After completing her PhD research on ferroelectric liquid crystals at Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Brigita Urbanc, PhD, joined the Center for Polymer Studies in Physics Department at Boston University where she began applying statistical physics methods and simulation techniques to Alzheimer's disease research. She participated in development of a cellular automaton model of senile plaque growth that elucidated the origins of the porous structure of plaques which lead to prediction of senile plaque clearance.
Urbanc adapted the discrete molecular dynamics method combined with a four-bead and united-atom protein models to study folding and early assembly of natively disordered proteins, such as amyloid beta-protein and alpha-synuclein. She coauthored over 40 publications with 10 of them published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Science.
Urbanc has also been actively involved in education research. She contributed to the development of two educational projects with the aim to bridge the gap between the active research in physics of complex systems and high-school and/or college curricula in chemistry, physics, and biology. The first project involved the development of simple hands-on wet-lab demonstrations of phenomena such as percolation and granular matter. The second project was geared towards using of computers and involved development of molecular dynamics software to visualize random motion and develop understanding of concepts, such as temperature, entropy, and phase transitions.
During her career, Urbanc received a postdoctoral fellowship award from the Slovenian Ministry of Science, was supported by the Adler Foundation and Stephen Bechtel, Jr. fellowship. She has been an active investigator in several NIH-funded grants. She has served as a reviewer of newly submitted manuscripts to Physical Review Letters, Journal of American Chemical Society, Journal of Molecular Biology, Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics, and others. In 2007, she became an editorial board member of The Open Biochemistry Journal. In 2008/2009, she was elected as a member of the scientific advisory board of Alzheimer Research Forum to which she regularly contributes commentaries on the new published work in the field of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.