Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that utilizes physical principles to analyze and investigate biological systems of all scales. Read on to learn more about this field of science, including employment opportunities and degree options.
Is Biophysics For Me?
The field of biophysics seeks to understand living organisms through different principles of physical science. Biophysics researchers study the flow of energy through different living organisms, muscle function and other life processes. As a biophysicist, you may conduct research related to anything from understanding plant photosynthesis to finding a cure for cancer. Working as a physicist, meanwhile, you may spend time studying the forces of nature, including the laws of energy and motion. Some physicists also design research equipment such as microscopes, which are often used in the biophysics field.
Salary and Employment Outlook
If you're interested in pursuing a career in biophysics, you can expect solid job prospects over the next several years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for biophysicists and biochemists is expected to grow by 19% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). During the same period, physicists are expected to see a 10% growth in employment. The BLS also reported that as of 2012, biophysicists made an average salary of $89,470.
How Can I Work in Biophysics?
Biophysics degree programs exist at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and emphasize intensive study of mathematics and sciences, as well as independent research. Biophysics students learn how to apply scientific principles, computer modeling and mathematical analysis to study the structure and function of living organisms. It is an interdisciplinary science that analyzes and evaluates all levels of biological classification from the molecular level to entire ecosystems.
While a bachelor's degree can qualify you for positions as a research assistant or technician, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is required for independent research positions. A Ph.D. program in biophysics will require you to complete some coursework and seminars on topics such as enzyme kinetics, molecular assemblies and molecular genetics. You'll also be required to complete at least a semester of teaching and a qualifying oral examination before moving onto researching and writing your doctoral dissertation.
Topics of Study
Undergraduate students take foundational courses in math, chemistry, computer science, physics and biology before taking specialized classes in biophysics. Graduate students choose an area of focus, such as molecular biophysics or developmental biophysics, and base their courses and research on their interests. As a biophysics student, you may take specific courses such as mechanics, electromagnetics, physics with calculus and the biological environment.