Big Ideas 2015

Antoine BIFlarge

PROF. Antoine van Oijen 


"We are revolutionising diagnostic approaches to detect disease".

The molecular machines of life under the magnifying glass

All living organisms are made up of cells, who themselves consist of a variety of biological molecules, such as proteins, DNA and lipids. The organisation and housekeeping of a cell is controlled by proteins, little machines that coordinate thousands of specialised tasks at the microscopic level. What seemed to be science fiction a few decades ago has become reality: using powerful microscopes with lasers and ultrasensitive cameras we are now able to visualise individual proteins and watch them do their various jobs. In this talk, Professor van Oijen will describe how we use these so-called ‘single-molecule’ techniques to visualise one of the processes fundamental to life: the copying of DNA. These tools are rapidly revolutionising diagnostic approaches to detect disease.


Antoine van Oijen obtained his BSc and PhD degrees in the Netherlands, where he was trained as a physicist.  A growing fascination for biology resulted in him moving to the USA and establishing a research group at Harvard Medical School. Subsequently, he was appointed as full professor at Groningen University in the Netherlands where he established a thriving biophysics research program focused on the development of single-molecule visualization techniques and their applications in basic and applied science. Recently, he moved to the UOW and was awarded a prestigious Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council to further develop biophysical approaches to visualize the molecular processes that define life.

Last reviewed: 7 September, 2015