The importance of student talks

Last year at the Biophysical Society meeting in New Orleans, I gave a talk at the Mechanobiology subgroup (chaired by Prof. Ewa Paluch). I was very grateful to have been invited to give a talk as a 3rd year PhD student, because the experience of preparing the talk, presenting it, and answering questions afterward was immensely valuable, not only for my academic career but also for my ability to communicate well—to both convey complex ideas clearly and to learn from people with sometimes very different viewpoints.

This year, I had the great privilege of giving a platform talk at the Cell Mechanics and Motility Platform on Sunday on my research in Alex Dunn’s group. Emotionally, I was in a very similar spot leading up to this year’s talk as I was last year—excited to share my research but also a little bit terrified (do experienced presenters ever lose this fear completely?). This year, however, I felt much more confident compared to last year, and that difference is largely because I could draw from my experience at the BPS 2017 Annual Meeting. On behalf of young scientists everywhere, I would like to give a big “Thank you” to event organizers who provide opportunities for us to speak. Our names may not attract as much attention as those of principal investigators, but we benefit immensely from these opportunities, and we are at a life stage in which these speaking opportunities can have a great impact on our presentation skills and scientific thinking.


A Saturday with Membrane Biophysics

Accompanied with a slight jet lag I spent most of the day at the Membrane Biophysics subgroup meeting. All the talks were related to various membrane channels or transporters – both from experimental and computational perspectives. As a person with a background in physics that hardly ever steps into a reallab, the sophistication of the experimental procedures baffled me. Pulling and simultaneously unfolding a protein out of its membrane or restraining certain side chains on the inside of a channel requires creativity and precision from the experimenter, while being much easier to accomplish in a computer. Some talks were touching on methods where computational approaches use much more experimental data than what has been the previous standard. Theoreticians shouldn’t forget about the real world best described by experiments, but without the theoretical models we haven’t really understood the underlying mechanisms either. The take-home message of this subgroup meeting: “bring theory and experiments together”.

New Conference, new poster

I’ve lost count of how many times I almost forgot the humble poster tube. Whether it’s a mad dash between train platforms or an addled disembarkment after a red-eye flight, this brain takes its sweet time remembering that something is missing amongst my cellphone, backpack, overnight bag, and during graduate days, a travel guitar plus a brimmed hat. It’s tremendously fortunate that I’ve only needed to purchase one replacement tube so far,* with just my stuff inside. Continue Reading

Best spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge

As most of you are scouting out the program outline and looking for the talks you would want to attend at the upcoming Biophysical Society Meeting, I am very sure you are also making a list of things you would want to see in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic San Francisco landmark, will most likely be on the minds of many BPS’18 attendees, especially if it is your first time in SF. This breathtakingly beautiful marvel of engineering is number one tourist attraction in SF and is the most photographed bridge in the world.

The following spots could provide good vantage points to see and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge and could make your photos a great hit on Instagram. Please do not forget to tag #BPS18 in your posts.

Crissy Field/ Fort Point National Historic site: Located at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field provides spectacular views of the bridge.  This place also has a picnic area and small beach front and is frequented by families. You can walk up to Fort Point, a Civil War-era brick fort, for a more up-close view of the bridge.

Baker Beach: This beach provides the postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge as the white frothy waves create contrasting foreground for the ‘international orange’ colored structure.  You can also catch the reflection of the bridge in the wet sand during the late evening hours. Baker Beach has been rated as one of the best beaches in northern California.

pic 3 gg

Battery Spencer: This area is located on the north side of the bridge. The elevation of this spot provides a unique vantage point where you can see the bridge up-close and at your eye level. You can also see the San Francisco skyline in the background.

pic 4 gg.jpg





Introducing….the 2018 BPS Annual Meeting Bloggers!

BPS is pleased to have several attendees serving as meeting bloggers during #bps18.  For those in attendance, learn about sessions you couldn’t fit into your schedule, consider a different perspective, or get some tips to help you make the most of your time at the meeting and in San Francisco. For those readers that aren’t at the meeting, read the posts to get a taste of some of the great research being presented at Biophysical Society’s 62nd Annual Meeting!

Jessie BarrickMy name is Jessie and I am a 4th year PhD student in the physics department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. My research is in the area of biomedical imaging, specifically a type of optical imaging call Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Working in Amy Oldenburg’s Coherence Imaging Lab at UNC-CH, I design and build OCT systems with novel features in order to image and study various biological systems. My interest in writing and science communication began as an undergrad at Davidson College (Davidson, NC) where I majored both in physics and in Spanish literature. I am an active member of our physics outreach program and our school’s science policy advocacy group.

