Skip to content
March 24, 202311:30 am – 1:00 pm (CDT)

AMO/IQSE seminar: Ultraviolet superradiance from mega-networks of tryptophan in biological architectures


Philip Kurian (Howard University)



Mitchell Physics Building

College Station, Texas 77843-4242

About The Speaker

Dr. Philip Kurian is a theoretical physicist and serves as principal investigator and founding director of the Quantum Biology Laboratory ( at Howard University. Having begun his career as a math teacher in North Philadelphia, Dr. Kurian is now the recipient of fellowships, grants, and awards from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, US-Italy Fulbright Commission, Guy Foundation (UK), Whole Genome Science Foundation, DARPA, NSF, and NIH. His laboratory studies collective and cooperative quantum optical behaviors in the organization and synchronization of biological processes at the mesoscopic, organismal, and clinical scales, including in neurodegeneration, cancer, consciousness, and viral detection. In 2021 Dr. Kurian was appointed as a lead expert and co-organizer for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop on quantum-enabled sensing and imaging for biology. In 2022 he became a Simons Scholar and Senior Fellow at the UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics, and in 2023 he was selected as a UCSB Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics Fellow. Dr. Kurian also serves as a scientific advisor to the “Science for Seminaries” program of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion, which promotes advancement of meaningful conversations and curricula among theologians, scientists, and clergy.

Event Details

Networks of tryptophan – an aromatic amino acid with strong fluorescent response – are ubiquitous in biological systems, forming diverse architectures in transmembrane proteins, cytoskeletal filaments, sub-neuronal elements, photoreceptor complexes, virion capsids, and other cellular structures. We analyze the cooperative effects induced by ultraviolet (UV) excitation of several biologically relevant tryptophan mega-networks, thus giving insight into novel mechanisms for cellular signaling and control. Our theoretical analysis in the single-excitation manifold predicts the formation of strongly superradiant states due to collective radiative interactions among organized arrangements of up to more than 100,000 tryptophan UV-excited transition dipoles in microtubule architectures, which leads to an enhancement of the fluorescence quantum yield that is confirmed by our experiments. We demonstrate the observed consequences of this superradiant behavior for hierarchically organized tubulin structures in their fluorescence quantum yield, which increases in different geometric regimes at thermal equilibrium before saturation – highlighting the effect's persistence in the presence of disorder. In light of the data’s strong indication of UV superradiance from such tryptophan mega-networks, potential applications for optical detection and discrimination of viral pathogens will be discussed.    

Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved, Texas A&M University Trademark | Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843