Precision Measurement in Biology
Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Is biology a quantitative science like physics? Stephen Quake will discuss the role of precision measurement in both physics and biology, and argue that in fact both fields can be tied together by the use and consequences of precision measurement.
The elementary quanta of biology are twofold: the macromolecule and the cell. Cells are the fundamental unit of life, and macromolecules are the fundamental elements of the cell. Quake will describe how precision measurements have been used to explore the basic properties of these quanta, and more generally how the quest for higher precision almost inevitably leads to the development of new technologies, which in turn catalyze further scientific discovery. In the 21st century, there are no remaining experimental barriers to biology becoming a truly quantitative and mathematical science.
Stephen Quake is a Lee Otterson Professor of Bioengineering (and of Applied Physics, by courtesy) at Stanford University. His interests lie at the nexus of physics, biology and biotechnology. His group pioneered the development of Microfluidic Large Scale Integration, demonstrating the first integrated microfluidic devices with thousands of mechanical valves. This technology is helping to pave the way for large scale automation of biology at the nanoliter scale, and he and his students have been exploring applications of "lab on a chip" technology in functional genomics, genetic analysis, and structural biology. Quake is also active in the field of single molecule biophysics; in 2003 his group demonstrated the first successful single molecule DNA sequencing experiments.