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Physics 420

Introduction to Biophysics

4 Credit, 420-level course, two 2-hr lectures per week

Pre-requisites or Co-requisites:   PHYS 330, PHYS 336, Bio 300 or CHEM 376

Course Description

A comprehensive introduction to the interface between Physics and Biology and the application of the techniques of physics to understanding biological systems, focusing on developing an understanding of the thermodynamics of living systems, on the physical kinematics of macromolecules and other biological structures and on the theory of physical techniques that are used in the study of biological systems.

A. Course Content

Week 1-2         An Introduction to Biophysics (Lectures 1-3)

·       Life and Order – The Biology Order Puzzle

·       Biological dimensions and dimensional analysis

·       Molecules and Life Systems

·       Cells – Structure and Physiology, including the molecular parts list 

            Week 3-5         The Thermodynamics of Life Systems (Lectures 4-9)

·       Introduction to Probabilistic Systems with specific reference to biophysical systems

·       Brownian Motion, Diffusion and Osmosis and Membrane Activity

·       The Low Reynolds Number World and biological systems

·       Entropy, Temperature and Free Energy as they pertain to macro (open) and micro biological systems

Wkk 6-10        Molecules and Machines (Lectures 10-17)

·       An introduction to the Physics of Polymers

·       The properties of macromolecules

·       Cooperativity – the advent of infinitely sharp phase transitions

·       Thermal, chemical and mechanical switching

·       Enzymes and molecular machines and machines in membranes

·       Nervous impulses

·       Muscle dynamics

Week 11-13   The Techniques of Biophysics (Lectures 18-26)

·       Electrophysiology

·       Hydrodynamics

·       Microscopy and Imaging

·       Single Molecular Techniques

·       NMR

·       Mossbauer Spectroscopy

·       Ultrasound

·       Lasers and Photodynamic Interactions

Week 14          Review

B. Course Organization

The course will be offered in 2 two hour class periods per week.

C. Required Reading

Primary text for course:  “Biological Physics: Energy, Information, Life” by Philip Nelson

D. Method of Evaluation

The following evaluation scheme will be used

Type of Assignment

%of Final Mark

First Exam at end of Lecture 9                                                       30

Second Exam at end of Lecture 17                                                 30

Third Exam at end of Lecture 26                                                    30

Writing Assignment                                                                        10



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The college is committed to enforcing the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Hunter College Academic Integrity Procedures.

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