Michelle Wang
Professor of Physics and HHMI Investigator
Studies of biological molecular motors using biophysical techniques

Michelle Wang




Department of Physics
518 Clark Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-2703


Web Sites

Lab Web Site
Department Profile


B.S., 1985, Physics, Nanjing University. Ph.D. student, 1985-86, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. M.S, 1988, Physics, University of Southern Mississippi. Ph.D., 1993, Biophysics, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Postdoctoral Fellow, Biophysics, Princeton University, 1994-97. Assistant Professor, Physics, Cornell University, 1998-2004. Associate Professor, Physics, Cornell University, 2004-2009. Professor, Physics, Cornell University, 2009-present. Outstanding Student Award, Nanjing University, 1985. University of Michigan Biophysics Fellowship, 1988-89. National Cancer Institute Fellowship, 1994. Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1995-97. Damon Runyon Scholar Award, 1999-00. Dale F. and Betty Ann Frey Scholar of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Foundation, 1999. Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 1999-01. Beckman Young Investigator Award, 1999-02. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Award, 2000-07. Provost's Award for Distinguished Scholarship, 2008. Fellow, American Physical Society, elected 2009. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, 2008-present.

Research Description

Single molecule mechanical manipulations of biological molecules; high-resolution optical trapping and detection; single molecule fluorescence imaging and detection; nanofabrication; molecular motor mechanisms; biopolymer kinetics and dynamics; protein-DNA interactions (especially those involved in gene expression); genomics; modeling of diffusion, kinetics, and dynamics of biomolecules.


