Biophysics combines biology (the study of life in its various forms) and physics (which looks for natural laws which can be expressed in mathematical terms). So essentially, it is an examination of life and finding patterns by using math and physics as analytical tools. When biological patterns are found, biophysics allows for a more accurate extrapolations of life form matters, which can then be further tested.
What is Biophysics?
To keep it simple, biophysics is the study of biology by applying physics. It’s because of biophysics that scientists are gaining a better understanding of how atoms are set up to function in the body’s DNA and proteins. It’s because of biophysics that the structure of the DNA was revealed for the first time, when the DNA double helix was discovered in 1953.
Now another area of study in biophysics is the closer examination of proteins. The various chemical reactions in the body are performed by protein molecules. These proteins move the muscles that move your limbs. They form your various organs that provide you with all your senses. They light up the electrical signals in your brain, and regulate and repair cells (which is why you need lots of protein to build bigger muscles), and copy your DNA for your children and their children.
It is the difference in proteins which cause people to react differently to various medications, which is why some drugs are effective for one person and others aren’t, and why there are those that cause side effects. With biophysics, vaccines are created and medicines are formulated.
Biophysics is also used in forensic science. It’s because of biophysics that we have such advanced technologies in diagnostic equipment, such as sonograms, CAT scans, PET scans, and MRIs. It is also responsible for the development of pacemakers, cardiac defibrillators, kidney dialysis, and radiation therapy. Biophysicists were also the brains behind the various instruments that are used to detect, purify, put into an image, or manipulate various materials and chemicals.
Many graduates with a degree in Biophysics pursue a medical degree or get a doctorate degree. But for the most part, Biophysics graduates gravitate towards research. And in private enterprise there are a couple of thousand or so biotech companies that employ 200,000 biophysics graduates.
Top Universities for Undergraduate Biophysics Programs
Many schools offer graduate programs for Biophysics, but several good colleges offer Biophysics at the undergraduate level. For those who wish to study on the East Coast, the best schools that offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Biophysics include Harvard University (which offers a concentration on molecular and physic biology), Yale University (Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry) and Johns Hopkins University. Other reputable schools here are Brown University, Boston University, and Amherst College.
Now for those who would rather study on the West Coast, the best choices for a degree in Biophysics are Stanford University (Bachelor of Science degree in physics major in biophysics and a minor in Biology), University of California Los Angeles, and University of California San Diego. Oregon State University is also another excellent option.