Carnegie Mellon Hosts Interdisciplinary Biophysics Workshop on the Structures of the Cell
By Ben Panko
Last month, Carnegie Mellon University hosted a diverse group of biologists and physicists from around the world to explore groundbreaking research on the intricate subcellular structures that make up living cells. A grant from the DSF Charitable Foundation supported the event.
"We organized this 1 1/2-day workshop with colleagues from biological sciences and chemical engineering to get a broader view of what's hot in biophysics," said Professor of Physics Mathias Lösche. "I think it was a great opportunity to advertise to the nation and the world that innovative biological physics research is done in Pittsburgh."
To achieve that goal, the Mellon College of Science invited a dozen leading young researchers in biophysical sciences to compare and share their work about what allows our cells to function.
"Interdisciplinary research is at the core of Carnegie Mellon," Mellon College of Science Dean Rebecca W. Doerge said when opening the workshop. "We believe that the most pressing problems won't be solved by one person, one lab or one field."
"Cell biophysics is all about the internal workings of cells," Lösche explained. The interior of living cells is organized as a series of compartments that divide the space into regions where the different functions of the cell take place. "These compartments all have specialized jobs in making life work."
The biophysics researchers at Carnegie Mellon have been studying these systems for some time, focusing on simplified experimental models and theoretical simulations.
"In physics, we generally try to simplify things to determine how something complex evolves from simple beginnings," Lösche said. But within the field of biophysics in general, he noted, there has been tremendous progress — from revolutionary microscopy technology to the ever-increasing power of computer simulations that allow us to model progressively complex molecular systems.
"What we currently see is a confluence of opportunities," Lösche commented, “which we would like to harness in our ongoing expansion of the biological physics group within the CMU Department of Physics.”
The workshop was co-organized by Physics Professors Markus Deserno and Steve Garoff; Biological Sciences faculty Fred Lanni, Tina Lee and Adam Lindstedt; and Chemical Engineering Professor Kris N. Dahl.