C_BerghMy name is Cathrine Bergh and I’m just about to start a PhD in Theoretical Biophysics under Dr. Erik Lindahl at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. I have a background in physics and my research is focused on developing and using theoretical methods to study motion of biomolecules, for example molecular dynamics, Markov state models or other coarse-grained or multi-resolution simulation methods. I also have a great interest in computer science/HPC and worked as a support engineer for the fastest supercomputer in Scandinavia (a Cray XC40). It is my first time at the Annual Meeting, but not in San Francisco as I recently did my Master’s thesis project at Stanford University in Dr. Michael Levitt’s group. I’m mostly looking forward to the poster session, to just talk to lots of people and hopefully bring back a few new ideas to Sweden. And of course it will be great to see all my lab mates from Stanford again!

I will present a poster about my Master’s thesis work on Tuesday February 20th 1.45-3.45 pm. I hope I will talk to you there!

PChenSo I’m Po-chia Chen (Poker), a sort of integrative structural biologist who combines molecular dynamics simulations with small-angle X-ray scattering and nuclear magnetic resonance experiments. My current working arrangement consists of a research stay in Sydney, Australia on while being employed by EMBL, Heidelberg: which results in me running parallel projects on protein modelling, NMR spin relaxation predictions, and SAXS-based screening. A poster will be presented on the last one of the three at this meeting, although I may be running around catching up on current and previous work ranging from membrane channels to protein nucleic-acid interactions. Please feel free to tag me for an explanation.

My aim for this blogging contribution is to highlight some of the random social aspects of the conference. As a veteran of multiple conferences, there’s plenty of work and non-work conversations attendees get up to. I’m a general reader/geek/surfer/gamer, and if there happens to be a piano nearby and people are actually allowed to play it, chances are I’ll be there at least once. So hit me up if you want to chat or have a story to share.

M_DeMy name is Madhura De. Originally from Calcutta, India, I am currently a 2nd year PhD student at the German Cancer Research Centre, Heidelberg. I did my undergraduate studies and Masters in Calcutta where I shifted gradually from biology to biophysics and structural biology, focusing on NMR spectroscopy and atomistic simulations of DNA mismatches during my Master’s thesis. I shifted to single molecule FRET spectroscopy for my PhD and I am currently trying to use this technique to probe the position of linker histone in the chromatosome.

This is my first time at the Biophysical Society, and also my first visit to the United States, and I am excitedly looking forward to a lot of sunshine at the remarkable Golden Gate Bridge!

Apart from enjoying my day to day adventures – highs and lows at the lab, I really enjoy writing, travelling, reading, listening to music (Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco’ playing on loop a few weeks prior to this year’s meet), and watching videos related to the International Space Station, Harry Potter, and David Suchet’s ‘Hercule Poirot’!

I will be presenting a poster at the Single Molecule Spectroscopy II session, 21st February, from 10.30 to 11.30 am. I would be glad to discuss my work with all of you and also hear about yours! Do drop by!

EFowlerMy name is Ewan D Fowler. I earned my BS degree in Sport Science from the University of Glasgow in 2010. This was followed by a MS and PhD at the University of Leeds in the laboratory of Prof Ed White, where I studied the energetic basis for excitation-contraction coupling abnormalities in heart failure. I was awarded a travel scholarship from Boehringer Ingelheim to spend part of my PhD at the Vrijie Universiteit, Amsterdam, where I investigated diastolic dysfunction by stretching intact cardiac myocytes under dynamic load. I currently work as a Research Associate in the laboratory of Prof Mark B Cannell at the University of Bristol. My research investigates the interaction between the electrical properties and calcium handling of cardiac myocytes. I am particularly interested in the causes of calcium-induced arrhythmias in pathology. Outside of science, I enjoy learning electronics, programming, competing in triathlons and the occasional craft beer.

G_GuaravI am Gaurav, a biomedical scientist trained in multidisciplinary and multicultural settings. I am currently working at a bay area startup, where I am investigating electrical conduction through single DNA molecules in pursuit of developing quantum tunneling based DNA sequencing platform. Before this current position, I obtained my Ph.D. from Drexel University in Philadelphia where my doctoral work focused on single-molecule detection using solid-state nanopores.

Through the BPS blog, I look forward to sharing my insights about the exciting research being presented at BPS’18. I also plan to share my favorite places to see and eat in San Francisco with BPS’18 attendees. You can follow me on twitter @virgaurav and visit my LinkedIn profile at

D_HuangI am Derek, a Biophysics PhD student in my fourth year at Stanford University. MY research in Prof. Alex Dunn’s lab focuses on adhesion complexes, the protein assemblies that mechanically link the cell’s cytoskeleton to the external environment. To study how mechanical force regulates adhesion assembly and cytoskeletal organization, I use single-molecule force spectroscopy and computational modeling. I got involved in biophysics as an undergraduate researcher in Prof. Koen Visscher’s lab at the University of Arizona, where I was lured in by the high-power lasers but convinced to stay by the biology. Outside of lab, I enjoy mentoring high school students through Stanford’s Future Advancers of Science and Technology (FAST) outreach program (and would like to give a shout out to the fantastic students at Andrew P. Hill High School). At every Biophysical Society meeting, my lab mates work hard to perpetuate the rumor that I am secretly an amazing dancer, a practical joke that has gotten out of hand.

