There are Two Kinds of Biophysicists…

First day was awesome! I spent a good 10 hours at the Convention Center and got a ton of new ideas. I loved all the talks I went to, even if it involved a bit of running back and forth. My favorite by far was Gregory Petsko and his humorous yet insightful comments about the next 100 years of structural biology. Tomorrow, I will be attending some unfamiliar sessions (and hopefully live-tweeting one as @EquationForLife with the #BPS14 tag). I will also be at the Graduate Student and Post-Doc Fair (1-3 PM, Exhibit Hall) if anyone wants to come say hello at the Vanderbilt table. On to the main event…

I remember at the beginning of graduate school, a professor told me I needed to figure out what kind of researcher I wanted to be. There was the “topics” group that was interested in using whatever tools necessary to solve a biological problem like cancer or HIV. Then there was the “methods” group, which consisted of scientists interesting in the development of new techniques with little regard to their application. I quickly realized I belonged in this latter group with my method of choice being computational modelling. Since most of my lab also fell into this category, I didn’t think much of the distinction until I went to the poster session today.

Instead of going around the large exhibit hall to look at specific posters, I decided to just wander up and down the aisles. This way, I was grasp the full extent of the research diversity (and grab candy in between). It became apparent that for a large number of the “topics” posters, I was only interested in a tiny box section, hidden away in the corner, that discussed how they generated structural models. The presenters though launched into elaborate discussions of the research’s significance and the back story of how it got there. On the other side of the aisle, I would talk with a fellow “methods”  person for half an hour about how his/her equations and statistics were derived. This was true of the conversations I overheard as well and it surprised me that such a distinction existed, whether people admitted it or not. Of course, one needs a combination of the two perspectives to be a successful researcher, and so I appreciate all the GPCR “topic” researchers along with all the molecular modelling “methods” scientists today for giving me great ideas on my projects.

At the end of the day, when it all melds together, you realize that there is actually a third group of biophysicists we belong to: the ones that love it all. 


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