The Institute of Molecular Biophysics (IMB) at Florida State University is associated with the Graduate Program in Molecular Biophysics (MOB). The Institute has a long history as a unique interdisciplinary research unit dedicated to the application of physical and chemical principles to the investigation of biological phenomena.
The seeds of the Institute were sown in 1959 by a group of chemists, biologists, physicists, psychologists, and other campus scientists who foresaw the need for close-knit cooperation among traditional disciplines in the rapidly evolving research area of molecular biology. This group, led by the late Professor Michael Kasha and strongly supported by University and State officials, actively sought financial resources to establish a truly integrated research program in Molecular Biophysics. This concept was enthusiastically endorsed by the Atomic Energy Commission which, in 1960, awarded the Institute a five-year grant of over $3 million for research personnel and equipment.
Additional efforts spearheaded by Professors Kasha and Leland Shanor, secured matching building funds from the National Institutes of Health and the State of Florida to provide a permanent home for the program. Construction of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics building in 1962 provided 50,500 square feet of space for 12 professors and a total staff of over 100 researchers. The Institute building was one of the first in the FSU Science Center and subsequently served, both symbolically and physically, as the hub for the multimillion dollar constellation of research and teaching buildings of the Chemistry & Biochemistry, Biological Science and Physics departments. See our Historical Photo Gallery for photos of the building through the years.
The early stage of generous funding provided not only for highly advanced equipment and technically superior facilities but also for many new permanent and visiting professorships, postdoctoral and predoctoral research positions. Scientists associated with the Institute have been one of its greatest strengths. Two of the Institute’s past Directors, the late Professors Michael Kasha and J. Herbert Taylor, as well as Professor Donald Caspar, are members of the National Academy of Sciences. Prof. Kasha has served on the influential National Science Board. Distinguished visiting professors have included the late William Rushton, and Nobel Laureate Robert Milliken. The Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program and postdoctoral mentorship have contributed to the Institute’s position as a fertile training ground for over 200 scientists who now hold academic, industrial and government positions. On November 18, 2001 the building housing the Institute was renamed the Kasha Laboratory Building (KLB) in honor of the founding director Prof. Michael Kasha. Previously this building was referred to as Molecular Biophysics Building (MBB).
In the mid-1980s, the Institute, under the direction of Dr. Ted Williams, began developing Structural Biology as a one of its main research focuses. A generous grant from the Lucille P. Markey Foundation and the State of Florida supported substantial expansion of faculty and research facilities in this area. Students in the Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program can work in labs with research programs ranging from physical characterization of biopolymers to genetic engineering, using interdisciplinary approaches and state-of-the-art technology to investigate the structural basis for biological function and dynamics.
In 2000, with a $1 million grant from the FSU’s Cornerstone Program, Computational Biophysics was inaugurated as another research focus. Professors within the Institute are succeeding in efforts to build an internationally renowned program in research and training in the application of computational methods to understanding how biomolecules work.
Dr. Michael Kasha
1920 – 2013
Dr. Kasha was a Florida State University Lawton Distinguished Professor and Professor Emeritus. He was Co-Founder and first Director of the Institute of Molecular Biophysics. Professor Kasha was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1971), the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (1963) and recipient of the R. S. Mulliken Medal (Molecular Spectroscopy), the G. Porter Medal (Photochemistry), and the A. Jablonski Award (Molecular Photophysics).
Dr. Kasha was born on Dec. 6, 1920 and died on June 12, 2013 at the age of 92. His influence and importance continues, both around the world and at Florida State University. The Institute of Molecular Biophysics honored him by naming the building the Kasha Laboratory Building and the Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program has also named a prestigious graduate student award in his honor. The Kasha Award and Seminar has been held each Spring since 1995 to recognize excellence in student authored publications.
Instrumental in founding IMB in 1959, Dr. Kasha worked tirelessly during his career to promote interdisciplinary and collaborative research among scientists with expertise in different areas. His interest was in creating a place for faculty and students to explore the cutting edge of research in a state-of-the-art facility, which continues today at FSU and serves as a model for the development of other interdisciplinary programs. In 2001 the building that houses the Institute of Molecular Biophysics was renamed the Kasha Laboratory Building. The Institute continues to thrive and build on the foundations of the original vision.
Dr. Kasha earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley (1945), under the mentorship of Dr. Gilbert Lewis, well known for the discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs. Lewis dot structures and other contributions to valence bond theory have shaped modern theories of chemical bonding. Lewis contributed to the advancement of scientific knowledge of thermodynamics, photochemistry, and isotope separation, and is also known for his concept of acids and bases.
The research in Dr. Kasha’s molecular spectroscopy laboratory was instrumental in the discovery and elucidation of excitation mechanisms, with particular application to photochemical and biophysical problems. Some of his most important achievements include identifying triplet states as source of phosphorescence emission, his work on singlet molecular oxygen, and formulating the Kasha rule on fluorescence. The Kasha rule was first proposed by Dr. Kasha in 1950 and is now accepted as a general scientific principle, with only a few rare exceptions found over the years. In 1971 Dr. Kasha joined a select group of scientists when he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
He led a long and illustrious research career with many adventures along the way, including a 30-year long collaboration with Richard Schneider, a master builder of traditional classical guitars. This led to a new design that became known as the Kasha Guitar. In his spare time, Dr. Kasha spent many years searching for a way to hybridize a truly blue daylily. He published a book in 1978 about his efforts called “The Elusive Blue Daylily,” which remains elusive to this day.2014