Diary of the 2003 Summer School on Theoretical and Computational Biophysics

Friday, June 13 -- Kramer Campen

Kramer Campen Every now and then (more often and I think it's a bit physiologically dangerous) you (you in this context meaning only me) like to go to lectures of material which starts in a place you know, describes tools and then moves onto places about whose existence you were completely unaware. I collect these sorts of experiences because they invigorate my faith in the ability of science to explain the natural order of things: the ability of humanity to better understand the sort of world in which we live.

Which is all by way of saying that this is what happened to me in the lecture this morning. I felt as if I were starting with all sorts of materials I understood (or at least had seen before) which were then thrown together and shown (using tools of which I was unaware) to have interesting collective properties and an ability to stabilize in the presence of noise: ideas which must be generally important in biophysics but which seem to have received far too little attention thus far (possibly because of a lack of good tools - but now we've got them and, maybe, just maybe, the world awaits).
"People come out thinking about their work in a whole collection of new ways."

Shortly after the lectures I headed up to the NCSA cave. I came into biophysics/biophysical chemistry sideways (Russian Literature/Geology undergrad,MS in ice core chemistry/snow physics) current PhD on bacterial biophysics (how bacteria stick to mineral surfaces). This whole background is by way of noting that I usually think (because I was a Geologist long before I was a Chemist/Physicist) that I visualize 3-D data pretty well. Even with this background it was pretty obvious that the cave could be a great help in seeing the subtle, dynamic structural feature of biomolecules that might be critical for function. To make the environment truly immersive, I only wonder what would be the the sort of music you might expect to hear inside a biomolecule.

The tutorial this afternoon nicely complements the stuff that was discussed this morning. It's an interesting last note to the course and goes into the topics engaged in enough detail to make me feel like I'm "learning while doing".

This is the final note so I suppose I should add as well that I was making a list during lunch this afternoon about the ideas for future research projects that might spring from the course. I stopped when I'd filled a hand written page (I've already got a long list of things to do for this PhD so I figured more and I might just get a bit depressed). But the point is that this is the sort of environment that you all managed to create: a place where people might enter and coming out thinking about their work in a whole collection of new ways.

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