Biophysicists- The best of both worlds

At the 2008 Gordon Conference for Single Molecule Approaches to Biology, one of the speakers (unfortunately, I have forgotten who) claimed that Biophysicists are scientists who talk about physics amongst biologists, who talk about biology amongst physicists, and who talk about the weather amongst themselves. This produced a nervous chuckle throughout the room. Interdisciplinary science has numerous strengths, but if I had to choose a weakness, it would be that interdisciplinary areas of study such as biophysics have an even larger range of topics, making it difficult for biophysicists to master all areas of their field of study. Thankfully, this makes collaboration and communication even more crucial, and makes meetings like BPS a fantastic conduit to establish these goals.

One of the main reasons I love BPS, as I mentioned in my last post, is that it enables me to get ideas from scientists who are primarily biologists, or primarily physicists, or primarily something in between or completely out of this range. It is the most interdisciplinary specialized meeting I’ve attended. It seems to me that physicists and biologists approach biophysical problems with very different viewpoints. I recently traveled to Quebec and gave a series of talks on this very project: once to chemists and physicists at Laval University, and then a few days later to cell and cancer biologists at l’Université de Montreal. Same talk, different audiences. When I suggested using my platform for cell imaging by introducing nanoparticles into cells, the physicists wanted to know how much optical interference there would be between the nanoparticle emission and the chemical modifications introduced onto its surface for solubilization. Physicists wanted to know how many of these particles could get stuffed into cells, and into which cellular compartments. Physicists wondered how long these cells could survive (and by survive, I mean how long nanoparticle-injected cells remained motile). Biologists, on the other hand, wondered what protein cascades would be induced by the introduction of nanoparticles through endocytosis. Biologists pointed out that just because a cell remains motile doesn’t mean it is happy to be crammed with foreign nanoparticles. I came away with much good feedback from each of these talks. So for any of you who may be following this blog from the comfort and safety of your home labs, I strongly recommend applying to BPS 2012 in San Diego.

And as for the city of Baltimore, I’ve come to appreciate it for the vibrant, soulful, and friendly city that it really is. As an avid tango dancer, whenever I travel I try to find local tango groups. So last night I found a tango group, Tango Esta Noche, in downtown Baltimore and joined them for a few hours of social dancing. What a friendly tango group, many of the dancers had been dancing for many years or even decades (and it certainly showed on the dance floor). I can’t think of a better way to end my time in Baltimore.

See you all in San Diego!


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