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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS3522 Bionanophysics 1

15 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Dr Neil Thomson

Taught: 1 Sep to 31 Jan (adv yr), Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

This module is not approved as a discovery module


At the end of this module students will have a grounding in basic understanding of the field of experimental bionanophysics. They will be familiar with the structure of the basic classes of molecules in biology (lipid, protein and nucleic acids) and how these naturally self-assemble through fundamental molecular forces. They will understand how these biomolecules are being studied and assembled for new applications in bionanotechnology. This will include single molecule biophysics techniques and applications such as DNA sequencing. Finally, they will gain insight into force generation in biological systems at a molecular level.

Learning outcomes
At the end of the module, students should be able to:
- Make effective use of physics skills and knowledge to applications in Bionanophysics.
- Collate and organise information from the published scientific literature.

Skills outcomes
- Problem solving
- Writing about complex topics in bionanophysics
- Critically analyse research literature


The course will be taught by three lecturers in individual section topics, with common concepts linking the sections.

I. THE PHYSICS OF NUCLEIC ACIDS: Molecular forces, structure and behaviour of DNA as a polymer, scanning probe microscopes, DNA molecular motors, nanopore technologies, DNA sequencing.
II. PROTEINS: Protein structure, Proteins as bionanomachines, Protein thermodynamics,
Protein mechanical stability, Protein folding and unfolding.
III. THE BIOPHYSICS OF CELL MEMBRANES: Lipid structure, the thermodynamics of lipid self-assembly, chemical forces, lateral organisation and phase separation, critical behaviour and lipid raft dynamics, membrane curvature and mechanics, bionano applications.

The course will make use of original scientific material published in high-profile journals

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Office Hour Discussions111.000.00
Private study hours122.00
Total Contact hours28.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Reading lecture notes and recommended journal articles.
Problem solving

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Regular online quizzes and questions

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Online AssessmentRegular Online Quizzes30.00
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 assessment48 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. The assessment will not take 48 hours to complete, but students will have a 48 hour time period in which to complete it. 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: 12/10/2020 15:48:24


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