Haverford College

Physics 320b: Introduction to Biophysics: Topics in Current Biophysics Research

COURSE OVERVIEW Blackboard for reserve readings & solutions
COURSE ADMINISTRATION Background readings in biology


Overview: Biological Physics is among the most active and rapidly growing areas of 21st century physics research. This semester we will explore the foundations and present status of research into: ways to determine and predict protein structure, polymer properties of interesting biological polymers such as proteins, DNA and RNA; single-molecule biophysical measurements (including scanning probe microscopy, single-molecule pulling experiments and single-molecule spectroscopy); biological materials for nanofabrication; and biological networks.

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Our textbook will be the brand-new, as yet unpublished Physical Biology of the Cell, courtesy the authors and publishers , plus assorted readings from the current literature.  I will post all readings on Blackboard, so make sure you have access to the course Blackboard site immediately and send me an email if you aren't on yet.  The textbook contains a very brief introduction to the relevant biology.  Don't be intimidated if you have not taken Bio 200 or its equivalent--you can follow along in a bio textbook as we cover each topic and get up to date as we go.

We will follow the organization of material from our textbook closely, adding in other readings and papers from the recent research literature as we go. The great thing about physics courses is that you get to study and really understand eternal truths about nature at a deep level. That’s wonderful—but sometimes it’s nice to see what’s happening at the cutting edge of science. (Even better, why not do so while still learning physics that will stay valid no matter what?) That’s what we aspire to in this course.

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Meeting times & place: MWF 10:30-11:30, Koshland Science Center Link 205;  because of scheduling difficulties for such an interdisciplinary course, we will attempt to schedule a recitation time after the first class.

Instructor: Prof. Suzanne Amador Kane

Office: KINSC L103, 896-1198; Home: (610) 949-9257 (Please do not call after 9:30 pm)

Office hours: TBA after the first week

Email: Suzanne Amador Kane (Note that email is often the best way to schedule meetings outside of office hours.)

Prerequisites: EITHER Physics 214 at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr OR Chemistry 304a (Physical Chemistry I, or the Bryn Mawr equivalent) AND Biology 200 (or special arrangement with the instructor; physics majors may elect to do background reading in the Bio 200 textbook). Students may petition the instructor for admission into the course with different backgrounds. Students who wish to catch up on suggested background in Biology over the summer may consult a textbook similar to: Harvey Lodish et al., Molecular Cell Biology, Chapters 1 - 4 (pp. 1-139); 14 (pp. 595-612).


Tentative: Assignments will include problem sets or computational exercises due every week to two weeks, plus one midterm and a comprehensive final exam. Attendance and classroom participation is mandatory. Students must notify the instructor in advance of any absences not due to illness or Dean's excuses.

Grading: tentative





Final Exam


Attendance and participation


Late policies:

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (rwebb@haverford.edu, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible. Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays

Honor code matters:

We value Haverford's honor code for the integrity it fosters and the pedagogical flexibility it affords. The important guiding principle of academic honesty is that you must never represent the work of others as your own. The following guidelines should govern your behavior in the course; please request clarification if you find yourself in any doubtful situations.

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Background readings in biology for those without Bio 200a/b or equivalent:

Students who wish to catch up on suggested background in Biology over the summer may consult a textbook similar to: Harvey Lodish et al., Molecular Cell Biology, Chapters 1 - 4 (pp. 1-139); 14 (pp. 595-612). This is not required for you to take the course, given the instructor's permission, since I think our textbook will do a good job with required background. Come talk to me if you are unsure!

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Maintained by: Suzanne Amador Kane