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Biophysicist


Description

Biophysicists attempt to explain why our biophysical environment behaves as it does. They develop new methods to address the mechanisms of biological processes at every level. Biophysicists use methods of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology to study how living organisms work. They investigate how the brain processes and stores information, the heart pumps blood, muscles contract, plants use light in photosynthesis, genetic functions, amongst other issues. They are interested in the physics and physical chemistry of biological processes.

Biophysicists study how organisms develop, see, hear, think and live. They study human genetics in relation to our biophysical environment and how they interact. They use computers extensively for data collection and analysis and other projects, such as the Human Genome project and stem cell research. Biophysicists also design and perform experiments with lasers, cyclotrons, telescopes, mass spectrometers, and other equipment. Based on observations and analysis, they attempt to discover and explain laws describing the forces of physical and human nature. Their discoveries have an impact on biotechnology and medicine. Biophysics has the tools to understand the molecular basis of diseases such as sickle cell anemia and AIDS. Knowledge of the way proteins and membranes work provides a basis for drug design.

Biophysicists must be able to think creatively and scientifically when coming up with experimental ideas. Knowledge of physics and biology not only leads to a most profound understanding of the physical world, but also supplies the world with the insight to develop new and innovative ideas in biophysics. Biophysics is one of the most fascinating and intellectually challenging fields of scientific study because it deals with humans.

Biophysicists usually work in groups or teams of other scientists and professionals with other backgrounds to collaborate on solving common problems. For example, some will study molecules, while other research proteins and then each scientist brings their findings together to find solutions to medical and health problems. Also, in DNA research, biophysicists are studying the functions of these molecules and proteins and this is helping in fields like criminology.

Research biophysicists write scientific articles and present their work at international conferences. An integral part of being a successful scientist is keeping up on the current technological trends and scientific studies in the field. Biophysicists who work as professors teach undergraduate and graduate university courses and supervise and guide the work of technical staff and graduate students.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Entry Level Salary:
$33,930
 
Average Salary:
$60,390
 
Maximum Salary:
$102,930

  Interests and Skills  
Biophysicists must have an aptitude for physics, biology and mathematics, and be able to pay close attention to detail. Most are fascinated with the way the physical world works in relation to the biological world. Biophysicists must enjoy working with others as members of a team, while at the same time working alone to reflect on and contemplate larger scientific ideas.

They should have excellent writing and computer skills, and patience with and curiosity about the physical world. Successful biophysicists should enjoy synthesizing information and finding innovative solutions to problems, using sophisticated instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and supervising the work of others.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design and conduct research in experimental, theoretical and applied biophysics
  • Carry out analysis of research data and prepare research reports
  • Participate as a member of a research or development team in the design and development of experimental, industrial or medical equipment, instrumentation and procedures
  • Conduct research to understand fundamental processes in nature and find practical applications
  • Provide support services for activities such as radiation therapy, diagnostic imaging or seismology
  • Use the experiments to test and prove ideas, and to help develop new ideas in biophysics, such as DNA
  • Design, build and test experimental equipment and instruments
  • Write reports on study results and present this information at conferences
  • Write papers for scientific journals
  • May develop new materials, processes or technologies
  • May work with medical doctors on radiation treatment for cancer patients
  • Biophysicists generally work in laboratories, classrooms or offices. They may also work outdoors conducting experiments. Biophysicists generally work standard workweeks, with longer hours when deadlines or experiments are looming. Travel is often required to conferences and seminars.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Biophysicists work for government and university research laboratories, hospitals, science museums and a wide range of other processing, manufacturing, and research and consulting firms.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Employment opportunities for biophysicists vary depending upon what type of degree they have. Those with bachelor's and master's degrees are more likely to be employed in design and development, teaching at the high school or college level, and administration or sales. Biophysicists with PhDs are more likely to be involved in basic or applied research and teaching at the university level.

Advancement opportunities vary depending on the place of employment and type of work done by each individual biophysicist. Biophysicists involved in research, or research and development may become project supervisors, directors of research laboratories or managers of research departments. Some biophysicists eventually move into purely administrative or management positions. Another option is becoming a scientific writer or working at a science museum.
 

  Educational Paths  
Most biophysicists begin their postsecondary education with a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in physics, and then go on to earn a master's and a PhD in physics or a sub-discipline of physics. Biophysicists who wish to do original research generally need to obtain a PhD and spend one to five years in post-doctoral research in a university or government laboratory. In medical biophysics, one to two years of post-degree clinical (residency) training is required.
 

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