AskDefine | Define biophysics

Dictionary Definition

biophysics n : physics as applied to biological problems

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The interdisciplinary science that applies theories and methods of the physical sciences to questions of biology.


Extensive Definition

Biophysics (also biological physics) is an interdisciplinary science that employs and develops theories and methods of the physical sciences for the investigation of biological systems. Studies included under the umbrella of biophysics span all levels of biological organization, from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems. Biophysical research shares significant overlap with biochemistry, nanotechnology, bioengineering and systems biology.
Molecular biophysics typically addresses biological questions that are similar to those in biochemistry and molecular biology, but the questions are approached quantitatively. Scientists in this field conduct research concerned with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis, as well as how these interactions are regulated. A great variety of techniques are used to answer these questions.
Fluorescent imaging techniques, as well as electron microscopy, x-ray crystallography and atomic force microscopy (AFM) are often used to visualize structures of biological significance. Direct manipulation of molecules using optical tweezers or AFM can also be used to monitor biological events where forces and distances are at the nanoscale. Molecular biophysicists often consider complex biological events as systems of interacting units which can be understood through statistical mechanics, thermodynamics and chemical kinetics. By drawing knowledge and experimental techniques from a wide variety of disciplines, biophysicists are often able to directly observe, model or even manipulate the structures and interactions of individual molecules or complexes of molecules.
In addition to traditional (i.e. molecular) biophysical topics like structural biology or enzyme kinetics, modern biophysics encompasses an extraordinarily broad range of research. It is becoming increasingly common for biophysicists to apply the models and experimental techniques derived from physics, as well as mathematics and statistics, to larger systems such as tissues, organs, populations and ecosystems.

Focus as a subfield

Biophysics often does not have university-level departments of its own, but have presence as groups across departments within the fields of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, medicine, pharmacology, physiology, physics, and neuroscience. What follows is a list of examples of how each department applies its efforts toward the study of biophysics. This list is hardly all inclusive. Nor does each subject of study belong exclusively to any particular department. Each academic institution makes its own rules and there is much overlap between departments.
Many biophysical techniques are unique to this field. Research efforts in biophysics are often initiated by scientists who were traditional physicists, chemists, and biologists by training.

Topics in biophysics and related fields

Famous biophysicists

Other notable biophysicists


  • Perutz M.F. Proteins and Nucleic Acids, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1962
  • PMID 4389425
  • Dogonadze R.R. and Urushadze Z.D. Semi-Classical Method of Calculation of Rates of Chemical Reactions Proceeding in Polar Liquids.- J.Electroanal.Chem., 32, 1971, pp. 235-245
  • Volkenshtein M.V., Dogonadze R.R., Madumarov A.K., Urushadze Z.D. and Kharkats Yu.I. Theory of Enzyme Catalysis.- Molekuliarnaya Biologia (Moscow), 6, 1972, pp. 431-439 (In Russian, English summary)
  • Sneppen K. and Zocchi G., Physics in Molecular Biology, Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-84419-3
  • Glaser R., Biophysics, Springer, 2001, ISBN 3-540-67088-2

See also

biophysics in Afrikaans: Biofisika
biophysics in Arabic: فيزياء حيوية
biophysics in Asturian: Biofísica
biophysics in Bosnian: Biofizika
biophysics in Bulgarian: Биофизика
biophysics in Catalan: Biofísica
biophysics in Czech: Biofyzika
biophysics in German: Biophysik
biophysics in Estonian: Biofüüsika
biophysics in Modern Greek (1453-): Βιοφυσική
biophysics in Spanish: Biofísica
biophysics in Esperanto: Biofiziko
biophysics in Persian: زیست‌فیزیک
biophysics in French: Biophysique
biophysics in Galician: Biofísica
biophysics in Korean: 생물리학
biophysics in Indonesian: Biofisika
biophysics in Italian: Biofisica
biophysics in Hebrew: ביופיזיקה
biophysics in Lithuanian: Biofizika
biophysics in Hungarian: Biofizika
biophysics in Dutch: Biofysica
biophysics in Japanese: 生物物理学
biophysics in Occitan (post 1500): Biofisica
biophysics in Polish: Biofizyka
biophysics in Portuguese: Biofísica
biophysics in Romanian: Biofizică
biophysics in Russian: Биофизика
biophysics in Simple English: Biophysics
biophysics in Slovak: Biofyzika
biophysics in Slovenian: Biofizika
biophysics in Serbian: Биофизика
biophysics in Finnish: Biofysiikka
biophysics in Swedish: Biofysik
biophysics in Vietnamese: Lý sinh học
biophysics in Turkish: Biyofizik
biophysics in Ukrainian: Біофізика
biophysics in Chinese: 生物物理学

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Newtonian physics, acoustics, aerobiology, aerophysics, agrobiology, anatomy, applied physics, astrobiology, astrophysics, bacteriology, basic conductor physics, biochemics, biochemistry, biochemy, bioecology, biological science, biology, biometrics, biometry, bionics, bionomics, botany, cell physiology, chemical physics, cryobiology, cryogenics, crystallography, cybernetics, cytology, cytophysics, ecology, electrobiology, electron physics, electronics, electrophysics, embryology, enzymology, ethnobiology, exobiology, genetics, geophysics, gnotobiotics, life science, macrophysics, mathematical physics, mechanics, medicophysics, microbiology, microphysics, molecular biology, natural philosophy, natural science, nuclear physics, optics, pharmacology, philosophy, physic, physical chemistry, physical science, physicochemistry, physicomathematics, physics, physiology, psychophysics, radiation physics, radiobiology, radionics, solar physics, solid-state physics, statics, stereophysics, taxonomy, theoretical physics, thermodynamics, virology, xenobiology, zoology, zoophysics
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