Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that includes researchers from many fields including math, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, pharmacology, and materials sciences. The breadth of science and expertise from members around the world creates a dynamic community of sharing, learning, and networking.
What Is Biophysics?
Biophysics is the field that applies the theories and methods of physics to understand how biological systems work.
Biophysics has been critical to understanding the mechanics of how the molecules of life are made, how different parts of a cell move and function, and how complex systems in our bodies—the brain, circulation, immune system, and others— work. Biophysics is a vibrant scientific field where scientists from many fields including math, chemistry, physics, engineering, pharmacology, and materials sciences, use their skills to explore and develop new tools for understanding how biology—all life—works.
What Do Biophysicists Do?
Biophysicists work to develop methods to overcome disease, eradicate global hunger, produce renewable energy sources, design cutting-edge technologies, and solve countless scientific mysteries. In short, biophysicists are at the forefront of solving age-old human problems as well as problems of the future.
Data Analysis and Structure
The structure of DNA was solved in 1953 using biophysics, and this discovery was critical to showing how DNA is like a blueprint for life.
Now we can read the sequences of DNA from thousands of humans and all varieties of living organisms. Biophysical techniques are also essential to the analysis of these vast quantities of data.
Biophysicists develop and use computer modeling methods to see and manipulate the shapes and structures of proteins, viruses, and other complex molecules, crucial information needed to develop new drug targets, or understand how proteins mutate and cause tumors to grow.
Molecules in Motion
Biophysicists study how hormones move around the cell, and how cells communicate with each other. Using fluorescent tags, biophysicists have been able to make cells glow like a firefly under a microscope and learn about the cell’s sophisticated internal transit system.
Biophysicists are building computer models called neural networks to model how the brain and nervous system work, leading to new understandings of how visual and auditory information is processed.
Bioengineering, Nanotechnologies, Biomaterials
Biophysics has also been critical to understanding biomechanics and applying this information to the design of better prosthetic limbs, and better nanomaterials for drug delivery.
Biophysicists have developed sophisticated diagnostic imaging techniques including MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans. Biophysics continues to be essential to the development of even safer, faster, and more precise technology to improve medical imaging and teach us more about the body’s inner workings.
Biophysics has been essential to the development of many life-saving treatments and devices including kidney dialysis, radiation therapy, cardiac defibrillators, pacemakers, and artificial heart valves.
Environmental biophysics measures and models all aspects of the environment from the stratosphere to deep ocean vents. Environmental biophysicists research the diverse microbial communities that inhabit every niche of this planet, they track pollutants across the atmosphere, and are finding ways to turn algae into biofuels.