So… I decided to start a blog. Allow me to explain. Tomorrow, I will begin teaching physics as an Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University. Like faculty members and universities everywhere, I will be charged with a three-fold mission: Teaching, Scholarship, and Service. I hope that this blog will, in some way, touch on each of these directives. Successful teaching does not happen automatically by simply walking into a classroom and starting to discourse. This space will be a forum for thinking about pedagogical methods and efforts to constantly hone the craft of teaching. Scholarship, in the form of updates about research projects I am a part of, will also be fair game. And one of my major goals for service is improving the way science, and especially, the natural sciences, are disseminated to non-scientists. There is much room for improvement in the way that experts communicate established as well as recent advances in human knowledge, as well as the willingness to make clear the distinction!
The name of this blog (which also occurred to the author of this short letter in Nature), represents the main themes of my research. I use optical methods from physics (photons), to understand the chemistry (mostly involving protons) that cause biomolecules (proteins) to unfold and aggregate. At this size level, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and engineering converge until it is no longer profitable to distinguish between them.
I’ve always been interested in the intersection between physics and life. Early scientists, like most people, assumed that there was some Élan vital, a vital essence, that made living matter play by a different set of rules than common, lifeless stuff. We now know that the truth is much more amazing. All of the incredible feats a living organism does, every minute of every day, like growing, healing, moving, thinking, reproducing… all of these are done by collections of atoms and molecules. The building blocks of your body and your car are totally interchangeable at an atomic level. Life has found a way to take an interlocking web of chemical reactions and create self-replicating machines far better than we can. Understanding this process has obvious medical applications. But beyond that, it helps us understand what is possible according to the strictures of the Universe. Because life found a way.