Carter and students

Molecules inside of the cell are not static. They bind, fold, unwind, cleave, and open in order to carry out cellular processes. We want to measure this motion and the forces that are involved to understand how chemical energy is used to do work. To this end, all of the projects focus on nanoscale mechanics and are a great blend of biology, chemistry, and physics.

Introductory Video

Video for New Students


We look for a wide variety of undergraduates with different interests. Perhaps you are interested in the medical applications of this research in gene therapy or embryogenesis. Or maybe you are excited by the basic science of figuring out how the cell works. Or maybe you are interested in these projects from an engineering and materials stand point, since we are essentially studying an incredibly complex, active (living) material with interesting applications. Whatever your interests, you are sure to find these interdisciplinary projects exciting and challenging. No prior knowledge is required, just curiosity and hard work!

DNA Folding – Histone Replacement

In this project, we investigate the pathway for how protamines replace the histone proteins that typically fold DNA. Answering this question will give biophysical insight into chromatin folding, epigenetics, and fertility.

DNA Folding – Toroids

DNA in sperm is folded by protamine proteins into a toroid. This compacts the DNA by forty times in some organisms and creates a compact nucleus for efficient swimming. This project studies how DNA is folded into a toroid. Studying DNA folding and compaction is important in DNA nanoengineering applications.

DNA Folding in Viruses

With the outbreak of the coronavirus in Spring 2020, many people are starting to focus on SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. One of the questions that the Carter Lab is interested in is how nucleic acids, such as RNA and DNA, are packaged into a virus.

Mechanics of Cytoskeletal Formation

Many of the mechanical properties of the cell are determined by the cytoplasm, a complex heterogeneous material consisting of a viscous fluid and an elastic cytoskeleton. Our goal is to measure the mechanical properties of the cytoskeleton as it forms. This is important in embryogenesis, stem cell research, biomaterials research, and biophysics.

Robot Team

The Robot Team or Mammoth Makers is a group of 6 students who come together over the summer for an 8 week program to build a robot. There is no programming, electronics, or robotics skills required. Everything is learn as you go. The team designs robots according the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) competition rules, but then uses these robots to teach inspire local middle schoolers. If you are interested in being a part of the Mammoth Makers then contact Professor Carter. Applications usually go out in March.

  • 2018 – Arnold the pentathlete and Eugene the soccer player (in honor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup)
  • 2019 – Arnold the pentathlete and Darlene the paper-tower-building robot