  • Single molecule studies reveal dynamics of DNA unwinding by the ring-shaped T7 helicase.
    D.S. Johnson, L. Bai, B.Y. Smith, S.S. Patel, and M.D. Wang.
    Cell 129:1299-1309 (2007) (Full Text PDF).
  • Nanofabricated quartz cylinders for angular optical trapping: torque detection during DNA supercoiling.
    C. Deufel, S. Forth, C.R. Simmons, S. Dejgosha, and M.D. Wang.
    Nature Methods 4:223-5 (2007) (Full Text PDF).
  • Mechano-chemical kinetics of transcription elongation.
    L. Bai, R.M. Fulbright, & M.D. Wang.
    Physical Review Letters 98:068103 (2007) (Full Text PDF).
  • Probing SWI/SNF remodeling of the nucleosome by unzipping single DNA molecules.
    A. Shundrovsky, C. L. Smith, J.T. Lis, C.L. Peterson, and M.D. Wang.
    Nature Structural and Molecular Biology 13:549-54 (2006) (Full Text PDF).
  • Single-molecule analysis of RNA polymerase transcription.
    L. Bai, T.J. Santangelo, and M.D. Wang.
    Annual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure 35:343�60 (2006) (Full Text PDF).
  • Detection of forces and displacements along the axial direction in an optical trap.
    C. Deufel and M.D. Wang.
    Biophysical Journal 90:657-67 (2006) (Full Text PDF).
  • Detection of high affinity mismatch binding and sliding clamp modes for the MSH2-MSH6 mismatch recognition complex by single-molecule unzipping force analysis.
    J. Jiang, L. Bai, J. Surtees, Z. Gemici, M.D. Wang, and E. Alani.
    Molecular Cell 20:771-81 (2005) (Full Text PDF).
  • Functional hydrogel surfaces: binding kinesin-based molecular motor proteins to selected patterned sites.
    T. Yu, Q. Wang, D.S. Johnson, M.D. Wang, and C.K. Ober.
    Advanced Functional Materials 15: 1303-1309 (2005) (Full Text PDF).
  • Specific contributions of histone tails and their acetylation to the mechanical stability of nucleosomes.
    B. Brower-Toland, D.A. Wacker, R.M. Fulbright, J.T. Lis, W.L. Kraus, and M.D. Wang.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 346:135-146 (2005) (Full Text PDF).
  • A single molecule technique to study sequence-dependent transcription pausing.
    A. Shundrovsky, T.J. Santangelo, J.W. Roberts, and M.D. Wang.
    Biophysical Journal 87:3945-53 (2004) (Full Text PDF).
  • Sequence-dependent kinetic model for RNA polymerase elongation.
    L. Bai, A. Shundrovsky, and M.D. Wang.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 344:335-349 (2004) (Full Text PDF).
  • The molecular mechanism of transcription inhibition by Microcin J25.
    K. Adelman, J. Yuzenkova, A. La Porta, J.T. Lis, S. Brukhov, M.D. Wang, and K.V. Severinov.
    Molecular Cell 14:753-762 (2004) (Full Text PDF).
  • Optical torque wrench: angular trapping, rotation and torque detection using quartz microparticles.
    A. La Porta and M.D. Wang.
    Physical Review Letters 92:190801 (2004) (Full Text PDF).
  • Use of optical trapping techniques to study single nucleosome dynamics.
    B. Brower-Toland, and M.D. Wang.
    Methods in Enzymology: Chromatin and Chromatin Remodeling Enzymes 376:62-72 (2004). (Full Text PDF).
  • Dynamic force spectroscopy of protein-DNA interactions by unzipping DNA double helix.
    S.J. Koch, and M.D. Wang.
    Physical Review Letters 91:028103 (2003) (Full Text PDF).
  • Single molecule analysis of RNA polymerase elongation reveals uniform kinetic behavior.
    K. Adelman, A. La Porta, T.J. Santangelo, J.T. Lis, J.W. Roberts, and M.D. Wang.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99:13538 (2002) (Full Text PDF).
  • Probing protein-DNA interactions by unzipping a single DNA double helix.
    S.J. Koch, A. Shundrovsky, B.C. Jantzen, M.D. Wang.
    Biophysical Journal 83:1098 (2002) (Full Text PDF).
  • Mechanical disruption of individual nucleosomes reveals a reversible multistage release of DNA.
    B. Brower-Toland, R.C. Yeh, C. Smith, C.L. Peterson, J.T. Lis, and M.D. Wang.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99:1960 (2002) (Full Text PDF).
  • New insights into unwrapping DNA from the nucleosome from a single-molecule optical tweezers method.
    Commentary by Jeffrey J. Hayes and Jeffrey C. Hansen. ibid 99:1752 (2002) (Full Text PDF).
  • Stretching of single collapsed DNA molecules.
    C.G. Baumann, V.A. Bloomfield, S.B. Smith, C. Bustamante, M.D. Wang, and S.M. Block.
    Biophysical Journal 78:1965-78 (2000) (Full Text PDF).
  • Manipulation of single molecules in biology.
    Wang, M.D.
    Current Opinion In Biotechnology 10:81-86 (1999) (Full Text PDF).
  • Estimating the persistence length of a worm-like-chain molecule from force-extension measurements.
    C. Bouchiat, M.D. Wang, J.F. Allemand, T. Strick, S.M. Block, and V. Croquette.
    Biophysical Journal 76:409-413 (1999) (Full Text PDF).
  • Force and velocity measured for single molecules of RNA polymerase.
    M.D. Wang, M.J. Schnitzer, H. Yin, R. Landick, J. Gelles, and S.M. Block.
    Science 282:902-907 (1998) (Research Article) (Full Text PDF).
  • Stretching DNA with optical tweezers.
    M.D. Wang, H. Yin, R. Landick, J. Gelles, and S.M. Block.
    Biophysical Journal 72:1335-1346 (1997). (Full Text PDF).
  • Transcription against an applied force.
    H. Yin, M.D. Wang, K. Svoboda, R. Landick, J. Gelles, and S.M. Block.
    Science 270:1653-1657 (1995) (Full Text PDF).
  • RNA polymerase gets very pushy.
    News by C. O�Brein.
    ibid 270:1568 (1995) (Full Text PDF).