Nynke Hester Dekker

The Project

Molecular motors handling DNA and RNA: Single-molecule experiments and implications for cellular function


Dr. Nynke Hester Dekker
Delft University of Technology
Lorentzweg 1
2628 CJ Delft
The Netherlands


Nynke Hester Dekker, thirty-six year old Dutch associate professor at the Technische Universiteit Delft in the Netherlands, is currently undertaking single-molecule studies of DNA and RNA and their interactions with proteins, integrated with nanotechnology where appropriate.  She gained her PhD in physics at Harvard University, having graduated from Yale. 
As well as being awarded multiple grants and fellowship programmes, Dr. Dekker is a member of the Council of the Biophysical Society, and a member of the Young Academy of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is actively involved in conference organization at the interface of biology and physics. Her group’s research has appeared in Nature and in The Proceedings of the National Academy, USA, among others.

Project Description

Tiny nanometer-scale molecular motors manipulate the information stored in the DNA and RNA of our cells. Motors exist to compact, read out, or copy this information, according to the functions that a cell needs to perform at any given moment. However, the physical structure of the DNA and RNA, e.g. the coils, loops, and folds adopted, changes dynamically over time.

Using sensitive single-molecule techniques (based on force spectroscopy, microscopy, and nanotechnology), that allow Dekker and her team to present molecular motors with precisely controlled DNA and RNA substrates, they will be able to unravel the physical principles underlying their functioning. They will also study molecular motors involved in fundamental processes essential to cell survival in order to understand the dynamics of individual molecular motors, and also to link the functioning of different types of motors through physical principles.

Through collaborations with outstanding biologists they will compare our single-molecule observations with the outcome of processes monitored at the cellular level. This will allow them to determine whether their high-resolution techniques have predictive power with respect to cellular response, which is important in the development of more precise molecularly-targeted medicine.