New from the BiophysJ: Emerging Biophysical Technologies and New & Notable

You may have noticed some new things happening at Biophysical Journal. With each new issue, some papers are being highlighted as New & Notable or as an Emerging Biophysical Technology. These tags make it easy for you identify some of the groundbreaking and best research coming out of BiophysJ.

What is a New & Notable you ask?

This figure was published in Biophysical Journal as part of the article “Protein-Protein Interactions in Calcium Transport Regulation Probed by Saturation Transfer Electron Paramagnetic Resonance” by James et. al

New & Notables (N&N) are commentaries that are published about a current paper in the Journal. Papers are identified as N&N when reviewers are very enthusiastic about a paper and think it is one of the best papers they have read. Journal subscribers can view the latest N&N here.

And what about Emerging Biophysical Technologies?

Emerging Biophysical Technologies (EBT) are selected by editors and highlight new physics-based methods. Methods papers can be of great significance to the field of biophysics andBiophysJ highlights these with a two sentence description to give you, the reader, a quick overview of why this new method is important. Journal subscribers can view the latest Emerging Biophysical Technologies online here.

When asked, Les Loew, Editor-in-Chief of Biophysical Journal, had this to say about the

This figure was published in Biophysical Journal as part of the article “Cellular Response to Heat Shock Studied by Multiconfocal Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy” by Kloster-Landsber et. al

importance of highlighting these types of papers in the Journal –“N&Ns have been published in the past; the difference now is that the Editors and I are actively soliciting them when we see an exciting paper. We feel that these short (1-2 page) micro-reviews help the broad readership of the Journal appreciate important advances that may be outside their own area of expertise. Importantly, they are all written by acknowledged volunteer experts in the field of the paper, who can describe the impact of the paper within a broader biophysics context. They are not written by the authors of the original paper. I am really gratified by how readily it has been possible to secure these (on very short notice) from our volunteer contributors. EBTs are generally just two sentences long and are written by one of the Editors to appear in the Table of Contents. Because new methods can have such a broad impact on future research, we feel that innovative new technological advances deserve the special attention of the Biophysical Journal readership.”

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View the latest issue of Biophysical Journal online here – including highlighted papers that are available to everyone for free. Don’t forget–Society Members can publish in BiophysJ at a reduced cost and receive free online color figures!

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STEM Teachers: Looking for Help With Lesson Plans?

STEM education is expected to play a vital role in the future of the US economy (and economies around the world), and with a new school year underway, many teachers are looking for ways to keep students enthusiastic about STEM-related topics.

The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) works to provide educators (K-12 teachers as well as college professors) with high quality digital resources to help educate and engage students. NSDL is supported by the National Science Foundation, as well as an extensive network of STEM companies and organizations who share NSDL’s goal of educating future generations in STEM topics. Network members help NSDL refine resources, ensuring the best possible information is available for teachers and students.

Educators can access NSDL resources online free of charge. For biology specific tools, check out the BEN portal (BiosciEdNet), managed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The website offers access to more than 18,000 reviewed resources covering 75+ biological science topics. Most records are available for free. Users can also join BEN’s online community of science educators to collaborate and share teaching ideas.

Celebrating a Summer of Biophysics

Biophysics students enjoying ice creamThe 2012 Summer Course in Biophysics came to an end earlier this August with group trip to a local ice cream stand. The twelve undergraduate students had spent the day presenting their independent summer research projects to their TAs, lab supervisors, and PIs. The final symposium concluded a course filled with lectures, quizzes and independent biophysics-related research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The students lived together in a dorm, collaborated on weekly homework assignments, and participated in scientific seminars and poster presentations together.

The celebratory ice cream trip marked one of the last nights the students would spend
together in Chapel Hill before heading back home, whether to Detroit, Puerto Rico, or Connecticut. It also marked the start of a new beginning for many of the participants who spend the summer realizing just how exciting biophysics research can be.

