Working in a biology lab for a physics/biophysics major

  • #1
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
Choppy
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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
symbolipoint
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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
CrysPhys
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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!
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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