Working in a biology lab for a physics/biophysics major

In summary, it is highly beneficial for someone interested in a physics/biophysics career to work in a biology lab. This interdisciplinary experience provides valuable skills and perspectives that will make them a better biophysicist in the future. Additionally, committees for graduate school admissions do not typically prioritize research experience in a specific sub-field, but rather value students who make the most out of their opportunities. It is important to think rationally about the job description and how it relates to biophysics, and this experience will not hurt one's future career prospects.
  • #1
baseballfan_ny
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I was wondering if it is of any value for someone interested in physics/Biophysics grad school and a Biophysics career to be working in a biology lab?

I'm an undergraduate physics major concentrating in biophysics in the US and I have an offer to work in a cancer biology lab. It's very much experimental biology: a lot of pipetting, centrifuging, etc. They use spectrometers to measure concentration and fluorescence microscopes to take images, which I guess is biophysics related? They also do some computational modeling but they haven't offered me to be involved on that.

Anyways, I'm wondering if such an opportunity would drift me away too much from my Physics/Biophysics major and if I'd be better off trying to work with biophysicists in my school's physics department.
 
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  • #2
I don't think it would be worth giving up an opportunity like this for something better that you *might* get.

When it comes to graduate school admissions, committees don't typically look down on a student because they don't have research experience in the specific sub-field they're interested in. They're looking for students who've made the best of the opportunities they have.

Some students take an opportunity like this, do the pipetting they're told to do and watch the clock until it's time to go and hope for a decent letter of reference.

Other students read up on the gamma H2AX foci assay, write a python code to assess "luminiomics" - higher order patterns in images of the foci that correlate with different long term outcomes - write a paper, and present it at a conference. They talk to their physics professors about what they're doing, and find a biophysics post-doc who's been looking for just this kind of work to fit into another paper, and a major grant application. Etc.
 
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  • #3
Think rationally about your question and the way the job description relates to Biophysics, and you should easily be able to answer your own question to the affirmative.

Also, do you think anything like what you described had hurt this guy's future:
?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman
https://stallman.org/
edit: very bad grammar was corrected.
 
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  • #4
OP: If you are strongly interested in pursuing a career in biophysics, an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of physics and biology, and if you are planning on majoring in physics, then I highly urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to work in a biology lab. Learning skills, techniques, and approaches from a biologist's perspective (i.e., complementary to those from a physicist's perspective) will serve you well in the future. It will also be likely that at some point you will collaborate with researchers who majored in biology, and you will collaborate with them more effectively if you understand their background, and, more importantly, if you understand how they think and approach problems. By understanding the pluses and minuses of both physics and biology, you will be a better biophysicist.

Note: My personal background is not in biophysics. But I majored in physics and worked at the intersection of physics and materials science and engineering. The research experience I gained working in materials science and engineering labs helped make me a better solid-state physicist than if I had worked in physics labs alone.
 
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  • #5
Thank you all so much for the responses! Very helpful and insightful!
Choppy said:
do the pipetting they're told to do and watch the clock until it's time to go and hope for a decent letter of reference.

Other students read up on the gamma H2AX foci assay, write a python code to assess "luminiomics" - higher order patterns in images of the foci that correlate with different long term outcomes - write a paper, and present it at a conference.
It does seem like from the comparison you make that the latter style of approaching one's work is a bit more driven, values-oriented, and probably more conducive to enjoyment and satisfaction in the long run.
 
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Related to Working in a biology lab for a physics/biophysics major

1. What kind of experiments do you typically conduct in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major?

As a physics/biophysics major, the experiments you conduct in a biology lab will be focused on studying biological systems from a physical perspective. This may include experiments on the structure and function of biomolecules, the mechanics of cell movement, or the behavior of biological systems under various physical stimuli.

2. How does your background in physics/biophysics contribute to your work in a biology lab?

Having a background in physics/biophysics allows you to bring a unique perspective to the study of biology. You are able to apply principles of physics, such as thermodynamics and mechanics, to better understand the behavior and function of biological systems. This can lead to new insights and discoveries in the field of biology.

3. What kind of equipment and tools do you use in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major?

In a biology lab, you will likely use a variety of equipment and tools, including microscopes, centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and various types of sensors. You may also use specialized software for data analysis and modeling. Your physics/biophysics background may also involve using more advanced equipment, such as lasers or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

4. How do you collaborate with other scientists in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major?

Collaboration is an important aspect of working in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major. You may work closely with biologists, chemists, and other scientists to design and carry out experiments, analyze data, and interpret results. Your unique perspective and expertise can contribute to the success of these collaborations.

5. What skills do you develop by working in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major?

Working in a biology lab as a physics/biophysics major allows you to develop a wide range of skills. These may include critical thinking, problem-solving, data analysis, and experimental design. You may also develop skills in communication, teamwork, and time management through your collaborations with other scientists in the lab.

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