APS News

Division of Biological Physics Workshop Presents Research Opportunities

Physicists can make a substantial contribution to many rapidly advancing areas of biology, according to information presented at a workshop held Sunday before the March Meeting in Baltimore.

The workshop was aimed at physicists, especially graduate students and postdocs, who were curious about how a background in physics can provide a unique perspective on biological systems.

The program consisted of eight talks, which focused on the exciting research at the interface between physics and biology, and how physicists can work in those areas. Speakers covered a range of biophysics topics, including physical tools for biology research, molecular motors, computation in biophysics, and physics and brain research.

The speakers were William Bialek (Princeton), Robijn Bruinsma (UCLA), Hans Frauenfelder (Los Alamos), Klaus Lehnertz (Bonn), Yale Goldman (Penn), Charles Stevens (Salk Institute), Zuzanna Siwy (Irvine), and Sunney Xie (Harvard).

The workshop was inspired by two previous standalone conferences on opportunities in biology for physicists that were sponsored by the APS. The first was held in Boston, in September 2002, and the second in San Diego in January 2004. This year the Division of Biological Physics decided to hold the workshop with the March Meeting, to draw on the large pool of March Meeting attendees, attracting physicists who might not otherwise have attended the biological physics workshop.

Some of the approximately 200 people who attended the workshop already work in biophysics or closely related fields, while others work in other areas of physics but were interested in the topics. The attendees were a mix of graduate students, postdocs, and more senior physicists.

Participant response to the workshop was generally quite positive, said Clare Yu, one the workshop organizers. Attendees said they enjoyed the talks, though many commented that they would have appreciated more time for networking, and/or the inclusion of some informal or panel discussion in the program. DBP will try to incorporate those suggestions in next year’s workshop, which will be held with the 2007 March Meeting.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff