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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS5530M Physics of Biological Systems

15 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Dr Ralf Richter

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

Level 3 physics or equivalent

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module illustrates through a set of examples at the forefront of the discipline how concepts from physics help understand how biological systems function. The range of systems sizes covered spans from molecules and their nanoscale assemblies to cells and tissues. These will be introduced at a level necessary to reveal salient physical phenomena at play, and experimental techniques will be presented to analyse their physical properties. Wherever possible the physics of the systems will be treated quantitatively making use of mathematical techniques and physics concepts acquired in foundational physics courses.


Provide students with the opportunity to consolidate their physics curriculum by applying physics knowledge to the study and mechanistic understanding of biological systems. Such education is relevant to a wide range of areas such as understanding disease, diagnostics, analytical techniques, new materials and devices, and energy.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students should:
1. Have gained/updated basic knowledge of biological systems;
2. Understand some main techniques for characterising the physical properties and behaviour of biological systems;
3. Understand where and how physics concepts are important in biology;
4. Be able to apply physics concepts to other biological systems and for applications in biomedicine, biomaterials and biotechnology;
5. Have developed skills to critically analyse research in this field.

Skills outcomes
• Applying physics to biology, and for applications in biomedicine, biomaterials and biotechnology


• Self-assembly and properties of soft biological matter
• Mechanics across multiple length scales, from molecules to cells to tissues
• Selectivity and recognition in biological systems
• Movement in biological systems
• Signals and noise in biological systems
• Chlorophyll photophysics and solar energy capture
• Biophysics of light harvesting proteins and membranes

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours128.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Background reading and research, preparation of responses to question sheets for discussion in class

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Regular question sheets, group-worked examples for discussion in class.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
In-course MCQRegular MCQ/SATA questions30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)30.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment2 hr 00 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Students will have to complete an online assessment at the end of the module. This will take place during the examinations period at the end of the semester and will be time bound. Students must submit a reasonable attempt at all assessments for this module to pass this module.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/07/2021 13:47:40


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