Volker Schweikhard

Diplom Universität Stuttgart
Ph.D. University of Colorado, Boulder


I joined Prof. Steven Block’s single molecule biophysics group as a postdoc in 2009, and have since been fortunate to receive a Damon Runyon Postdoctoral Fellowship. I am interested in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic gene regulation. Currently, I have several projects studying the amazing and complex tasks that RNA polymerase carries out during transcription, as well as gene regulation via RNA structures. More generally, I am interested in applying novel optical techniques and materials to perform precise measurements in molecular biology.

My scientific background is in atomic / molecular / optical physics and materials science. I received my undergraduate education in Physics in Kaiserslautern and in Stuttgart, Germany, where I did my Diploma thesis with Prof. Tilman Pfau. During this time I came to believe that optical manipulation techniques would allow us to study with great precision even the most delicate states of matter.

I then moved to beautiful Boulder, Colorado, to do my PhD work with Prof. Eric Cornell. There, I developed novel optical manipulation techniques for Bose-Einstein condensates, to study vortices, superfluidity and thermal fluctuations of condensates loaded into optical lattice potentials. In particular, I was involved in a series of experiments demonstrating that vortex lattices in rapidly rotating Bose-Einstein condensates can probe regimes of superfluidity that are unattainable in traditional condensed matter systems. In later work I created a rotating optical lattice potential for ultracold atoms, to show that pinning of superfluid vortices to individual optical lattice sites was possible, and used optical lattices to create a quasi-two-dimensional quantum system in which I studied the Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless phase transition.

Toward the end of my PhD I decided to get involved in the development and applications of novel optical sensing techniques. Working in Prof. David Nesbitt's group, I conducted a study of the optical and electronic properties (plasmon resonances) of metal nanostructures, which may be exploited in a wide range of nanoscale sensing applications.