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Biophysical Sciences Institute


The BSI Approach

There are two linked, but distinctly different ways in which BSI academics work across the physical and life sciences to approach fundamental questions.

The first is to understand the life science research question and then work collaboratively in the development of new technologies or methodologies to improve instrumentation, and data understanding to help answer the question.

The second is more philosophical; academics firmly grounded in strong discipline-specific departments/schools collaborate by breaking down the barriers to communication across the traditional boundaries. This allows preconceptions to be questioned, expertise to be applied in novel ways and fresh ways of thinking to be established.

Areas of Research

The BSI has a number of interdisciplinary groupings with evolving research priorities:

Bioactive Chemistry

BSI researchers (1) design and synthesise molecules and materials to mimic, interrogate or manipulate biological systems and (2) characterise components of natural systems and their interactions at molecular and atomic levels of resolution.

Image left: Ribbon diagram of the crystal structure of the heat shock protein MjHSP16.5 R107G. To find out more please see the article Quinlan RA, Zhang Y, Lansbury A, Williamson I, Pohl E, Sun F. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci., 2013 Mar 25;368(1617):20120327.

Biological Modelling

Mathematical and fundamental physical principles are used to derive models explaining complex biological processes. These models are then combined with experimental data to gain a better understanding of biological systems.

Quantitative modelling makes it possible to extract the maximum amount of information from experimental data...

Dr Bernard Piette

SEM of a scaffold material used in 3D cell culture

Biological Soft Matter

In close collaboration with the Durham Soft Matter Centre, BSI researchers (1) create new molecules with biological function; (2) study the assembly of such molecules into higher order structures; and (3) model a variety of biological systems to gain new understanding of structure, dynamics and function.

Biological Soft Matter involves researchers from the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences, Engineering and Computing Sciences and the School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Collectively, the group has expertise in all aspects of soft matter science from theory and simulation through to fundamental physical and biochemical investigation together with novel synthetic chemistry. These skills are used to tackle challenging topics at the interface between materials science and biology, in a truly interdisciplinary manner. The group is interested both in fundamental studies, such as: what is the role of dynamics in protein function? Can we create a synthetic vesicle that displays behaviour characteristic of a cell?

Quantified-imaging and Visualisation

In order to understand complex biological processes one of the areas of focus of the BSI is the development and application of Imaging and Visualisation tools for the life sciences.

Biological images and data provide little insight into the underlying process until these are quantified and thus turned into useful information.

Professor John Girkin

Image left courtesy of Dr Boguslaw Obara: Shows a new-image informatics approach that enables the network architecture to be extracted from images of 2D(x,y) complex biological networks. For more information about the techniques described please click on the image on the left.

Industrial Partnerships

The BSI values its industrial partnerships.  To find out about how our partnerships benefit both industry and the BSI visit our Industrial Partnership page.