CAS Professor of Physics
Klaus Schulten, a leader in the field of computational biophysics, devoted his entire 40 year career to establish the physical mechanisms underlying processes and organization in living systems from the atomic to the organism scale. Schulten uses computer simulations as a “computational microscope”, to augment experimental research. In his hands the computational microscope led to discoveries that could not be made through experiment alone. Underlying the computational microscope are the molecular dynamics and structure analysis programs NAMD and VMD, continuously developed in his group since twenty years. The two programs are used today by hundreds of thousands of researchers across the world. Schulten contributed with his discoveries to several areas of biophysics: from quantum biology of vision, photosynthesis, and animal navigation to the physiology of ion channels arising in neural signaling and to the theory of brain function; from mechanically gated channel proteins to muscle protein mechanics; from mathematical physics of non-equilibrium processes to numerical mathematics of the classical many-body problem. While Schulten’s work remains solidly anchored to molecular detail, his recent work has advanced to cell biology and systems biology via his group’s structure analysis method, Molecular Dynamics Flexible Fitting. This computational method has been applied to systems such as the 300,000-atom ribosome and 4-million-atom a AIDS virus capsid. As of 2014, Schulten’s work has produced 660 publications, which have been cited 69,000 times. Schulten spends much of his effort to educating the next generation of scientists, having graduated 85 PhD students so far, many today in distinguished academic positions. Shulten developed new courses and textbooks, and organizes a popular series of training workshops in which he has trained, in small groups, over 1100 young scientists.
Klaus Schulten holds a Diplom degree in Physics from the University of Muenster, Germany, and a PhD in Cchemical Physics from Harvard University. He was junior group leader at the Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany from 1974 to 1980, and professor of theoretical physics at the Technical University of Munich from 1980 to 1989. Schulten came to the University of Illinois in 1988, and in 1989 joined the Beckman Institute and founded the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group, which operates the NIH-funded Center for Macromolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics. Since 2008 he is co-director of the NSF-funded Center for the Physics of Living Cells. Schulten’s awards and honors include: BPS 59th Annual Meeting National Lecturer 2015; Distinguished Service Award, Biophysical Society (2013); IEEE Computer Society Sidney Fernbach Award (2012); Fellow of the Biophysical Society (2012); Award in Computational Biology (2008); Humboldt Award of the German Humboldt Foundation (2004); University of Illinois Scholar (1966); Fellow of the American Physical Society (1993); Nernst Prize of the Physical Chemistry Society of Germany (1981).
Klaus Schulten died October 31, 2016. News note