Molecular and Cellular Biophysics

Offered: Fall 2015, Fall 2017

This course is an integrated consideration of the biophysics and biophysical chemistry of biological systems from molecules to cells. The objective is to develop a critical sense of the quantitative data currently being obtained from microscopy to spectroscopy, considering both ensemble and single molecule experiments, and to gain familiarity and facility with interpretation using mathematical and computational models.  

Biological systems are inherently complex, and some form of modeling is always involved in developing an explanation of how they work.    However, these models typically involve only a few basic constructs (simple harmonic motion, ideal fluids, two-state Ising models, random walks, electrostatic interactions, classical dynamics, rate equations, QM energy levels, distribution functions and network analysis) and only elementary aspects of linear algebra, calculus, differential equations and statistics.  This course deals with how these constructs are integrated in the framework of Boltzmann statistical mechanics to formulate mathematical models of biological phenomena, how these models are validated and refined, and how they are used to form explanations and make testable predictions. Model systems to be considered include the nucleosome, the ribosome, membrane dynamics and ion channels, molecular devices and motors, prototype signal transduction systems and regulatory processes.

This course is suitable for physics and chemistry students who wish to learn about biological applications, and for molecular and cellular biology students to develop skills with quantitative physico-chemical modes of inquiry applied the life sciences. Crosslisted as CHEM 309/509, MB&B 309/509, and PHYS 359/559