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Introduction to Biophysics

Department: Physics                             

Instructor: Ghita Guessous
Instructor's Email:
Prerequisites: Some Calculus (mostly differentiation knowledge needed)
ScheduleMon, Weds, Fri, 10:00AM - 11:30AM PST

Course Description

Over the past few decades biophysics has emerged as the newest interdisciplinary frontier to the understanding of the natural world. With a heavy outpour of data and techniques from biology, physicists keenly took on to biological questions to attempt to formulate the fundamental principles that govern living matter. Similarly, biologists started seeking quantitative rules that would bring in simplicity to the complex systems they study. This convergence of curiosities has set the stage for a field ripe with collaborations and interactions. Today, it is clear that successful biophysicists must be fluent in both languages: physics and biology.

The goal of this course is to sow the seeds of interdisciplinary thinking from an early stage. Students will have the opportunity to build a strong conceptual and technical foundation that will allow them to seamlessly navigate both fields in their future college courses. We will use the conceptual frameworks of physics as steppingstones to understand and formalize biological phenomena. We will also gain the technical tools necessary to analyze and understand biological data. This course will equip students with technical and conceptual tools through highly interactive synchronous lectures and will heighten the student’s scientific curiosity through the project-based components.

Course Goals / Learning Objectives

This course is designed for high school students who have an interest in biophysics. By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Define and determine the time and length scales relevant to biological questions.
  • Formulate mathematical models based on simple ODEs and statistics to describe biological phenomena.
  • Read and interpret scientific data presented in figures excerpted from real scientific articles.
  • Follow the scientific method to answer questions the students formulated themselves.
  • Make publishable scientific figures that will help answer these questions.

Course Topics

  • Units and systems of measure in biology
  • Lengths and time scales of the bacterial cell
  • Concepts of equilibrium and dynamics in biological systems
  • Simple mathematical models of biological processes
  • General scientific literacy- how to read a scientific paper and produce a scientific figure


*Courses vary by experience and exposure to content. Instructors have the ability to change content and pace to serve the needs of students. Courses have been modified for online teaching.