Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 202001414
Physical Biology
Course info
Course module202001414
Credits (ECTS)5
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Contact personprof.dr. M.M.A.E. Claessens
prof.dr. M.M.A.E. Claessens
Contactperson for the course
prof.dr. M.M.A.E. Claessens
dr. M.H.G. Duits
prof.dr. A. Kocer
Academic year2020
Starting block
Application procedure-
Registration using OSIRISYes
After passing this course the student is able to;
  1. name the structure and function of the major cellular biomolecules and organelles. The student can explain and understands the concepts of replication, translation and transcription,
  2. describe the molecular origins of thermal energy, the Boltzmann distribution and the Arrhenius rate law and the student can apply these concepts. The student can explain how thermal motion constrains the method of information storage in cells,
  3. analyse cell transport mechanisms involving diffusive processes and friction. The student can explain why/how viscous dissipation dominates in the nano-world,
  4. apply the framework of thermodynamics to model basic processes of self-assembly. Identify and interpret cooperativity. The student knows the origin of entropic forces and can evaluate their role in self-assembly,
  5. analyse the mechanics membranes of semi-flexible filaments and perform related calculations. The student can evaluate the role mechanical properties in biology,
  6. Explain the role of macromolecules as brokers at the interface between physical and chemical forces,
  7. analyse the performance of simple molecular devices such as e.g. enzymes, thermal ratchets and motor proteins,
  8.  to analyze the literature and identify the most recent findings in a chosen topic of the course.
The complex behaviour of cells and bio-molecules cannot be fully understood without deep physical insight, triggering an increasing interest in physical biology. Generic physical concepts have given quantitative insight into how muscle cells convert the chemical energy of ATP into movement and into how DNA can replicate itself during cell division. In this course, we will discuss both the biochemistry and basic physical principles that help us understand and quantitatively describe biological phenomena and processes occurring in cells.
After an introduction into cellular and molecular biology, you will learn how the confluence of thermal, mechanical, chemical and entropic forces make the behaviour of cells and biological macromolecules so different from our everyday experience. Topics include: the central dogma in molecular biology, cellular transport mechanisms, different forms of intracellular signalling mechanisms, , diffusion, entropic forces, self-assembly, biopolymer elasticity, and molecular machines. The course consists of lectures, self-study, and 15 min presentation and peer review by students on a self-chosen subject related to the latest developments in one of the course topics
Assessment plan
the result of the exam will be determined by the following assessment plan;
On average (small variations year to year) learning objectives 1-7 will each count for 1/7 of the final mark in the written exam. Learning objective 8 will mainly be tested in the assignment.
The final grade will depend on both the written exam and the assignment which will count for 75% and 25% respectively.
Assumed previous knowledge
Basic knowledge in biology (high school level) and thermodynamics (BSc level) is assumed to be present.
Participating study
Master Applied Physics
Participating study
Master Biomedical Engineering
Required materials
Recommended materials
Physical biology of the cell - ISBN 9780815344506
Molecular biology of the cell - ISBN 9780815344643
Lecture slides will be made available on Canvas
Primary links can be found on Canvas
Instructional modes
Presence dutyYes

Presence dutyYes

Self study without assistance
Presence dutyYes


Kies de Nederlandse taal