The stereotypical physicist featured in “The Big Bang Theory” is rather sceptical about biology and has some problems accepting their girlfriend’s job as a biologist. Fortunately, that does not necessarily hold true in real life. Prof Matthias Geyer and Dr Donald Guu are enriching the Cluster’s scope by their background in physics. They both agree on the fact that physics opens many doors – here, they describe their view on why the combination of physics and biology is particularly fruitful and what scientists from both fields can learn from one another. Let’s find out who could improve on their patience and who on their capability to reduce a question to its essentials.
|Why did you choose physics in the first place?||Physics is “cool” because it is about the forces that hold the world together. Coming from school, this was my motivation to study physics.||Role models around me were studying engineering. I thought to myself: “Study physics, which is the basis of engineering, then focus on a branch of engineering”. Little did I know I would become a physicist.|
|What is great about physics?||Studying physics provides a great scientific foundation that opens up many opportunities. I am surprised how often I talk to people in life sciences who acknowledge after a while that their background comes from physics. Many of my fellow students later in their professional career became consultants in different areas which proves how broad the education is.||It is relatively simple. The goal is to simplify the problem to its bare essentials. Then, step by step, add a level of complexity in a controlled way.|
|Why combine physics with biology?||To me, molecular biology provides the more interesting questions at the moment. Using physical methods to study biological problems is a great chance of our time.||I need to be careful on this but I will make a bold claim: Physics is playing an important role and will continue to make substantial contributions to the life sciences. Simply because in physics you concentrate on over-arching principles and try to avoid specific details which sometimes make it difficult to come up with actual working models.|
|What can a physicist learn from a biologist?||How diverse the living world is. This always fascinates me.||Patience. You can prepare for a complicated experiment only to find out that the cells on that day are contaminated although you worked as sterile as you could. Pragmatism. You always get some variability that is inherent in living systems. At some point you have to decide “for all practical purposes, I will live with the slightly larger error bars”.|
|And vice versa?||A feeling for scales and dimensions.||Trying to understand the essential aspects of the system before making strong assumptions and building complicated experiments based on those assumptions. I hope I do not get into trouble for making that statement. 😉|
|Where can we find out more about your work?||www.geyer-lab.com||We are currently preparing a manuscript for publishing and hope to push our exciting results into a respectable journal soon. My work on soft-condensed matter is already published but may not quite fit into the ImmunoSensation scheme.|
(featured image: colourbox.com)