Bio322: Biophysics (Introduction to Physical Biology)

Physical biology of molecules, cells and tissues. Biophysical techniques.

Biology has progressed tremendously since the discovery of the chemistry underlying it in terms of DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids. How these interact with one another is however governed by physico-chemical laws. This course will introduce these physical principles, key experiments and models of the physical principles that govern the unit of life- a cell and its components. It will also introduce means to measure these aspects.


  • FOR THE DAY OF THE END-SEM EXAM: Please carry calculators, a pen, a pencil and an eraser.
  • Scores for internal assessment for all students in the course are visible here (subject to revision)
  • Technique presentation slides can be viewed here
  • Those who have been asked by email to meet me to explain the cause of their Assignment 1 text being identical to published material indicating plagiarism and/or lacking references, citations or correct quotations need to meet me before the end-semester exams.
  • The mid-semester question paper with answer key can be viewed [here]

END-semester exam topics:

Course Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Order of magnitude physics, Energy and Life

    2.1. Physical principles in biology; Energetics and order in living systems

    2,2. Dimensional analysis

    2.3. Molecular scales and biology by numbers

  3. Cellular architecture
  4. 3.1 Nucleic acid dynamics and designing molecular machines [Together with guest faculty: Dr. Yamuna Krishnan, NCBS Bangalore]

    3.2 Construction plans for cells and organisms

    3.3 Random walks

    3.4 Rate equations and dynamics of the cell

    3.5 Biopolymers and cytoskeletal dynamics

    3.6 Network organization in space and time

    3.7 Lipids, membranes and electrophysiology

  5. Biophysical techniques
  6. Lab: Nucleic acid thermal stability

  7. List of technique presentation topics {Presentations of topics by students}

Technique presentation topics and schedule

Lecture slides will be posted <here>


Labs and protocols

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Mid-Semester exam score distribution

Reference books

  • Nelson Philip: Biological Physics [free pdf] by Philip Nelson.
  • Philips, Kondev, Theriot: Physical Biology of the Cell [link]
  • Berg Howard: Random Walks in Biology [link]
  • Sanjoy Mahajan:Order of Magnitude Physics [pdf]- constitutes a full course at Caltech

Last update: 21-Nov-2012