203 Plant Sciences Bldg.
I am a scientist and a teacher: an amateur, in that I do what I love and a dilettante in that I do what I find delight in. I am less of a professional in that a professional may be assessed more by his/her short term career accomplishments than by the long term results that come from his/her calling. My research has focused on questioning the assumptions underlying the current quantum electrodynamic theories and orthodox interpretation of the photon. As a teacher, I have tried to pass on a deep and broad knowledge of biology, a love for biology and an ability to critically and ethically think about biological research and its consequences.
Stanislaw Ulam said, “Ask not what physics can do for biology, ask what biology can do for physics.” Biophysics is populated by people who have moved from physics into biology. However, historically, biologists and physicians, including Thomas Young, Hermann von Helmholtz, Robert Brown, Robert Meyer and Adolf Fick have had a profound influence on physics and there is still room for a trained cell biologist to make an impact. This is because cells live in the world of neglected dimensions between the world of macroscopic physics and the world of microscopic physics. Studying physico-chemical processes in such a world has its advantages and its disadvantages. One disadvantage of working in this world of neglected dimensions is that it is not easy to assume that a given subset of physical laws can be neglected in order to model biological processes and solve the equations easily. On the other hand, one advantage of working in the world of neglected dimensions is that a cell biologist has the opportunity to look for fundamental laws that are applicable to microscopic systems as well as macroscopic systems and thus help to unify macrophysics and microphysics. Such laws could provide a parsimonious toolbox for modeling and solving a wide range of physico-chemical problems. Although cells and the particles within them do not travel anywhere near the speed of light, as a cell biologist, I have gained a perspective to suggest why charged particles do not travel faster than the speed of light. I have been working on a thought-provoking and testable hypothesis as an alternative to the theory of special relativity.
Biological Principles. Biology is often defined as the study of life without any mention of the meaning and value of life. I teach biology in the context of know it helps the students to know themselves and live a meaningful and valuable life. In this class, the students learn how their body works and the biological basis for their individuality; the creative process of discovery and how we know what we know; and the relationship between biology and society so that they can make wise and informed decisions about biological issues. Light and Video Microscopy. When one looks at a specimen with a light microscope, how does one know what is real and what is an illusion created by the apparatus itself? My course, as well as the companion book published by Elsevier/Academic Press, takes the student/reader step-by-step through philosophy, psychology, and particularly geometrical and physical optics so that the student/reader can interpret images formed by light microscopes. The student/reader can then use this knowledge to set up light microscopes that allow one to visualize transparent specimens and, in th eprocess, quantitatively determine various physico-chemical properties of the specimen. One comes away from this course/book empowered to use past, present, and future microscopical techniques to visualize the microscopic world and find the real nature of life in the image. Plant Cell Biology. The cell is the basic unit of life because it is the lowest level of organization that is capable of taking up nutrients and synthesizing them into macromolecules at ambient temperatures and pressure, generating electricity, moving as a result of self-generated forces, transforming one form of energy into another, responding appropriately to the environment and reproducing with near-perfect fidelity. I teach my students how the various organelles in the cell make these processes, which are necessary for and operationally define life, possible. The students learn the purpose of each organelle, the processes in which they participate that make life possible and the particulars of that organelle that may illuminate other aspects of biology, physics, chemistry and/or the history and philosophy of science The companion book is Plant Cell Biology: From Astronomy to Zoology