Physics of Medicine Institute in Cambridge
I’ve just spent the last couple of days in Cambridge for the opening of the new Physics of Medicine Institute (pictured right) at the Cavendish Laboratory. The new institute will serve as home for scientists who are essentially bilingual in biology and physics. The Grand Opening was part of the Physics of Living Matter conference, which displayed the rich variety of problems that biophysicists are trying to tackle: medical imaging, new materials for medical purposes, systems biology, the role of mechanical processes at the cellular level. This is stuff that could bring biology to the next level.
It’s interesting to notice that this Physics+Biology is only a one-way street. The physicists are bringing their quantitative tools to biology, not the other way around. Biologists are not quantitative scientists, and this, in the long run, is a recurrent problem in the field. Descriptive tools can only take you so far, and applied mathematics are fundamental to bring out the big picture on fundamental scientific questions. A biologist at the conference confessed to me that physicists are always needed when there is the impending need to renew the paradigm in biology.