We continue to celebrate the Biophysics Week! In 2016, the Biophysics Society started an annual Biophysics Week to celebrate and raise the awareness of the field. Check out their website for more information and visit the British Biophysical Society page for the UK based biophysics news!

Here at the Randall Centre for Cell & Molecular Biophysics, we have many top-notch biophysicists doing amazing research. To shed some light on the biophysics research done at our department, we’ve asked group leaders to share what they do and what got them into this exciting field! Check out what Prof. Brian Sutton has to say about biophysics!

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Prof. Brian Sutton

Brian is a Professor of Molecular Biophysics at Randall and his group aims to understand the how allergies and asthma occur by looking at the molecules involved in these diseases at the molecular level.

 

 

What got you interested in biophysics? An inspiring lecture on protein structure from the crystallographer Louise Johnson* in Oxford, while I was studying Chemistry.

*Louise Johnson was a British biochemist and protein crystallographer. During her career, Louise determined the three-dimensional structure of lysozyme, the first enzyme structure ever solved by X-ray crystallography. Lysozyme is an enzyme present in tears and defends us from bacterial injections by chewing up the bacterial cell wall.

Explain your area of research in two sentences. I study the structures of human antibodies, particularly those produced in allergic reactions, in order to try to understand why only certain people react in this way to certain substances and to try to find ways to prevent this happening.  (One long sentence, rather than two!)

Who is your favourite biophysicist? Dorothy Hodgkin* (closely followed by Rosalind Franklin)

*Dorothy Hodgkin was a British chemist who developed protein crystallography and advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography. Using X-ray crystallography, Dorothy was able to discover three-dimensional biomolecular structures, such as penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. Dorothy Hodgkin was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964 for her work in the determination of biomolecular structures by X-ray techniques.

 

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A hand-drawn contour map of the inter-atomic distances in Insulin, drawn by Dorothy Hodgin in the 1930’s. 

 

What is your favourite biophysical technique? X-ray crystallography*!

*X-ray crystallography is an experimental technique used to determine three-dimensional structures of large biomolecules, such as proteins. Protein crystals are grown and then a narrow beam of X-rays is passed through the sample and that’s when the magic happens. The electron clouds surrounding the atoms tend to diffract X-rays and this diffraction pattern informs us about the three-dimensional structure of the sample!

Can you give us an example of biophysics applied in our daily lives? The use of medical imaging techniques, such as X-ray CAT scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.