Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

BioPhysics vs. Biotechnology

  1. Apr 11, 2008 #1
    This may sound like a weird question but I was wondering if I could get some kind of comparison between these two fields. What is the similarity, what is the difference, how do they supplement each other. Hopefully someone can help me out on the forums as I find both fields interesting currently and hope to decide on one.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2008 #2
    Biotechnology is a broad field referring to the applications of biological technology.. a friend of mine did a Bachelors in it with honors and works in a lab do autoclaving and other assorted tedios tasks. My money is that after she finishes studying she will end up in financial services or banking.

    Biophysics I have no idea.
  4. Apr 13, 2008 #3
    I'm no authority, but here's how I see it:

    Biotech: using techniques from chemistry to tweak stuff in cells. Biotech is focused on implementing technology to manipulate biological materials.

    Biophysics: using techniques and mindsets from physics to understand living systems. This varies from very applied (eg medical physics - designing imaging systems like MRIs or radiation dosimetry for cancer therapy) to somewhat more abstract (using statistical mechanics to predict how proteins fold) to very abstract (studying how birds distribute themselves in a flock and fish in a school).
  5. Apr 13, 2008 #4
    In any seminar, the biophysicist is the guy who never fails to ask the question "What's the time constant on that?"
  6. Apr 13, 2008 #5
    I have no concept of time and it makes me a sad, sad panda,.
  7. Apr 13, 2008 #6
    So would it be smart to take a Biotechnology undergrad program and then take some Biophysics courses? I would expect that Biotechnology is more application and getting the details while Biophysics would give me the logic and analytical skills that would be helpful.
  8. Apr 13, 2008 #7
    I think the point is that they are not all that interrelated. Biophysics is really a subfield of physics more than anything else, where physical techniques are used to explore biological systems (protein folding is a 'big thing' right now). What oedipa maas was saying about MRI design and cancer therapy is generally classified as medical physics. I would think you'd have a lot more (interesting) opportunities going into biophysics as opposed to biotechnology, although with this route a PhD would probably be necessary to do actual research.
  9. Apr 14, 2008 #8

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Everyone has their own pet definitions for these terms, but here, there's the Biomedical Engineering department, and the department of Physiology and Biophysics.

    Here's my perspective: BME is an engineering discipline, where the focus is generally oriented towards creating a device that carries out a function successfully. These deivces can be neural implants, replacement tissues, instrumentation, whatever. Biophysics is a scientific discipline: the goal is to determine what physical principles govern phenomena. The phenomena can be cell signalling, organ development, organism regulation, whatever.

    There's no clear boundary, and doing work in either also requires a working knowledge of many other fields, especially chemistry.
  10. Apr 14, 2008 #9
    I'm currently a Biophysics undergrad and at my University and we aren't really offered any real "Biophysics" courses really. Biophysics consists of us taking mainly physics course along with Biology/Genetics courses, Chemistry courses, and OChem courses. We're given the chance to take a couple courses in Biochem, Neurology, Anatomy, and some electives in Nuclear/Quantum/Solid State Physics. We're expected to apply the laws of Physics top understand how the Biological Structure works.

    However, some universities may offer freshmen Physics that requires two prior semesters of Calculus that will discuss Biological applications when it is applicable.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook