Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Retro biophysics

by PhilipJ on 15 October 2006

I’m at the Frontiers in Biophysics (first annual) retreat at Loon Lake (yes, it is that beautiful, even in mildly chilly October weather), about two hours outside of Vancouver.

A good portion of the retreat is made up of people doing single molecule measurements, either with scanning probe microscopes (AFM, STM) or optical and magnetic tweezers. These measurements have rightly become quite popular in recent years, particularly since the techniques themselves are still quite new.

After a number of talks on single molecule experiments, a speaker not working on single molecules said, after explaining his more ‘bulk’ style of measurement:

Looking at an ensemble measurement… you know, retro biophysics.

We all burst out laughing, since single-molecule work certainly has come to dominate biophysics research. I’ll give a more complete recap of the retreat when I’m home tomorrow night!



  1. Andre    3815 days ago    #

    Well, let’s not get carried away. I think “dominate” is a big overstatement. Looking at a recent couple of issues of Biophysical Journal, I figure single molecule measurements make up less than 10% of the new papers.

    The retreat looks beautiful though. I look forward to the report!


  2. PhilipJ    3814 days ago    #

    I guess I have single-molecule blinders on, so it is the kind of research I pay attention to the most, but I don’t think it is that big an overstatement when you think about the impact. Certainly the single-molecule experiments are among the more high profile these days.

    Rest of retreat post coming up sometime soon!


  3. sam    3814 days ago    #

    So, if you oppose ensemble averaging, check out:
    http://www.cafepress.com/wempire2

    I would agree that SMS isn’t dominating the field, but it certainly seems to be the new big thing. The Gordon Conference on Single Molecule Approaches To Biology was overregistered, which I think was a record for a new conference. Way to go Sunney and Lori and TJ and Xiaowei!


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