Bio322: Biophysics (Introduction to Physical Biology)

Physical biology of molecules, cells and tissues at equilibrium. 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.


  • Bio322 End-Sem exam answer key [PDF]
  • Distribution of scores and grading scheme for the course
  • For doubts about individual scores please (a) examine the answer key, (b) see components sent to you by email (c) come see course coordinator in case of doubts.
Plot of the grading scheme score distributions

Course Contents

  1. Introduction:

    1.1. What, where, how, why biophysics?

    1.2. Searching for information, citation, plagiarism and originality

  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 acids 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
  • Biophysical techniques
Light in biology, microscopy techniques, Measuring forces in bio-molecules, Movement of cells and analysis, measuring energetics of bio-molecular reactions.

Teaching assistant (TA)

Name: Anushree Chaphalkar, PhD student
Location: Sai Trinity, Central tower, 3rd floor

Meeting times for the instructor

Wednesday 1100-1230h
Any other slot must be pre-arranged by appointment if you want to be sure to meet me.

Policy on plagiarism [pdf]: A document of dos, don'ts and what is and is not ok.

Technique presentation topics and schedule

Lecture slides will be posted <here>

Assignments Late submission policy: Scores will be scaled as y = e x / 3 , where x=delay in days after date of submission, and y=score.
Labs and protocols

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
  • Thomas M. Nordlund (2011) Quantitative Understanding of Biosystems: An Introduction to Biophysics CRC Press.

Exam schedule

  • Mid-semester exams: 24-Sep
  • End-semester exams: 25-Nov to 30 Nov

Last update: 22-Nov-2013