Literature search and essay
As part of 3rd year biophysics it is required that each student undertake a
library and internet search on a particular topic. Choose three topics from the
following list, in ranked order and submit them to the course co-ordinator. The
essay must be typed or word-processed, up to a maximum length of 10 A4 pages.
Organisation, presentation, clarity, and accuracy of reference citations are
especially important. In topics of a more controversial nature, care must be
taken to discriminate "good science" from "bad"!
Essays must be handed to the course co-ordinator for assessment. The essays
will be marked on a "pass/fail" assessment and critical comments
returned to the students. The essay mark plus a seminar will count for 1/2 of a
Proposed essay topics:
- Regenerative Life Support for Space Travel. The next phase of
testing of regenerative life support systems has begun at NASA's Johnson
Space Center, Houston, TX. A crew of four is being maintained in an
air-tight chamber environment for 90 days testing life support systems for
future space exploration missions, such as a mission to Mars. Investigate
the biophysical principle behind this study. http://pet.jsc.nasa.gov.
- Life on Martian Meteorites. A 1996 study by NASA researchers
revealed evidence of life on Mars by proxy investigations of Martian
meteorites. Discuss the scientific results of this study and the subsequent
arguments against this finding. D.S. McKay et al. (1996) Search for past
life on Mars: Possible relic biogenic activity in Martian meteorite
ALH84001. Science, 273: 924-930.
- SQUIDs in biological imaging. J Clarke, Scientific American
271,#2, 36, 1994.
- Infrared vision. E A Newman & P H Hartline, Scientific
American 246,#3, 98 1982.
- Aerosols and climatic change. R J Charlson & T M L Wigley,
Scientific American 270,#2, 28, 1994.
- Acoustic communication in insects. W H Kirchner & W F Towne,
Scientific American 270,#6, 52, 1994.
- Airborne particles. Outline the effects of inhalation of airborne
particles on lungs. What factors affect the degree of lung damage caused by
the particles? Describe instrumentation that is used for measuring the
number and size range of airborne particles. Design an experiment to
determine the likely dose of sub 10 micron particles inhaled during the
daily use of cosmetic talcum powder. What dose would you consider to be
detrimental to health and why? D.W. Dockery
and C.A Paope III (1994) Annu. Rev. Public Health 15, 107-32. J. Lee (1995)
New Scientist, Inside Science No 84
- Electron energy loss spectroscopy. In a transmission electron
microscope (TEM) we measure the intensity of electrons hitting a position
sensitive detector (e.g. photographic film) to produce an image of the
sample that the electrons have passed through. However, some of the
electrons lose energy as they pass through the sample. By measuring the
amount of energy lost extra information can be gained about the sample. This
newly developed technique is now being applied in TEM studies of biological
specimens. Review the technique and describe why it may revolutionize the
use of TEM in biological studies. R.D. Leapman and J.A. Hunt (1992)
Microscopy: The Key Research Tool, March issue 39-49 (available in CMM).
- Scanning probe microscopy. Scanning probe microscopies such as
Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy enable surfaces to
be mapped in 3 dimensions at very high resolution. Review the use of these
techniques in the study of biomolecules such as DNA and proteins and
identify the information that has been gained that was not possible by other
techniques. Klomparens K.L. and Heckman J.W., "Transmission electron
microscopy and scanning probe microscopy" in "Bioanalytical
Instrumentation" (ed., Suelter C.H.) John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,
(1993) pp. 73-115 Hansma H.G. and Hoh J.H. (1994) Annu. Rev. Biophys. Biomol.
Struct. 23, 115-139
- Magnetotactic bacteria. Some bacteria are able to produce particles
of magnetite and greigite within their cells and extracellularly as well.
What is the function of this magnetite and what are its distinctive magnetic
properties? Farina, M, B Kachar, U Lins, R Broderick, HL DeBarros (1994) The
observation of large magnetite crystals from magnetotactic bacteria by
electron and atomic force microscopy. Journal of Microscopy: 173; 1-8.
Sakaguchi, T, JG Burgess, T Matsunaga (1993) Magnetite formation by a
sulphate-reducing bacterium. Nature: 365; 47-49.
- Survival of an organism prone to lightning strike. Every year
lightning strikes and kills both humans and animals. However, not everyone
is killed when struck by lightning. Why do some survive and others not? What
are the major factors determining survival of a strike?
- Longterm changes in the biosphere. What have we learned from the
Greenland Icecore Project about changes in the component gases of the
Earth's atmosphere? What is the evidence for human impact? What will become
of Perth's metro coastline under sea level rise? Rowland FS, Isaken ISA
(eds.) "The Changing Atmosphere", Dahlem Workshop Reports, 1988
- Philadelphia twins research. Review data and summarise implications
for genetic vs environmental factors. Check for comparable Australian
- Physio-acoustical warning devices to protect non-target species. Review
current practices and proposals to avoid unwanted netting of cetacea.
- Patch clamp techniques. Review in relation to investigation of ion
channels and commumication between and within cells. Scientific American
266, p28-35, 1992.
- The relationship between molecular structure and biological function. Review
the current status of our understanding of the link between the gross shape
of a biomolecule and its observed behaviour and/or function.
- Active noise suppression. A recent survey of members of the
Australian Acoustical Society nominated active noise cancellation as the
most promising new technology in acoustics today. Active noise suppression
is a technique for reducing unwanted noise. It is basically a negative
feedback system wherein noise monitored by a microphone is fed back in
inverted phase to a loudspeaker so as to cancel out the noise. Review the
techniques, describing its strengths and limitations and comment on some of
the innovative new applications being developed around the world at the
- Hearing damage from loud music. It is commonly believed that many
people are damaging their hearing by listening to Walkman-type music systems
at very loud levels. Review the literature on the subject and come to your
own conclusion about this.
- Electricity within animals. Throughout the animal kingdom there
exists a number of exotic uses of electricity. What is the physical process
behind the production of this electricity? Physics Today
???? as a starting reference.
- Jaundice in Babies. Fifty percent of all new born babies suffer
from jaundice. Explain the cause and current treatment for babies suffering
from this condition.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. Describe the principles and applications
- It's all in the hair. A recent article in Nature (Vol 398, p33) has
shown a possible link between hair structure and breast cancer. Describe
these findings and the implication on current treatment and long term