Piotr E. Marszalek

Image of Piotr E. Marszalek

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

My research focuses on investigating relationships between structural and mechanical properties of biopolymers (polysaccharides, DNA, proteins), which I study at a single molecule level. My main approaches are experimental scanning probe microscopy techniques and computational methods involving Molecular Dynamics simulations and ab initio quantum mechanical calculations. The ultimate goal of this research is to understand the above-mentioned relationships at an atomic level and to apply the knowledge gained towards elucidating basic phenomena such as: molecular recognition that mediates interactions between proteins and sugars, mechanotransduction that underlies mechanical sensing and hearing in all organisms, and protein folding that is fundamental to all biology. Our DNA research is aimed at exploiting atomic force microscopy techniques to develop new ultra-sensitive assays for detecting and examining DNA damage, the process underlying carcinogenesis, and to increase our mechanistic understanding of DNA damage and repair processes. This research, in addition to its basic science aspects will lay a foundation for the future use of AFM technologies in the nanoscale DNA diagnostics with a potential to directly benefit human health.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Contact Information:

  • Office Location: 3387 CIEMAS, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5381
  • Email Address: pemar@duke.edu


  • Ph.D. Electrotechnical Institute (Poland), 1991
  • M.S. University of Warsaw (Poland), 1985

Courses Taught:

  • BME 493: Projects in Biomedical Engineering (GE)
  • ME 331L: Thermodynamics
  • ME 555: Advanced Topics in Mechanical Engineering
  • ME 592: Research Independent Study in Mechanical Engineering or Material Science
  • ME 759: Special Readings in Mechanical Engineering
  • MENG 550: Master of Engineering Internship/Project
  • MENG 551: Master of Engineering Internship/Project Assessment
  • PHYSICS 493: Research Independent Study

Representative Publications:

  • Josephs, EA; Marszalek, PE, A 'Semi-Protected Oligonucleotide Recombination' Assay for DNA Mismatch Repair in vivo Suggests Different Modes of Repair for Lagging Strand Mismatches., Nucleic Acids Research, vol 45 no. 8 (2017) [10.1093/nar/gkw1339] [abs].
  • Scholl, ZN; Yang, W; Marszalek, PE, Competing Pathways and Multiple Folding Nuclei in a Large Multidomain Protein, Luciferase., Biophysical Journal, vol 112 no. 9 (2017), pp. 1829-1840 [10.1016/j.bpj.2017.03.028] [abs].
  • Gonzalez, MA; Simon, JR; Ghoorchian, A; Scholl, Z; Lin, S; Rubinstein, M; Marszalek, P; Chilkoti, A; López, GP; Zhao, X, Strong, Tough, Stretchable, and Self-Adhesive Hydrogels from Intrinsically Unstructured Proteins., Advanced Materials, vol 29 no. 10 (2017) [10.1002/adma.201604743] [abs].
  • Benedetti, F; Gazizova, Y; Kulik, AJ; Marszalek, PE; Klinov, DV; Dietler, G; Sekatskii, SK, Can Dissipative Properties of Single Molecules Be Extracted from a Force Spectroscopy Experiment?, Biophysical Journal, vol 111 no. 6 (2016), pp. 1163-1172 [10.1016/j.bpj.2016.08.018] [abs].
  • Scholl, ZN; Li, Q; Yang, W; Marszalek, PE, Single-molecule Force Spectroscopy Reveals the Calcium Dependence of the Alternative Conformations in the Native State of a βγ-Crystallin Protein., The Journal of biological chemistry, vol 291 no. 35 (2016), pp. 18263-18275 [10.1074/jbc.m116.729525] [abs].