Dr. Church received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Photoreceptor proteins are the key molecules for response to and sensing of light in many organisms. They mediate a variety of functions in nature such as visual perception, regulation of circadian rhythm, phototaxis and light-oriented growth of plants. Because they are able to translate light into biological information, they are increasingly being used in biotechnological applications, such as super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, optical memory and light-triggered switches that regulate enzyme activities.
At the Institute of Chemistry at Hebrew University, Dr. Church is attempting to establish a molecular understanding for systematic design of light-sensitive proteins and to tailor specific properties using computational tools and biomolecular modelling, in order to one day be able to use photoreceptor properties for more specific and sensitive applications. He is studying the cyanobacteriochrome TePixJ, using multi-scale modelling to derive a fundamental understanding of how these proteins achieve the desired properties. He hopes that eventually a detailed understanding of these processes on a basic atomic level will form a foundation for future knowledge-based rational design of photoreceptors.