Alex Levine, PhD
[Photo credit:: Matthew Aghajanian]
June 06, 2012 - UCLA has launched the new Center for Biological Physics within the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy, which will approach questions about living systems in a new light, based on the study of physics.
"We do not necessarily intend to answer questions posed by our colleagues in the life sciences differently, but rather to ask different questions," said the center's new director, Alex Levine, a professor of physics and astronomy and of chemistry and biochemistry. "We founded this center to foster an environment where those new questions may be framed."
Levine said that recent rapid advances in biology and other life sciences have not only furthered our understanding of living systems but have opened up broad new avenues for physics research.
"A biologist of the 19th century would be bewildered by a current elementary biology textbook, and I suspect that even one from the mid-20th century would be astounded by new fields such as epigenetics," said Levine, who is also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA. "We are privileged to live in an age where fundamental workings of life are first being understood in a quantitative manner. New insights into the complexity of living systems are coming fast, one upon the next, from our colleagues in chemistry, biology and a wide variety of related fields.
"Because of the remarkable flood of new information coming from the mapping of genomes, a better understanding of the biochemical inventory of living cells, and new quantitative techniques allowing us to probe, for the first time, single molecules, there is a need for a new role of physics, functioning productively at the boundaries of the traditional disciplines."
The new center will host an inaugural public lecture on June 13 featuring David R. Nelson, Harvard University's Solomon Professor of Biophysics. Nelson, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur Fellow, will deliver a lecture titled "Gene Surfing and Survival of the Luckiest." The event will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Physics and Astronomy Building auditorium (Room 1425) and will be followed by a reception.
For more information, please visit center's website at cbp.physics.ucla.edu.