EmilyMaverickMy name is Emily E. Maverick and I am a 4th year graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences department at Colorado State University. My scientific passion has been ion channels ever since I learned about the NMDA receptor as a coincidence detector for learning and memory in a college pyschology class. In fact that’s why I decided to go to grad school—to study these beautiful proteins that are responsible for thought, experience and consciousness. My current research centers around a potassium channel that has both an electrical and a structural role in brain health and function. I use electrophysiology and single molecule imaging to investigate its function and localization in several cell types.

Although my research interests are somewhat niche, I am also endlessly curious, and it’s this trait that lead me to blogging. I kept up a blog in college as an avenue to gab about science that blew my mind, so blogging for BPS is going to be really fun! What better place to be immersed in cutting edge research and technology? I’m looking forward to writing about health-related and translational biophysics research as well as some of the novel techniques that will be highlighted at this year’s meeting.

When I’m not writing or at the bench I love to play outside in the beautiful Colorado weather. Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing and backpacking are some of my favorite hobbies. While in San Francisco I’m going to be searching out some good breweries (Fort Collins has spoiled me) and seafood (Colorado is so land-locked) and I’ll communicate on the blog when I find something worth sharing. Enjoy the meeting!


Mara_OlenickHi. I am Mara Olenick, a 5th year PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, where I work to better understand intracellular transport through studies on the molecular motor, dynein.  While this is my second time to the annual BPS meeting, this is my first time blogging. I  look forward to blogging about the professional development events along with the scientific sessions, since I am nearing the end of my graduate career and am interested in pursuing a career in science communication. In my free time, I am also excited to explore San Francisco with hmy friend and previous BPS blogger Martin Iwanicki, who will undoubtedly take me to all the hot food spots the city has to offer. Besides my love of science, I enjoy trying new foods, listening to live music and exploring new places which is why I am eager to attend BPS18!  I will be giving a talk Monday Feb. 19th at 9:30am in the Microtubules and Associated Motors platform session.

BWatkinsHi! My name is Briana Watkins, though most everyone calls me Bree. I graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2015. I am now a third year PhD student at the University of Miami in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. My project is focused on understanding how different small molecules modify the activity of voltage-gated ion channels in the heart. I’m particularly interested in the role of different ion channels in cellular excitability in health and disease.



JWesterfieldI’m Justin Westerfield, a fourth-year PhD student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Working in the lab of Dr. Francisco Barrera, I study pH-responsive peptides as candidates for targeted therapy and as tools to understand membrane proteins. Outside of the lab my interests revolve around nature; I generally spend my free time baking breads, hiking, and photographing landscapes. This will be my first BPS meeting, and I’m so excited to meet new people and discuss emerging trends in biophysics. Come visit me on Monday at poster B244! I will be tweeting throughout the week as much as I can, and you can follow me on Twitter at @WesterfieldJM. You can see samples of my posts on See you in San Fran!





What’s in your bag, Enrique De La Cruz?

What's in your bag_

We asked Biophysical Society members what they carry with them throughout the Annual Meeting.  

Name: Enrique De La Cruz
Institution: Yale University

Enrique bag

  • Laptop and charger – because work never sleeps.
  • Phone charger – because eBay auctions end daily.
  • A box of records – this is not uncommon.  Whenever I travel I have to hit one or more of the local record stores, a habit I’ve had since I was about 12 years old.  My friends all know it and if I ever come visit, don’t be surprised if I request a “quick” pit stop.  I scored a few winners on this trip: Vibrators – Automatic Lover, Shangri Las on Red Bird, Harvey on Tri-Phi, Bobby Bland on Duke, and Jeff Dahl on Bomp.
  • Headphones – because there is always something worth listening to.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss – because we only get one set of adult teeth.
  • Backup canvas bag – because my bookbag/backpack can only fit so much stuff.
  • Scarf – because I walk a lot and New England winters are cold.  This one resembles a fish (salmon, I think).
  • Pens and pencils – because I still read and write on paper.
  • Pencil sharpener – because them pencils don’t sharpen themselves.
  • Plastic spoon – this is a habit from traveling with my kids.  It is hard to eat yogurt without a spoon, though we’ve tried.
  • Thumb drive – because I will undoubtedly have to back up some amazing photos of my wife and kids.
  • Coffee and herbal tea – because I am often too frugal to pay full price for most things, even a cup of coffee.
  • Ear plugs – because one never knows when there might be a good show, and, despite liking it loud, I protect my hearing.