Biological Physics at UCI





Research Topics Include

  • Langmuir monolayers, membrane analogs
  • Gene chips & DNA microarrays
  • Protein function
  • PET, electrophysiological imaging)
  • Functional and metabolic imaging, MRI, NMR spectroscopy)

Biological Physics and Medical Physics cover a broad range of disciplines that apply quantitative physical methods to the study of fundamental biological problems as well as the more practical concerns of human physiology, disease, and medical diagnosis and treatment.

One of the challenges facing modern biology is the need for a more physical understanding of biological function, particularly the interactions of proteins. The success of the genome projects drives home the fact that although we will shortly know the amino acid sequence of all physiological proteins, we understand very little of their function. Modern physics tools are ideally suited to probing protein function at the level of single molecules or small complexes. By combining a variety of measurement techniques and studies of both proteins and membranes, we will come to an understanding of the cell as a complex highly ordered machine. This advance is of fundamental scientific importance and will be directly applicable to medicine.

In the area of human physiology and medicine a few of the topics that exploit physics and physical methods are the interactions of light, ionizing radiation, microwaves, heat, etc. with living tissues and the diagnostic and therapeutic techniques such as X-ray, gamma ray and NMR computer tomography, diagnostic ultrasound and radiation therapy that dominate modern medicine. It is evident from this partial list that a strong national program in medical physics is essential for the US to be in the forefront in basic medical science and in medical diagnostics and therapeutics.  Delivery of high-quality medical care requires a large pool of highly-trained individuals who will function in hospitals and other health care delivery settings. Medical diagnostic and therapeutic equipment is a thriving industry in which the US plays a major role, but in which there is now strong competition from abroad. There is a consistently strong demand for well-trained physicists with special expertise in this area.

Biological/Medical research opportunities are available both within the Department and as joint projects with faculty in the Beckman Laser Institute, the Departments of Physiology and Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Developmental and Cell Biology, Radiological Sciences, and others. Units and programs at UCI possessing substantial intellectual resources and infrastructure in Biological/Medical Physics include the:

  • Health Sciences Research Imaging Center/College of Medicine
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center
  • Optical Biology Facility and Beckman Laser Institute
  • Macromolecular X-ray Diffraction Facility and Computational Center
  • Chemistry Molecular Modeling Facility
  • Structural Molecular Biology Program
  • UCI Protein Engineering Program