Learning from nature’s machines

image - Baker Speedboat Square

Can we re-create natural motors 1,000,000 times smaller than a grain of sand and five times faster than a F1 engine? Ask Matt Baker.

Dr Matt Baker, a postdoc in Lawrence Lee’s lab at the Victor Chang Institute was recently selected as one of the “Top 5 Under 40” by UNSW and Radio National.

With his newfound fame, Matt hopes to tell us all about the fastest nano-machine on the planet.

Rotating five times faster than a Formula 1 engine, this little engine spins the propellers that make nearly all bacteria swim.

And Matt and his team are currently working to try and re-create them in the lab.

 “If we could create such a device and fully understand how it works, we could unlock a myriad of medical, technological and environmental applications,” says Matt.

Traditionally, biologists have tried to understand nature’s complex machines from the top down, taking out individual parts out and seeing what changes.

“That’s like trying to understand how a car works by taking it apart, which does not give you a full picture of how it works,” says Matt. “What we want to do is look at it whilst it’s running, and figure out how to build it from scratch”.

Using a technology which allows DNA strands to self-assemble and build structures of different shapes, Matt and his team can now build biological machines one protein at a time and really understand how they work.

“The power to build biological structures from the ground up will give scientists unprecedented insight into how things work.”

As one of the winners of the “Top 5 Under 40” competition Matt has already undertaken a two day communication training workshop, and later this year will spend 10 days as a “scientist in residence” at the ABC.

Both Lawrence Lee and Matt Baker will also join Single Molecule Science at UNSW in 2015. 

Watch Matt’s Top 5 under 40 video

Meet all the winners


About Top 5 under 40


Date Published: 
Wednesday, 29 April 2015