Principal Investigator

Matt Comstock

Matthew Comstock

Associate Professor of Physics and Cowen Chair of Experimental Physics

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, Physics

A.B. The University of Chicago, Physics

Email: comstock at

Matt has had a broad and diverse scientific career. He began as a summer high school lab assistant in a plant virology lab (with Les Lane) and then a non-linear optics lab (with Stephen Ducharme) both at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. As an undergrad at Chicago he investigated anti-matter in the cosmos in the high-energy astrophysics groups of Dietrich Mueller and Simon Swordy. At Berkeley he got small and was the first to directly observe individual photomechanically switching molecular machines using scanning tunneling microscopy in the lab of Michael Crommie. During his postdoc at UIUC with Yann Chemla and Taekjip Ha, Matt transitioned to investigating biophysical molecular machines building a new cutting-edge single-molecule instrument that combined high-resolution optical tweezers with single-molecule fluorescence microscopy. With this new technique he observed DNA helicases moving along and unwinding DNA and switching conformations and directions at the same time. In August 2012, Matt joined the faculty at MSU.


Selected publications:

  • E. M. Patrick, J. D. Slivka, B. Payne, M. J. Comstock,* and Jens C. Schmidt*. “Mechanism of processive telomerase catalysis revealed by high-resolution optical tweezers,” Nature Chemical Biology, 16, 801 (2020). *Co-corresponding authors. 
  • C.-Y. Chuang, M. Zammit, M. L. Whitmore, and M. J. Comstock. “Combined high-resolution optical tweezers and multicolor single-molecule fluorescence with automated single molecule assembly line,” Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 123, 9612 (2019). 
  • D. Izadi*, Y. Chen*, M. L. Whitmore, J. D. Slivka, K. Ching, L. J. Lapidus and M. J. Comstock. “Combined force ramp and equilibrium high-resolution investigations reveal multi-path heterogeneous unfolding of Protein G,” Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 122, 11155 (2018)
  • E. M. Patrick, Sukanya Srinivasan, Eckhard Jankowsky, and M. J. Comstock. “The RNA Helicase Mtr4p is a Duplex Sensing Translocase.”Nature Chemical Biology, 13, 99 (2017).
  • M. J. Comstock, K. D. Whitley, H. Jia, J. Sokoloski, T. M. Lohman, Taekjip Ha, and Y. R. Chemla. “Direct observation of structure-function relationship in a nucleic acid-processing enzyme,” Science, 348, 352 (2015).
  • M. J. Comstock, Taekjip Ha, and Y. R. Chemla. “Ultrahigh-resolution optical trap with single-fluorophore sensitivity,” Nature Methods, 8, 335 (2011).
  • M. J. Comstock, N. Levy, A. Kirakosian, J. W. Cho, F. Lauterwasser, J. H. Harvey, D. A. Strubbe, J. M. J. Fréchet, D. Trauner, S. G. Louie and M. F. Crommie. "Reversible photomechanical switching of individual engineered molecules at a surface," Physical Review Letters, 99, 038301 (2007).

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Dr. Rajeev Yadav

Dr. Rajeev Yadav

Previous postdoc with Nils Walter, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Previous postdoc with Peter Lu, Bowling Green State University, Ohio 

Ph.D. Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Indian. Advisor: Prof. Pratik Sen

B.S. Physics, Chemistry and Maths, and B. Ed. Teaching Methods and Eduction, Dr. Bhimrao Aambedkar University, Agra, India


Leading RNA helicase and additional single molecular fleezers projects, developing high-resolution fleezers methods, mentoring junior lab members and substantially contributing to overall lab leadership.         

Email: yadavraj at

Graduate Students

Kasun Senanayake

Kasun Senanayake

B.S. Physics, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Leading RNA helicase projects and developing high-resolution fleezers methods.  

Email: senanaya at

Keontre Hughes

Keontre' Hughes

B.S. Physics, Colgate University, New York

Leading molecular machine projects and developing high-resolution tweezers methods.. 

Email: hugh389 at

Undergraduate Students

Ibrahim Elsadek

Ibrahim Elsadek

MSU Physics and Math. Contributing to tweezers instrumentation development and molecular machine projects.

Email: elsadeki at

Lauren Jernstadt

Lauren Jernstadt

Contributed to molecular machine projects. Will be going to med school. Now starting a new position in a clinic.