 

Biophysics students“Looking back now, I would never have expected to grow this much, both as a research and as a person overall. Here I was, a hardcore biology major jumping into the fray of biophysics with almost no physics background, totally out of my comfort zone. Yet, as the uncomfortability subsided, I realized that perhaps it is occasionally stepping outside of your comfort zone that allows for learning and growth to happen—much like how the roots of a plant grow outward, yearning for more space and nutrients as the plant grows, that if the roots had stayed within their comfort zone, never growing out and looking for more nutrients, the plant would never give itself the opportunity to grow to its fullest potential.”

– Nawaphon Sittisawassakul, 2012 Summer Course participant, rising junior at SUNY Purchase

Learn Where Your Candidates Stand on Medical Research Funding

Research!America recently launched the 2012 edition of their survey, “Your Candidates. Your Health.” The survey aims to educate voters about where their candidates for presidential and congressional races stand on issues of medical research, particularly medical research funding.

Candidates are invited to fill out the survey, which is then posted on the Your Candidates. Your Health. website along with a tool allowing voters to easily compare the views of each candidate.

Get to know where your candidates stand on medical research, and encourage those candidates who have not yet participated to let voters know where they stand!

The Next Generation: Introducing High School Students to Biophysics

High school students are introduced to biophysics. The Biophysical Society recently sponsored a half-day event, “Introducing Biophysics to Highschools,” through the BPS mini-grant program. The event was organized by Marta Bunster, the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics and the Center for Photonics and Optics at Universidad de Concepción.

Students and teachers were welcomed to the auditorium at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics Science by undergraduate and graduate students from the Molecular Biophysics Lab. They attended lectures concerning different applications of biophysical methods, from remote sensing from satellites looking for environmental parameters, the uses in biomedical devices for diagnosis and detection, to the analysis of single molecules.

The students were then divided into four groups to visit laboratories, where researches and graduate students guided them through the use of different techniques, such as molecule optical tweezers, spectroscopy and microscopy.

Students from various schools in the region were invited, all of them interested in physics. Several even had to travel two hours just to attend! It was a great opportunity to chat science with young people, and it should be continued.

-Marta Bunster

Attracting new biophysicists: UVA event discusses creating and maintaining graduate and undergraduate programs specific to biophysics

Discussion: attracting biophysicists in universities

Event attendees discussed options for attracting more undergraduate and graduate students to biophysics.

On June 15, we held a Biophysical Society regional interface meeting at the University of Virginia.  We had about 50 attendees from the Mid-Atlantic States joined us for what turned out to be a beautiful day in Charlottesville, Va.  In addition, we were delighted that Bridget Swartz and Ellen Weiss from the Biophysical Society office drove to central Virginia to join us. The meeting theme was “Creating Biophysics Undergraduate Majors.” We all know that there are very few college seniors or recent graduates that have specific interest in getting a PhD in biophysics.

The question of the day was: How can we improve the visibility of biophysics graduate programs or create undergrad programs that would attract majors? We had five talks from program leaders around Virginia, including Gina MacDonald from James Madison University, who told us about JMU’s efforts to set up a biophysical chemistry major, and Lou De Felice from Virginia Commonwealth University, who described how biophysics permeates throughout VCU in both the main and medical school campuses as well as in various centers. De Felice also described his methods of attracting students to VCU’s graduate program. Linda Columbus from the University of Virginia described the development of a lab-based undergraduate course in protein structure-function including the very important aspects of assessment. Will Guilford and Robert Bryant, also from UVA, discussed approaches and challenges to setting up a scientific major with specific considerations for biophysics. Our keynote speaker, Karen Fleming from Johns Hopkins University, gave us a wonderful overview of the biophysics major and the insights she has gained from directing the Johns Hopkins program.

There was lively discussion associated with all of the talks, including agreements that biophysics oriented programs and courses attract better students, experiential and active learning works extremely well in our field, and students are interested in learning a broad range of materials from the theoretical to the practical. There was emphasis that learning the basics such as Beer’s Law and how to make buffers may be among the most important lessons.

Biophysics students

Biophysics students presented research posters during the event.

At the concluding reception, several biophysics students presented research posters and there were many discussions about both research and education. It became clear that regional meetings offer tremendous value by allowing us to talk about issues that are unique to our area. There was a consensus to commit to holding similar gatherings every two years and to rotate the meetings among our campuses.