The 20th century science was marked by groundbreaking discoveries in physics, followed by a gradual shift of the focus to biology. In his famous book “What is Life?” Erwin Schrödinger raised the idea that all life processes can be described by the laws of physics. Following the determination of the molecular structures of proteins and DNA in early 1950’s, biology became from a descriptive to a quantitative discipline, which soon gave birth to a new branch of science, biophysics. Completion of the whole-genome sequencing of many organisms, including humans, gave rise to the worldwide Structural Genomics initiative, which is aimed at determination of a myriad of protein structures in a high throughput mode in order to understand the functions and create means of regulation of all proteins that govern key processes of life.
The overall goal of biophysical research is to explain seemingly complex biological events in terms of explicit physical relationships. This is mostly achieved either by determining molecular structures that support certain functions, or by providing conceptual frameworks that explain biological processes in terms of physical parameters. The importance of using physical approaches to solve biomedical problems is demonstrated by recent Nobel prizes awarded to scientists for discovering the structures of ion and water channels in cell membranes (Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon, 2003), for devising magnetic resonance imaging (Paul C. Lauterbur and Sir Peter Mansfield, 2003), for the development of methods for identification and structure analyses of biological macromolecules (John B. Fenn and Koichi Tanaka, 2002), and for development of macromolecular NMR (Kurt Wüthrich, 2002).
Inspired by exciting developments in the field of biophysics and motivated by the increase in the number of biophysically oriented faculty at the University of Central Florida (UCF), the UCF Biophysics Group was established in October 2002, at the initiative of Dr. S. Tatulian and blessing of the vice president for research Dr. M. J. Soileau. The UCF Biophysics Group includes faculty members with expertise in biomolecular science, physics, chemistry, optics, and nanoscience. The main objective of the Group has been to organize monthly Biophysics Seminars in order to increase awareness of University-wide research interests, to encourage biophysical studies at UCF, and to foster biophysical discussions and interdisciplinary research collaboration. Numerous faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and invited outside speakers have participated in our seminar series since its inception in 2002 (see the Seminars link).
The UCF Biophysics Group will foster biophysical studies and life sciences as a whole at UCF, synergistically with various departments within the College of Sciences and the new College of Medicine.