What are you studying exactly? (i.e. What is Julia still doing in school? Part 1)

At the time of writing this, I have finished “18th grade” and I still have quite a few years ahead of me before I am done with school. Typically, as an adult, when you tell someone that you are in school, they will ask two questions:

  1. What are you studying/what are you majoring in?
  2. When will you be done?  (See my answer to this question here)

Tip: Only undergraduates have “majors.” 

This post will answer question #1! (See the answer to question #2 here )

I am enrolled in a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program, but my lab’s research is best described as “biophysics.”

  • Molecular biology: the study of life at the molecular level (smaller than organisms, smaller than tissues, smaller than cells).
  • Biochemistry: investigation of biological questions using chemical techniques and approaches.
  • Biophysics: investigation of biological questions using physical techniques and approaches.

Biophysics is an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of life sciences and physics (as you might guess from the name). Generally speaking, biophysics is the investigation of biological questions using physical techniques and approaches. For example, my lab asks questions about muscle proteins using approaches based on optics, force, and computer-modeling.

There is also a lot of molecular biology and biochemistry involved in biophysics research. Molecular biology is all described by chemistry, and chemistry is all described by physics, so it is difficult to do biophysics and skip chemistry. This is actually my favorite part of biophysics because I get to learn and apply things from multiple fields! 

“Biophysics” is still pretty vague though. There are over 7,500 scientists in the Biophysical Society (one of them is me) and each of them work on something a little bit different. There is a lot of life to explore after all.

More specifically, I study the muscle protein myosin, which is responsible for contractions. Even more specifically, I ask the question, “what factors cause myosin to transition between an “on” state and an “off” state?” using computer modeling, microscopes (fancy ones with lasers), and more.

If you’d like to learn more about what exactly I do, you can follow my Instagram @julia.posts.about.proteins and feel free to send me a message asking anything you might be curious about!

For more about what biophysics is: https://www.biophysics.org/what-is-biophysics

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