Biological Insights from Physical Properties

William H. Grover, Ph.D.
University of Houston
Around 250 B.C., Archimedes measured the density of a king’s crown to determine if the
crown was made of pure gold. Over 2000 years later, measurements of density and other
physical properties can still provide valuable insights into the state and composition of an
object. In this talk I will share my lab’s progress in developing simple and low-cost tools for
precisely measuring the physical properties (like mass, volume, and density) of small
biological samples. Using these tools, we can identify counterfeit or adulterated medications,
measure the dissolution rates of single controlled-release drug particles, sort different types
of cells, assess the purity and authenticity of food products, observe how organisms react to
toxicant exposure, monitor the efficacy of treatments for traumatic brain injury, measure the
degradation rates of biodegradable materials, and much more.