Alexander J. Sodt, Ph.D.

Stadtman Investigator

Unit on Membrane Chemical Physics




Research Topics

Modeling and computational tool development to study the biophysics of the membrane

Research in the Unit on Membrane Chemical Physics is focused on modeling and characterizing how lipids (and the membranes they constitute) affect biological processes related to disease. The plasma membrane is both a chemical and informational barrier to the cell. Protein receptors are embedded in the membrane and change conformation in order to receive information from the body and nearby cells. Additionally, these receptors can be internalized by processes that must reshape the membrane. The membrane is a fascinating target of study because it is both molecular and material in nature. As a molecular assembly it is formed from a plethora of nano-scopic protein and lipid units each with physical-chemical properties. As a material it has rigidity and work must be applied to bend it. The interplay between these identities is rich with possibilities for biological function and is the main target of work in the Unit.

Current work fits into two categories. First, hypothesis driven research about how the molecular identity of the constituents of the membrane affect material properties. The main technique of the Unit is to apply new methods to detailed computational molecular simulations. From these simulations both material properties and the effect of the membrane on protein behavior can be inferred. Second, the lab is developing software that can be used to apply new biophysics to disease-relevant problems by both the Unit, and the scientific community.


Dr. Sodt received degrees in chemistry and physics (B.S.) from the University of Washington, Seattle, performing undergraduate research with Prof. Bart Kahr. He then studied electronic structure theory and quantum chemistry with Prof. Martin Head-Gordon at the University of California, Berkeley, earning his Ph.D. in 2007. Following a post-doc with Prof. Teresa Head-Gordon developing coarse-grained models of lipids and transmembrane protein structure, he moved to the NHLBI of the NIH to study the properties of lipids with Dr. Richard Pastor.

Selected Publications

  1. Beaven AH, Sapp K, Sodt AJ. Simulated dynamic cholesterol redistribution favors membrane fusion pore constriction. Biophys J. 2023;122(11):2162-2175.
  2. Sapp KC, Beaven AH, Sodt AJ. Spatial extent of a single lipid's influence on bilayer mechanics. Phys Rev E. 2021;103(4-1):042413.
  3. Lessen HJ, Sapp KC, Beaven AH, Ashkar R, Sodt AJ. Molecular mechanisms of spontaneous curvature and softening in complex lipid bilayer mixtures. Biophys J. 2022;121(17):3188-3199.
  4. Dorrell MW, Heberle FA, Katsaras J, Maibaum L, Lyman E, Sodt AJ. Laterally Resolved Small-Angle Scattering Intensity from Lipid Bilayer Simulations: An Exact and a Limited-Range Treatment. J Chem Theory Comput. 2020;16(8):5287-5300.
  5. Lessen HJ, Fleming PJ, Fleming KG, Sodt AJ. Building Blocks of the Outer Membrane: Calculating a General Elastic Energy Model for β-Barrel Membrane Proteins. J Chem Theory Comput. 2018;14(8):4487-4497.

Related Scientific Focus Areas

This page was last updated on Monday, January 22, 2024