Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Physics


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Kevin Beach

Second Advisor

Luca Bombelli

Third Advisor

Joel Mobley

Relational Format



The biopolymer unfolding process can be conceptualized as the thermally activated crossing of a barrier in some energy landscape; the real-world unfolding dynamics are in correspondence with the rate of transit over the barrier. In this dissertation, we report on four projects that exploit this analogy to advance our understanding of so-called pulling experiments, in which a biopolymer chain is encouraged to unfold by direct application of forces to its two ends. Regardless of the specific experimental realization, standard pulling techniques give rise to a biased barrier crossing problem. The applied force has the effect of tilting the energy landscape. The height and shape of the barrier are altered by the tilt, and the rate of transit over the barrier is highly sensitive to such changes.



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