University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Biological Physics

< >

A group of researchers at the School of Physics and Astronomy are working to uncover how cells and their signaling networks detect and respond to stimuli. Elias Puchner is new faculty member in the area of experimental biological physics. Through his research he intends to provide “a nano-scale view of cell communication.” Puchner says,“I find the ability of a cell to act as a sensor absolutely fascinating.” “For example, chemotactic cells (those responsible for movement in response to chemical stimuli) can sense a gradient of molecules.

Research group member
A member of Noireaux’s research group in the lab.

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). http://puchnerlab.umn.edu
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 RustadCalcium transport in heart cells; Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR); Molecular Dynamics (MD) Simulations