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Biophysics Eligibility Career Scope & Companies Hiring
Introduction To Biophysics
Science is divided into different disciplines – Biology, Physics, Chemistry, etc. All these are again incomplete without the contribution of mathematics. A separate study of nature and natural phenomenon through specified fields of biology, physics, mathematics, and chemistry gave us a certain idea about them. But with time it was realized to understand the real world, we need to combine all the knowledge of different fields to get a unified view. Only a unified view can bring us closer to the real world. This led to the development of many multidisciplinary as well as an interdisciplinary field of studies, like astrophysics, biophysics, physical chemistry, biochemistry, astrobiology, biomechanics, biopsychology, etc.
Biophysics or biological physics combines physics with biology. It is an interdisciplinary field of science which is a congruence of many other disciplines. Major contributing disciplines are physics, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, pharmacology, material sciences, and computer science. All these together are utilized to define the biological systems, phenomena, and functioning.
The concept of biophysics might have been around many centuries and can be traced back as early as ancient Romans and Greeks. Discovery of radioactive elements and inventions related to those elements like nuclear weapons shifted focus to the effect of radiation on living organisms. Research in this aspect widened the view of biology by utilizing physics to explain the mechanics of life. This new approach seeks to explain the life at the molecular level – molecular composition of biomolecules, cells, organization, and hierarchy, how they from molecules to cells to tissues to organs to organ system to organism work.
Life At The Molecular Level
Living organisms are comprised of basic elements like Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulphur, Phosphorous, etc. All these combine in a different manner to give rise to the basic biomolecules – proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids. They help to create the unit of life the cell. Though diverse in their shape, size, composition, and properties, they function as the building blocks of life creating cells, tissues, organs, organ systems and finally the entire organism.
The major functions allocated to basic macromolecules are as follows:
1. Nucleic acids store the information required for the cell functioning are known as genetic material.
2. Lipids create the membranous boundaries which help to compartmentalize the cell from the rest of the surrounding and even creates sub-compartments inside the cell which help in work distribution.
3. Carbohydrates used as energy source and storage and are part of many structural and functional components of the cell in association with proteins or lipids.
4. Proteins are the working machinery of cells in the form of enzymes and take part as a major structural component.
All these macromolecules interact among each other and with other molecules, ions for the sustenance of life. The underlying mechanisms involved in a molecular association like association and dissociation kinetics, energetics, thermodynamics, and molecular dynamics, special organization, stability, ionization, wave-particle interaction, etc. can be studied by biophysics. Using diversified tools and analytical methods, the intricacies of biological functions at cellular can be explained in terms of structure, function, and properties of specific molecules. Even it is possible to develop tools for detection, and manipulation of a single molecule.
Biophysics can also integrate the cellular working mechanism at the higher levels of organ and organism, helping to unravel the body’s functioning. These functions can be visualized using different biophysical techniques and even modeled. Modelling and simulation are successfully used for prediction and therapeutics. Moreover, the biophysical study of environment and organisms also sheds light on the ecological interactions around us on earth.
Applications of Biophysics
Being an interdisciplinary science, it can be applied in multiple domains. Some of them have been mentioned below:
1. Structure and Data Analysis – The structure of many biological macromolecules like DNA, RNA and proteins have been elucidated till date. Techniques of purification, characterization, sequencing, and crystallization has helped in this process. Presently innumerable entries are available for DNA, RNA, and protein sequences from varieties of living organisms. These entries have been utilized for the structural analysis, sequence matching, development of gene maps, and evolution and phylogenetics. Species relatedness, developmental hierarchy, and diversification can be studied extensively.
2. Modelling – Biophysics also deals with computation, using which models can be developed for DNA, RNA, protein, and viruses, etc. This approach helps in better visualization of the desired object and understanding the working process. A complete understanding is essential for further manipulation of structure and prediction of the consequences. Thus, gives an in-depth understanding of the effect of mutations, DNA damage or any other abnormality due to conditions like disease or cancer. Moreover, the foremost application of modeling so far has been done in drug designing and finding new drug targets.
3. Molecules Dynamics – Molecular dynamics can also be studied under biophysics. This has been accomplished by using fluorescent tags which can bind to specific target inside or outside the cells. The fluorescence can be monitored using spectroscopy or microscopy techniques and thus the movement of molecules could be recorded. It has immense scope in predicting the working machinery of cells like the dynamics of the plasma membrane during endocytosis, exocytosis, signaling, transportation, assembly, and disassembly of cytoskeleton during the cell cycle, sudden rise and fall of internal signals in form of ions, cAMP etc. and even outside the cell movement of secretory signals viz. hormones from one cell to another.
4. Neuroscience – Another active area where biophysics has been extensively used is in understanding the nervous system. Nowadays famous Deep learning in computation is based on Neural Networks – single layer, multilayer – an algorithm which is modeled based on the human brain. The neural network recognizes patterns by interpretation of sensory data through a kind of machine perception viz. labeling or clustering raw input. Likewise, to understand the working of the brain and nervous system during processing of different sensory information like visual, auditory, etc. models have been developed using neural networks.
5. Nanotechnology and Biomedical engineering – The critical understanding of mechanics of an organ and its supportive tissues helps in the development of biomimetics. The detailed knowledge and simulations provide an extra edge to design appropriate biomaterials and to improve upon it which can replace the damaged tissues or organs like prosthetic limbs. Even the development of better nanomaterials as a drug delivery system is also possible through biophysical studies.
