Minor in Biophysics

Biophysics is concerned with the application of the concepts and methods of physics to the solution of biological problems and to the understanding of biological processes.

Students who complete the Biophysics minor achieve a grasp of physics as it relates to solving biological problems. They achieve a general understanding of the nature of biological problems and of proteins and cell membranes in particular, and of several leading edge techniques based on modern physics principles that are used in biological investigations at the molecular level. Graduates may apply the quantitative skills learned in this minor to graduate or medical school studies, or to other applied vocations.

Requirements for the Biophysics minor:

* (May carry graduate credit)

Upper level PHYS courses in the minor:

PHYS 4046/5046. The Physical Basis of the Biological Environment

3 lec. hrs., 3 sem. hr.

The molecular processes of life occur in a complex aqueous environment. Biological molecules and their environments are governed by the principles of physics. This course goes beyond introductory physics and chemistry to present the mechanics of non-rigid bodies, the theory of multipolar electric and magnetic fields, and thermal and quantum physics which are brought to bear on interpretation of the optical spectra and calorimetric analysis of complex molecules and structures. Prerequisites: introductory physics and chemistry, MATH 1410 or MATH 1451.

PHYS 4065/5065. Introduction to Molecular Biophysics

3 lec. hrs., 3 sem. hr.

This course, an introduction to the field of biological physics, develops the science of and illustrates the applications of the techniques of x-ray diffraction and spin resonance to problems of biological interest: protein structural dynamics, ion channels, and transport through cell membranes. Prerequisites are PHYS 104 and PHYS 131, or PHYS 4046/5046, or equivalent.

PHYS 3953. Biophysics Seminar

1 sem. hr.

The frontiers of research in biophysics, and the techniques employed, are explored through attending the weekly Biophysics Seminar at the Medical College of Wisconsin and participating in a follow-on discussion after each seminar. Offered both fall and spring terms. Prereq: Jr. standing. May be taken more than once for credit. This course may not be used to satisfy the 30 cr. hr. minimum requirements for a bachelorís degree in physics.

PHYS 3995. Undergraduate Research

1-3 sem.hrs.

Experimental or theoretical research in an area of contemporary physics under the guidance of a physics faculty member who has expertise in that area. Successful completion of the course includes a summary paper and an oral presentation to the regular physics faculty. Prereq: Jr. standing and consent of dept. ch.; consent of a regular physics faculty member. This course may not be used to satisfy the 30 cr. hr. minimum requirements for a bachelorís degree in physics. (Applied to the Biophysics Minor, the above relates to the biophysics faculty.)

Biophysics Faculty, with whom to participate in research

Marquette University

Medical College of Wisconsin

National Institutes of Health

Contact for further information:

Knowledge and Skills

Mechanics Kinematics and dynamics of motion of non-rigid bodies (translation, rotation, vibration, torsion, flex); forces, energy, torque, and angular momentum; precessional motion. Electricity and Magnetism, dipolar and quadrupolar electric and magnetic fields, orientation, energy, force, and torque. Electric and magnetic properties of materials; polarization, ferro-, para-, and diamagnetism. Thermal Physics, laws of thermodynamics, thermal energy, free energy, phase transitions, Boltzmann distribution of energies, thermal excitation, reversible and irreversible processes. Calorimetry and phase transitions, and diffusion.

Chemistry, bond types, van der Waals forces, electron orbitals (atomic and molecular), reaction rates, equilibrium constants, structure-function relations. Quantum Mechanics, Hamiltonian and operators, energy levels and quantization, angular momentum and quantization spin and the electronic and nuclear magnetic dipole transitions and selection rules. Zeeman effect, Atomic and Molecular physics, sigma and pi bonds, molecular degrees of freedom, electric and magnetic polarity of molecules, energy level diagrams, spectroscopy and selection rules. Ligands, metal complexes, spin labels. Proteins; general nature and composition, protein functions, structure-function relationships, dynamics - folding/unfolding, role of hydrogen bonding and van der Waals interactions.

Cell Membrane; composition, structure, self assembly, properties, fluidity, polarity, gradient dynamics - lateral and rotational diffusion, ion channels.

Optical Spectroscopy, UV/Visible, IR, Fluorescence, Raman, X-ray diffraction, scattering of x-rays by electrons. Bragg scattering, molecular structure, dynamic properties, applications; Spin Resonance, NMR, ESR (EPR), MRI, fMRI, MRS; applications.

Skills: Employ elementary models to explain biological processes interpret principal features of experimental outputs to biological form and function discuss biological form and function using fundamental principles


Physics Department Mission Statement

The Physics Department is committed to excellence in undergraduate physics education and embraces the Ignation ideal of cura personalis, or "care for the whole person." The Department is a community of faculty, staff and students: Faculty advance the frontiers of physics in both research and education, staff contribute their expertise in facilitating all endeavors of the department, and students participate in learning and scholarship with the guidance of the faculty.