Email: jernsta4 at

Kyle Cotter

Kyle Cotter  

MSU Microbiology then NSF supported post-baccalaureate research assistant contributing to RNA helicase projects. Now starting PhD program in Molecular and Cellular Bio at Washington University, St. Louis!

Email: cotterky at

Former Group Members

Former Postdocs

Eric Patrick

Dr. Eric Patrick

Lead RNA helicase and then telomerase efforts. Currently a postdoc in Ibrahim Cisse's lab (Max Plank - Freiburg).

Yujie Chen

Dr. Yujie Chen

Contributed to molecular machine and protein folding projects.

Former Graduate Students

Cho-Ying Chuang

Dr. Cho-Ying Chuang

Lead the fluorescence part of the team that developed and built the MSU multi-color high-resolution fleezers. Worked on molecular machine and folding projects. Currently in Taiwan.

Dena Izadi

Dr. Dena Izadi

Worked on protein folding projects and jointly advised with Prof Lisa Lapidus.

Miles Whitmore

Miles Whitmore

Lead the tweezers part of the team that developed and built the MSU multi-color high-resolution fleezers. Worked on molecular machine and folding projects.Very sadly passed away in 2017.

Jess West

Jess West

Contributed to building the MSU multi-color high-resolution fleezers. Led projects in single-cell trapping and cell electrochemistry measurements. MSU Physics and Astronomy - obtained masters degree.

Jonathan Wheeler

Jonathan Wheeler

Contributed to building the MSU multi-color high-resolution fleezers. MSU Physics and Astronomy - obtained masters degree.

Former Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaurate Research Assistants

Joseph Slivka

Joseph Slivka

Contributed to molecular machine and folding projects over 4 years spent in the lab. Initially a professorial assistant. Was award both the Foiles and Osgood awards by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Currently a PhD student at UC Berkeley in Physics and Biophysics working in Ahmet Yildez's lab (recently recieved an NSF graduate research fellowship!).

Sophia Rubio

Former undergraduate research assistant and Charles Drew Science Scholar.

Bramyn Payne

Bramyn Payne

Former undergraduate and post-bacalaureate research assistant. A de-facto lab manager that contributed to many projects.

Jarryd Calhoun

Jarryd Calhoun

Former undergraduate and post-bacalaureate research assistant that contributed to both single molecule and single-cell trapping projects. Now at TU Dresden in a bioinformatics graduate program.

Andrew Bake

Andrew Baker

Former undergraduate and post-bacalaureate research assistant. Contributed to many projects including: development of a new compact high-resolution tweezers instrument, development of the 'random phase' AOD control method, single cell trapping. Now at Cambridge University Chemistry PhD program.

Matt Zammit

Matthew Zammit

Former undergraduate research assistant contributing to many single molecule and fluorescence development projects (he also briefly trapped spore shooting fungi!) Received PhD from U Wisconsin-Madison Medical Physics.

Adam Gros

Adam Gros

Former undergraduate research assistant assisted in building two tweezers instruments and developing single cell trapping methods.

Aditya Savanur

Aditya Savanur

Former undergraduate research assistant (professorial assistant) contributed to molecular machine projects. Currently PhD student in Physics at U Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Trevor Verwangen

Former undergraduate research assistant (professorial assistant) contributed to molecular machine projects.

Former REU Summer Students and Visiting Foreign Students

Elisa Kleinfeld

Elisa Kleinfeld

2022 Spring semester foreign exchange student from Germany contributed to molecular machine projects. 

Kevin Ching

2018 REU student contributed to protein folding projects (enough to be a co-author on a paper!) 

Torrey Saxton

2017 REU student. Subsequent Goldwater Fellow and currently in Physics PhD program at Notre Dame

Chase Pipkin

 2016 REU student.

Tegan Marianchuck

2016 REU student. Now a PhD student in biophysics at the University of Chicago (Dinner and Sosnick groups)

Hannah Perkins

Hannah Perkins

2015-2016 foreign exchange student from Lancaster University, England, contributed to molecular machine projects.

Duncan Nall

2013 REU student contributed to building the MSU fleezers including construct assembly automation. Now a PhD student in physics and biophysics at UIUC (Selvin group)


Matt Comstock, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Michigan State University

Biomedical Physical Sciences, 567 Wilson Road, Room 4238