Friday, October 9, 2009

Steven Chu, Biological Physicist

Readers of the 4th edition of Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology may wish to see examples of physicists who have contributed to biology. One excellent example is Steven Chu, who until recently was professor of physics and professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Chu describes his biological physics research on his Berkeley website:
"We apply single molecule techniques such as fluorescence resonance energy transfer, atomic force microscopy and optical tweezers, we study enzyme activity, and protein and RNA folding at the single bio-molecule level. Systems being studied include how the ribosome reads m-RNA and manufactures proteins, how vesicles fuse into the cell wall at the synapse of neurons, how cells adhere to each other via adhesive molecules, and how RNA molecules fold into active enzymes."
If you want to hear Chu talk about his biological physics research, watch this video on YouTube. Some of his best known biological physics papers, published while on the faculty at Stanford, are:
Steven Chu exemplifies how physicists can contribute to our understanding of biology.


....Oh, did I forget to mention something? Chu is best known for his work on the "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light", for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. He is currently Secretary of Energy in the Obama administration, and is leading the US effort to move away from fossil fuels and toward alternative energy sources, thereby combating global warming.

Who says we don’t have wonderful role models anymore?

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