Lorentz workshop on “Good vibrations for energy management in biomolecules”

Scientific report


| 23 – 27 February 2015 | R. van Grondelle and A. Olaya-Castro |


There is mounting scientific evidence that a dynamical interplay between electronic and vibrational dynamics takes place in the primary process of energy transfer and conversion in variety of photo-activated processes such as excitation transfer in photosynthetic lightharvesting

complexes, charge separation in photosynthetic reaction centres, and photo transduction in rhodopsin and bacteriorhodopsin. Moreover, specific vibrational motions have being  ypothesized to assist hydrogen transfer in some enzyme-catalyzed reactions as well as to be an integral component in molecular recognition.


The above scientific findings suggest that a possible common fundamental operational principle for energy management in biomolecules is the direct involvement of specific, nonthermal  quilibrium vibrational motion in the process of interest. The aim of this workshop was to explore this hypothesis by addressing the following three key questions:


1) Which experimental techniques do we need to develop to probe correlated electronicvibrational dynamics in photo-activated molecules?

2) What is the functional role of non-equilibrium vibrational motion for energy and charge transport as well as energy storage in biomolecules? How are these specific molecular motions “selected”?

3) Do we have an appropriate theoretical framework to describe and understand these phenomena? Is the predictive power of the current theories enough to accurately predict dynamics and functionality?


The workshop was a success in all possible aspects. The meeting congregated scientists that have not all coincided in any conference together before. This promoted the beginning of new research collaborations, as it is the case for researchers of University of Barcelona and University of Ulm and for researchers of UCL and University of Cyprus.


The participants indicated that they were very happy with the significant amount of time that was left to discussion after every talk. Many of them mentioned this was the first time they attended a meeting like that and that it was the most beneficial part of the meeting. Also, the available  hared office space promoted small group interactions that were highly appreciated by the participants.


The meeting had a good balance between experienced and junior researchers and between female and male scientists. The participants mentioned this was refreshing and enjoyable, and that it made the event more dynamic. The coffee room with the whiteboard allowed people to have discussions while enjoying their coffee and the white board was perfect for participants to write questions they had which then were discussed in the final round table.


The meeting concluded with subgroups discussions where each group was given the following task: if you were given all funding possible with no restrictions, what would be the research question you would address and why? These subgroups presented their ideas at a round table. Participants indicated that this was one of the activities they enjoyed the most. They dare to  hink of ideas that passionate them the most and also it gave junior researchers another opportunity to speak up their minds without feeling the pressure of a larger audience. A couple of subgroups coincided on the idea of pursuing research on “quantum phononics”.