University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Biological Physics

Kurt Wick and student
< >

When one imagines a room full of physicists in training, the image that comes to mind is perhaps not a group of students sitting around playing with Legos. But that is precisely the metaphor used by Kurt Wick to describe his classes in the Methods of Experimental Physics. The students do not play with actual interlocking colored bricks, but rather bits of computer systems that might fit together in larger experiments.

RNA with excess protein
The ss RNA speeds up the self-assembly when the capsid proteins are at excess.

Physics of Biology

In biological physics, quantitative aspects and ideas and techniques of physics research are applied to biological problems. Physics has been evolving in the direction of studying more complex systems, and in doing so, has begun to expand its subject area to include living systems.

For example, Professor Joachim Mueller leads an experimental group who are studying the kinetic pathways that occur when proteins misassemble, a topic that has relevance in research on Alzheimer's disease. His lab features a novel approach to fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy (a process where a fluorescent compound is injected into a cell and studied under a microscope) with the innovation of a high pressure cell that allows spectroscopy over a broad range of pressures.

Vincent Noireaux, experimentalist in biophysics, studies in vivo and in vitro gene expression, artificial cell, cytoskeleton and artificial motility.

Another experimentalist, John Broadhurst, analyzes signal processing in the human brain with a non-invasive technique known as magneto-encephalography, which measures activity in the audio cortex.

Theorist Boris Shklovskii is studying, among other things, charge inversion in DNA with a computer simulation of electrophoresis (the migration of charged molecules such as proteins in an electrical field).

Biological Physics Faculty

Jochen MuellerExperimental biophysics, two-photon excitation microscopy, fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy
Vincent NoireauxExperimental biological physics and synthetic biology. In vitro gene expression, development of quantitative cell-free transcription/translation systems, biophysics of a synthetic cell system.
Elias PuchnerCellular and molecular biophysics, cell- and synthetic biology. Single molecule and super-resolution microscopy (PALM/STORM). Single molecule force spectroscopy (AFM).
Boris ShklovskiiTheory of transport and electron-electron correlations in disordered systems, quantum Hall effect, hopping conduction, metal-nonmetal transition and transport in nano-crystal films.
Jorge VinalsPattern formation outside of thermodynamic equilibrium. Nonlinear dynamics, bifurcation, and chaos. Defect motion in soft matter and in complex fluids such as block copolymers and nematic suspensions.
John BroadhurstThe process of human hearing, using locally induced nuclear reactions to enhance the treatment of cancers by high energy (Mev) photons or thermal neutrons. The role of heavy cations in controlling contracting muscle cells..

Biological Physics Researchers

Yan Chen
Elizabeth SmithSuper-resolution microscopy, Single molecule fluorescence.

Biological Physics Graduate Students

Christopher AngertBiophysics, instrumentation for time-correlated single photon counting
Taher GhasimakbariCondensed matter physics, Coarse-grained modeling of diblock copolymers, Dynamical and thermodynamic properties of polymer, Computational physics.
Angel Mancebo
Yao Meng
Mark Rustad