Jason- The name 'biophysics' refers to work on biological problems using techniques most familiar to physicists.
One current example from our department involves investigating how
muscle proteins work by studying how one protein 'walks' along another,
looking with very sensitive fluorescent microscopes at individual
molecules. Sometimes as the biophysical tools become more routinely
available, the same sort of work will continue but will be called
biochemistry, or put into practice in medical settings. Examples of
this latter kind of feeding into medicine from physics are X-ray
diagnosis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET scans (that's
"positron-emission tomography, which depends on specially decaying
radionuclides which produce positrons. Positrons annihilate with
electrons to make a pair of photons, and detection of these photons can
pinpoint the production location).
Sometimes biophyisicists use theoretical techniques developed by
physicists to study biological patterns, but sometimes the same sort of
work is called theoretical biology.
So the lines between theoretical biology, biochemistry, biophysics,
and molecular biology are not especially sharp. When things go well,
people with a variety of different skills work on the same biological
Mike (and Tom)
(republished on 07/13/06)