My name is Karol Kołątaj, and I am a member of the DNA-Robotics ITN in the group of Prof. Tim Liedl. In this very first blog I would like to introduce myself, and briefly show you how and why I am the part of this great project.
I was born in 1988 in Radom, a middle-sized city located in the center of Poland. I was always very curious about the nature that surrounded me. Therefore, I tried to find my way to understand it by investigating the interior of broken rocks or by mingling anything I found in the yard, to see what would happen. Of course, it had nothing to do with the science that I know now but at that time I really felt like a scientist. During my school years, I fell in love with biology and chemistry. Therefore, it was just natural to choose biotechnology as my major. During next three years, I realized that chemistry was really my thing and I decided to continue my Master’s degree in this field. I started studying physical chemistry and then really got into nanotechnology. I was particularly seduced by the beauty of nanoscale revealed by the transmission electron microscopy. After getting a Master’s degree, I continued my PhD in the same field, during which I synthesized various anisotropic plasmonic nanoparticles and used them in Raman spectroscopy.
That’s why I think nanotechnology is really the art.
Meanwhile, I met my best friend and true love, who three years ago become my wife. Soon after that, our first son was born and he turned my world upside down. But we didn’t think that having the only child was fun enough JNow we have two boys (3-year-old and 3-month-old). Having two kids while being a post-doc is sometimes hard but my wife and kids always find the way cheer me up and give me another burst of energy every day.
With my wife on the big day, and enjoying a beautiful Sunday with my older son.
While writing the theoretical part of my PhD dissertation, I found Tim Liedl’s publication about the use of gold nanoparticles connected to DNA origami in Raman spectroscopy. I never heard about this material before, and the paper inspired me to thoroughly explore the topic. Influenced by Tim’s paper and by the wide range of applications that DNA origami gives for scientists, I applied for a Polish grant for early-stage scientists with the intention to go for a short internship to Tim’s lab. I was very disappointed when I received the negative decision from reviewers, because I really believed that my proposal was very interesting and well-written. In the end, it turned out that I should have been happy for the final decision, because Tim offered me to be the part of DNA-Robotics ITN. Therefore, instead of heaving 6 months of internship I would spend at least 3 years working on this fascinating topic.
My ITN project is mainly focused on the synthesis of DNA origami fitting plasmonic nanoparticles in a specific way. In my first project, I use DNA origami as the scaffold that will specifically position two gold bypiramides or gold rods tip to tip. Such prepared nanostructures will be used as a sensor in Raman spectroscopy for the detection of small molecules in a solution or the components of a cell membrane. The aim of the second project is to construct DNA origami connected with metal nanoparticles that can change its shape during irradiation. Briefly speaking, due to the heat generation on the surface of plasmonic nanoparticles, DNA origami can be bound only to one type of plasmonic nanoparticles. Therefore, by changing the light used for irradiation, we could simply change the binding position of DNA origami, and therefore alter the shape of the whole structure.