Vibronic excitons in the FMO Complex

Hey! If you are reading this you probably know that I have spent part of my summer at Gettysburg College doing Summer Research, so let me introduce myself and talk about my research here and how I’m spending my summer.

My name is Adrián Navarro, and I am a rising senior (class of 2018) doing a theoretical quantum research on biophysics with Dr. Yoshihiro Sato.

We are examining the energy transfer that occurs when the Fenna-Matthews-Olson Complex (from now on FMO complex) gets excited using a light source. Why the FMO complex? In 2007, a paper by Dr. Gregory Engel and coauthors showed “Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems” (that is actually the name of the paper), being FMO the system mentioned. An electronic treatment is given to obtain the theoretical values.  There have been some studies in the past to determine some necessary constants for the simulation of this process. Using these, Dr. Sato and I will be performing a quantum simulation using both an electronic treatment and a vibronic one, including different vibration modes for the nuclei, trying to understand in both cases the half-time of the quantum coherence that we may be observing.

In order to perform this simulation, we need first a complete model of the quantum behavior of the FMO system and then write down the code for the simulation. In 2014, Dr. Sato and Brian Doolittle published a paper about a similar simulation on a dimer of the FMO complex (instead of the complete 8-site). This 8 weeks will serve us to first extend the theoretical calculations to polymer consisting of any number of heterogenic monomers, then to create new algorithms in Python that would work for any complex given the appropiate data and finally to perform the required simulations.

That’s the basis of what my research is about. But what does that mean on a day-to-day basis? My daily life is not really similar to most of the other students on the X-Sig programs. I hear from most of my frients that they are with their professors in the lab most of their time. In my case, Dr. Sato and I meet for less than 2 hours a day. We both work by ourselves in the morning, meet after lunch and then keep working individually. That is what I like the most about this research project: I can even work from my bed! I don’t need a specific place where to put all my notes and think, think again, and keep thinking until I come up with a new algorithm that works.

In addition to that, this summer has proven to be really successful in some other aspects as well: it may be just me, or not, but mental exercise makes me really hungry so I finally learned how to cook some really basic recipes. Also I started climbing at the climbing wall Gettysburg has at the gym, and me and my roommate got certified to belay other people as well so we could go climb together (belaying each other) when the workers were not there.

Thus, this summer I am working on a research that I’m passionate about, I made new friends with my fellow coworkers, learned how to cook and discovered how much I like climbing. Definitely a productive time at Gettysburg!


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