6. Imaging – Development of sophisticated imaging techniques like CT scans, MRI, US, and PET scans have been possible by biophysical studies. These types of imaging and diagnostic tools are essential for efficient, precise, rapid and safe diagnosis and monitoring of organs and bioprocesses.
7. Medical Therapeutics- Biophysicist also work towards research and development of therapeutic devices, which can be successfully utilized to treat certain conditions. Some of such devices and techniques so far developed and being utilized include a pacemaker, stents, cardiac defibrillators, artificial joints – knee and hip, dialysis, electrotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.
8. Ecosystem study– Biophysics also studies life from a larger view of environment and population, community, so considering both aspects of abiotic and biotic factors. A detailed study of all these along with model development is essential for understanding the ecosystem, its variations and complexities, dynamics, conservation, and management.
Courses Offered in Biophysics & The Eligibility Criteria
Many colleges/universities in India offer academic courses in Biophysics in India. Some of them are – All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, Manipal University, University of Mumbai, University of Madras, University of Kalyani, and so on. From a basic degree to higher advanced level of degree is available. The course of Biophysics mainly comprises of subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physiology, Computer science, Molecular and Structural biology, Bioinformatics, Biomechanics, Biochemistry, and Computational Chemistry, Biophysics, Medicine and Neuroscience, Pharmacology, etc. Higher education at Ph.D./PDF level involves research in diversified fields viz. Nanotechnology, Bioengineering, Systems Biology, Agrophysics, etc.
Following courses are available:
1. B.Sc in Biophysics – Bachelor of Science in Biophysics is a three years course. The eligibility criteria include basic 10+2 with Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics compulsory.
2. M.Sc in Biophysics – Master of Science in Biophysics is a two years course. Eligibility for Master degree includes Bachelors in Physics, Biology with mathematics in 10+2, Bioinformatics, Chemistry, Biotechnology, etc. Many institutes conduct entrance exams for admission; hence clearance of admission test is also mandatory.
3. M.Phil in Biophysics – Master of Philosophy in Biophysics is a two years course. Candidate interested need to have Post Graduation in relevant subject or equivalent and need to clear institutional entrances.
4. P.hD in Biophysics – Doctor of Philosophy in Biophysics is a research-based course with variable duration based on the institute. Candidate interested need to have Post Graduation in relevant subject or equivalent and need to clear institutional entrances.
Apart from these courses many certification and Diploma courses are also available of various duration and eligibility.
Biophysics Career Scope & Opportunities
Biophysicists can solve biological and physical problems pertaining to daily life. As the research is carried out at different biomolecular, organism and environment levels, it has tremendous career opportunities.
Some of the job profiles available are as follows:
1. Medical/Clinical Biophysicist – Working in the field of mainly therapeutics and diagnosis. Need skills of a variety of analytical, computer-aided and bioengineering techniques in their work such as x-ray imaging, tomography, ultrasound, radiotherapy, radiology, lasers, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging. Also work as professionals developing new diagnostic tests, drug delivery systems, and drug designing.
2. Nutritional Biophysicist – Working in the field of food and nutrition. Need skills of food analysis of different nutritional content, adulterants, toxins, product processing, quality control and analysis, research and development of products. Also, monitor the effect of nutrition on the body and bioprocesses.
3. Applied Biophysicist – Work in projects regarding basic and applied research. Associated with checking the effect of substances like hormones, drugs etc. on biological processes.
4. Researcher/ Scientist – Working in different institutes- laboratories, research institutes, universities, Pharmaceutical companies, Hospitals, etc. Investigating biophysical aspects of biomolecules, drugs, etc., their effect on the living organisms and their modification for improvement or correction.
5. Professor/Lecturer/Teacher – Work as a teacher of Biophysics in different institutes, colleges and universities.
Other work fields as bioinformaticist, programmer and computational biophysicist involved in database compilation, computer model development for viruses or new protein structures to elucidate their function. Also have career scope as engineers targeting environmental problems such as pollution control, waste treatment, biofuel production, etc. Other job opportunities include work in intellectual property, writers and editors, and legislative advisers.
Institutes & Companies Hiring In Biophysics Field
Biophysicist gets a job as Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor in Universities and Institutes like University of Madras, Banaras Hindu University, Indian Institutes of Technology, and National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences. Research jobs as a Junior Research Fellow, Senior Research Fellow, Research Associate, Scientific officers, etc. also available in many research institutes as Indian Institutes of Technology, Raman Research Institute and National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences.
Companies like AstraZeneca Pharma India Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Boehringer Ingelheim India Pvt Ltd, Baxter, Boston Scientific, CPA Global, Thermofisher, Merck and Pfizer also hire Biophysicist in the capacity of scientists, engineers, research fellows, analysts, designers, programmers, patient specialists and directors.
Biophysics has immense scope in today’s world. With the increase in the institutes offering courses for study and research, many are opting for it and there has been a significant rise in its application in different sectors. As there are so many related fields of application, a biophysicist with a wide breadth of training, find a wide range of career open to them. This is the upcoming field which will bear many successes and help in human progress in a sustainable manner.
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