Uncovering the Wonders of Biophysics

Biophysics 2023

Using physics principles and experimental techniques, biophysicists study the structures and interactions of biological molecules, tissues, organs and whole organisms.

This special issue features the first in a series of articles that spotlights one national society’s biophysics research (Hall et al. 2022a, b).

Often, the biophysicists’ studies are directly relevant to medical applications. Examples include the search for the causes of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and HIV.

Why Biophysics?

From understanding the structure of a virus to developing new ways to deliver drugs, biophysicists use physics concepts and tools—from computers to X-ray machines—to answer fundamental biological questions. Biophysicists work in universities, hospitals, and engineering companies across a range of industries and fields. They are behind diagnostic techniques like MRIs and CT scans, the development of new drugs and biofuels, and even the invention of pacemakers.

Biophysicists also work with their colleagues across a variety of disciplines to solve complex problems that demand a multidisciplinary approach. Their expertise in physics and biology allows them to make discoveries that benefit society as a whole.

The Society is proud of the contributions made by its members to all areas of science and society, and especially to the field of biophysics. We encourage you to join us in our efforts to promote international engagement, advocate for the value of biophysics research, and support an increasingly diverse next generation of scientists.

How Biophysics Works

Using the quantitative sciences of physics, math, and chemistry, biophysicists seek to answer fundamental questions about the world around us. From how nerve cells communicate, to the ways plants capture sunlight and convert it into energy, to how a tumor forms and spreads, to how viruses evade our immune system and what role they play in cancer, biophysicists are at the forefront of solving age-old human problems as well as new ones.

For instance, one of the most exciting frontiers in 21st century biology is the prediction and measurement of cellular dynamics—the rate at which molecules move and change shape within cells. With the advent of technology like advanced spectrometers and imaging systems, researchers can now observe and measure these dynamics on length scales from nanometers to meters. This information is critical for understanding how the complex machinery of biological systems produces the amazingly diverse range of functions that we experience in living organisms.

What is Biophysics?

The study of biophysics brings together the skills of physics, chemistry and biology to reveal how living things work. It allows us to reconsider the traditional boundaries between inorganic matter and organic life, demonstrating that both are subject to the laws of physics and their interactions.

Biophysicists develop new instruments and techniques to see inside biological molecules. They also create models to observe and manipulate how they behave, on length scales from nanometers to meters. This is the discipline that is responsible for cutting-edge diagnostic techniques like MRI and PET scans, as well as the technology behind pacemakers.

But the question still remains, what does physics have to do with biology? As Francis Crick famously noted, the transition from physics to biology is “almost as big as the leap from Newton to relativity.” The answer is that the fundamental laws and principles of physics are essential for understanding the behaviors of biological molecules. These are the same laws that allow for the elegant electron transfer that drives photosynthesis and respiration, as well as the same quantum mechanics that governs how a molecule’s shape affects its function.

Why Attend Biophysics 2023?

Biophysicists, uniquely trained in the quantitative sciences of physics, math, and chemistry, are solving countless age-old human problems and creating new opportunities for tomorrow. They are developing ways to overcome disease, eradicate global hunger, produce renewable energy sources, design cutting-edge technologies, and solve a myriad of scientific mysteries.

The Biophysical Society annual meetings are the largest annual gatherings of biophysicists from around the world. The meeting features symposia, workshops, 15 subgroup programs, over 500 platform speakers selected from submitted abstracts, the Biophysical Society Lecture, and more than 4,000 packed poster presentations.

The conference showcases the broad range of research being conducted at the interface of physics and biology. Talks include a wide variety of topics including biomolecular assemblies and condensates; cellular structure and forces; chromatin and gene regulation; clocks, timers and cell cycle dynamics; imaging and single-molecule biology; and pattern formation, waves, transport and flow. This in-person meeting project the excitement of science at its finest and is sure to inspire your own future work.

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