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Studying Studying theoretical biology

  1. Aug 8, 2008 #1
    i'm really interested in doing theoretical biology stuff about theoretical evolution, sequence spaces, autocatalytic sets, stuart kauffman kind of stuff...

    this stuff is usually studied in physics programs rather than in biology despite the subject matter

    i took a more than usual coursework in physics in undergrad and also took a very broad amount of science classes. for example entering my last year ive taken 30 courses in college, 27 of which were math science. systems biology, computational biology, algorithms, self assembly, general relativity, complex analysis, tissue engineering...

    i took my quantum courses in the graduate school.
    i was absolutely bored by the presentation and rarely attended class, so i did not get much on the participation part of that. as a result i have As in all of my physics classes including GR, complex and nonlinear systems, all my field theory stuff but Bs in my two semesters of quantum. the thing is i really do like quantum. i have spent time slowly reading Dirac's book and proving everything in it, i just really did not like the classes as they were taught. do i stand a chance at a top department if ive got good research, great recommendations from physics, and theoretical biologists, broad quality coursework and generally good physics minus the two quantum Bs? the book we used was Shankar and its the course taught to the graduate students. i know theres probability and randomness and lots of stuff that goes into these things but will Quantum Bs sink my ship before i set sail? im looking at a 3.7 all told by the time i graduate from a top 10 school. i really dont want to sound like a pain in the ***, i just got off the plane from a big time shift and i could sound kind of an ******* in my tiredness. thanks a lot if you've read this far and i'm kind of a free spirit so i havent checked any stats to see if this occurrence has killed anyone else applying. thanks again for your time

    cheers and kind regards, bubbloy
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 8, 2008 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    The biggest (valid) complaint I hear from real biologists, regarding "biological" research by physicists, is that the work is "biology without biology". that is, although the concepts may come from biology, the actual results have no application to biology.

    If you really want to stand out, take a biology class. And a biochemistry class.
  4. Aug 8, 2008 #3
    yeah that is not what i'd want to do
    i spent 4 years in high school researching in a RNA molecular biology lab at Rockefeller then a year at Cold Spring Harbor Labs doing bioinformatics and now i'm studing biological self assembly at my school and in denmark. i'm a class away from a biology double major but the remaining one is forest ecology which i will not be taking.
    i know theres always more biology to learn and that maybe physicists tend to undervalue a spanning knowledge of the biology they're trying to work with. but i come from a big biological background, i started learning physics right before college so i could prepare one day to do this kind of stuff. i was wondering what the quantum things would ruin for me in applying for biophysics/theoretical biology phd programs.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  5. Feb 12, 2011 #4

    Are you still is interested in Theoretical Biology?
    I am liooking for colabaration with someone having a background in physics and an interest in theoretical biology.
  6. Feb 12, 2011 #5


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    I'd second that. You really are uneducated and hardly have a clue of your way around if you have done no biochemistry and molecular biology. Plus, I think you'd need to fit in genetics too. Apart from its intrinsic fundamental biological essentiality, it does have specific recognised and very present useful mathematical sectors in evolutionary and population genetics in particular.

    Now I should not join in quips about physicists but I can't resist.

    Someone said: the physicist is interested in explaining how argon, liquid methane and water are essentially the same; the chemist is interested in explaining how they are essentially different.

    Someone else said: yes physicists often say they are interested in applying their discipline to biology. Then they discover that biological systems have more than two electrons and they lose interest.

    And I have myself participated in well meaning meetings where physicists say they would like to be informed about a bit of biology. A biologist explains for example gene regulation. The physicists misunderstand biology for engineering and complain that the mechanisms are unnecessarily complicated!

    However the sciences do get together and there is scope for someone of multidisciplinary background.
  7. Feb 12, 2011 #6
    I just get impression that bubbloy has independent mind ( “..i have spent time slowly reading Dirac's book … really did not like the classes as they were taught). I am looking for some who wouldn’t mind to evaluate views that contradict with accepted interpretation of quantum events.
  8. Feb 12, 2011 #7
    Hah, this was dead for quite a while. For those who care (at least one it seems!), I'm now in my second year of a joint experimental/theoretical PhD in systems biology. Lots of physics and lots of experiments. Very sunny here too, I would add.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2011
  9. Feb 12, 2011 #8

    I have not adequate background in physics and need help from a person who has enough ‘guts acid’ to digest and evaluate ideas I am working on. Below is the complessed version of this idea:

    I have reasons to believe that life phenomena may not be explained within boundary of existing physical paradigms. I am proposing to replace physicalism with panpsychism (that recognizes a mental capacity as fundamental property of matter) in the explanation of all natural phenomena. I argue that the interpretation of the quantum events in terms of mind-like properties is superior to the orthodox quantum interpretations. The new interpretation restores realism in physics and bridges it with life sciences.
    This approach in conjunction with thermodynamics of non-equilibrium systems led me to the hypothesis of the emergence of life:
    “Intelligence is a fundamental property of matter that is not recognizable in nonliving, equilibrium systems. However, if a system steers far enough from equilibrium and passes the critical point, the development of this system further away from equilibrium in the direction of complexity and self-organization, reveals system’s intelligent abilities. However, we don’t recognize this property as intelligence; instead, we call it LIFE.”

    Are you a person I am looking for?
  10. Feb 12, 2011 #9
    Out of curiosity, if you don't have enough experience in physics, where exactly are you getting the basis for these theories from? Are you guessing or making it up?
  11. Feb 12, 2011 #10
    I started with investigation of complexity and emergence phenomena in application to living systems that eventually led me to skepticism about current interpretation of quantum phenomena. I read few books about quantum controversy and found that number of distinguish scientists believe that quantum mechanics is fundamentally incomplete.
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