The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 17, 1999
May 17, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 35


Biophysics Department To Celebrate Its 50th Anniversary

A two-day event will commemorate rich past and look toward future

By Gary Dorsey

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

From the study of water, heat and light in the treatment of disease in 1949 to new discoveries of RNA tertiary structure in 1999, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biophysics has come into its 50th anniversary year with a fresh sense of vitality.

For two days, June 4 and 5, faculty, students and alumni from the department will celebrate this richly textured past and muse about the future in a symposium commemorating 50 years of scientific discovery in biophysics.

"Johns Hopkins is one of the first institutions in the country to have established biophysics as a distinct discipline," said Eaton Lattman, chairman of the department. "The Thomas C. Jenkins Department of Biophysics has played a pivotal role in the development of biophysics here and has a distinguished history of research accomplishments, and of training scholars who now hold professorships and chair departments all over the U.S."

Since its origins in 1949, when the university's sixth president, Detlev Wulf Bronk, gathered some of the nation's most distinguished biophysicists to launch the discipline here, the department has successfully united many areas of research.

Today it is not unusual to find biophysicists aligned with scientists from the Chemistry or Biology departments, the School of Public Health or the School of Medicine. Significant collaborations have ushered in discoveries in the molecular realms of protein folding, RNA structure, protein function, the thermodynamic aspects of macromolecular processes and the transport processes in biological systems.

Fundamental science has been advanced by the department's unique abilities with X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, calorimetry and the intensive use of computer analysis and simulation.

But the past has also been rich--and when the symposium begins, alumni and faculty spanning the past half century will speak about areas of research that preceded today's advances.

On Friday, June 3, one member of the original faculty, Martin G. Larrabee, will talk about the first years of the fledgling department. Other faculty members will then discuss their work in biophysics. The following day, a stream of distinguished alumni from the classes of 1953 to 1991 will give presentations about their particular areas of research.

A poster session will be presented in the Glass Pavilion of Levering Hall, Homewood campus, with 40 posters on display both days. The celebration will run on Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Mudd Hall auditorium, and continue on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., also in the auditorium.