Dr. Thomas Schultz
The project leader at the Max Born Institute investigates the photochemistry of DNA
Thomas Schultz was born 1971 in Washington D.C. and grew up in rural southern Germany, close to the picturesque university town of Tübingen. After studying chemistry in Switzerland, he acquired a PhD from the ETH Zürich in 1999 with the investigation of exited states in small hydrocarbon radicals. He then moved to Canada and spent three years as Research Fellow of the National Research Council, a time dedicated to the study of photochemical reactions with time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy.
Since 2003 he investigates the photochemistry of DNA as a project leader at the Max Born Institute. In this position, he develops novel spectroscopic methods for the investigation of increasingly complex biological chromophores.
His current research:
The research activities of Thomas Schultz are centred around the investigation of photochemical processes in biological chromophores. Biological function is often controlled by a well-defined chemical environment in an active centre ("structure-function relationship" of biology). Meaningful spectroscopic investigations must therefore address all relevant intermolecular interactions.
DNA is a particularly simple test case, because all DNA bases are embedded in the well-defined DNA double-helix. By reproducing the relevant structures in isolated clusters, Thomas Schultz observes DNA photochemical processes by pump-probe spectroscopy in real time (see figure).
The correlated measurement of multiple spectroscopic observables allows the characterization of increasingly large model systems. The experiments reveal a very fast energy transfer from electronic to nuclear degrees of freedom in the biologically relevant structures of DNA. This process can suppress photochemical reactions and helps to explain the exceptional photostability of DNA.