Indoor headshot photo of a smiling white male faculty member, Dr. Steven Block, Professor Emeritus of Applied Physics at Stanford University.
Bio-X Affiliated Faculty

Dr. Steven M. Block holds the Ascherman Chair in the Depts. of Applied Physics and Biology at Stanford. He’s best-known as a founder of the field known as “single molecule biophysics.” Block holds degrees from Oxford and Caltech, and served as faculty at the Rowland Institute and Harvard, then Princeton, prior to joining Stanford in 1999. Block is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and is a Fellow of the AAAS, the APS, and the BPS. His research lies at the interface of physics and biology, particularly in the study of biomolecular motors, including kinesin and RNA polymerase, and the folding of nucleic acid-based structures. His group pioneered the use of laser-based optical traps, or ‘optical tweezers,’ to study the nanoscale motions of biomolecules. In what’s left of his spare time, he enjoys skiing and playing bluegrass music on the banjo and mandolin.

Research in the Block lab marries aspects of physics and biology to study the properties of proteins or nucleic acids at the level of single macromolecules and molecular complexes. Experimental tools include laser-based optical traps ("optical tweezers") and a variety of state-of-the-art fluorescence techniques, in conjunction with custom-built instrumentation for the nanometer-level detection of displacements and piconewton-level detection of forces. Current experimental work in their lab focuses on several biological motors and polymers, including RNA polymerase, riboswitches, and kinesin.