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General Research Area: 

Chemistry of Life

Research Discipline: 

Chemical Biology

Theory & Computation

Research Summary: 

Our group works on the definition and implementation of strategies to study complex biophysical processes on long timescales. Despite the significant advances, our quantitative understanding of biological function at the molecular and cellular level is still in its relative infancy. Experimental and theoretical approaches to characterize macromolecular dynamics and function have evolved dramatically in the last few decades. However, experiment and computation have co-existed with limited feedback. On one hand, simulations can, in principle, resolve details not accessible to experiment, but are based on empirical models and, alone, cannot be quantitatively predictive. On the other hand, a wealth of indirect data on the structure and dynamics of macromolecular complexes is available from thermodynamic and kinetic measurements on parts of the systems of interest, but there is no way to systematically combine these data into a structural model.  We design multiscale models, adaptive sampling approaches, and data analysis tools that allow exploring large regions of a system's free energy landscape. We use data-driven methods for systematic coarse-graining of macromolecular systems, to bridge molecular and cellular scales. We work on a theoretical formulation to exploit the complementary information that can be obtained in simulation and experiment, to combine the approximate but high-resolution structural and dynamical information from computational models with the “exact” but lower resolution information available from experiments.


Cecilia Clementi is a Professor of Chemistry, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Senior Scientist in the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at Rice University. Cecilia received her Laurea (B.S.) degree in Physics from the University of Florence, Italy, in 1995, and her PhD in Physics from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA/ISAS) in Trieste, Italy, in 1998. After a postdoctoral fellowship in the La Jolla Interfaces in Science (LJIS) program at the University of California San Diego, she joined the Rice faculty in 2001, where she leads an interdisciplinary group working on multiscale macromolecular modeling. Cecilia's work has been recognized with multiple awards, such as the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research of the Welch Foundation, and the NSF-CAREER award. 

Cecilia is serving as co-Director of the NSF-funded Molecular Sciences Software Institute (MolSSI), where she is responsible for the activities in biomolecular simulation and in international engagement. She is also an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany.