, the collection outlines a general and broadly applicable description of the biophysical motivations of biochemical processes.