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A German American computational biophysicist and the Swanlund Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he directs the NIH Biotechnology Research Center on Macromolecular Modeling; and co-directs the NSF Physics Frontier Center on Living Cell Physics. His research group is well known for the development of software for computational structural biology, including the molecular dynamics package NAMD (jointly developed with colleague Professor Laxmikant Kale) and the visualization software VMD. NAMD (NAnoscale Molecular Dynamics program) is a a freeware molecular dynamics simulation package written using the Charm++ parallel programming model, noted for its parallel efficiency and often used to simulate large systems (millions of atoms). The early development of NAMD at UIUC grew out of efforts by his students in Munich to build a custom parallel computer optimized for molecular dynamics simulations. His recent work has concentrated on molecular modeling using graphical processing units (GPUs), particularly using molecular dynamics in combination with cryo-electron microscopy to study the structures of large macromolecular complexes. The molecular dynamics and structure analysis programs NAMD and VMD, born and continuously developed in his group, are used today by many thousands of researchers worldwide. In 2013 his group published a simulated structure of the human immunodeficiency virus capsid containing 64 million atoms - among the largest simulations reported produced using the supercomputer, Blue Waters. He received the Diplom degree from the University of Muenster in 1969 and received his Ph.D. in Chemical Physics from Harvard University in 1974, advised by Martin Karplus. After graduating, he joined the Max Planck Institute, for Biophysical Chemistry where he remained until 1980. He then became a professor of Theoretical Physics at the Technical University of Munich, where he advised notable biophysicist Axel Brunger as a Ph.D. student. In 1988 he moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where he is a member of the Beckman Institute and a founding member of the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. He is a Fellow of the Biophysical Society (2012) and of the American Physical Society (1993). Along with Professor Laxmikant (Sanjay) Kale, he received the 2012 Sidney Fernbach Joint Award from the IEEE Computer Society, "For outstanding contributions to the development of widely used parallel software for large biomolecular systems simulation". He also received the Biophysical Society Distinguished Service Award in 2013. As of 2013, his work in biological physics has produced over 650 publications, which have been cited over 75,000 times (Google Scholar) as of February 2015. He believes strongly in the importance of educating the next generation of scientists, having graduated 80 Ph.D. students, many of whom are in distinguished academic positions. He has developed new courses and textbooks, and organizes a popular series of hands-on training workshops in which he has trained, in small groups, over 1,000 young scientists.
  • Noted For:

    Leader of the research group that developed the software for computational structural biology, including the molecular dynamics package NAMD and the visualization software VMD used today by many thousands of researchers worldwide
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