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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHYS3523 Bionanophysics

15 creditsClass Size: 75

Module manager: Dr Neil Thomson

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

Level 2 Physics or equivalent.

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 macromolecules in biology (lipids, proteins, nucleic acids and carbohydrates) 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:
1. Make effective use of physics skills and knowledge to applications in Bionanophysics.
2. Collate and organise information from the published scientific literature
3. Problem solve in bionanophysics
4. Write about complex topics in bionanophysics
5. Critically analyse research literature


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

I. THE BIONANOPHYSICS OF NUCLEIC ACIDS: Molecular forces, structure and behaviour of DNA as a polymer, scanning probe microscopes, DNA molecular motors, nanopore technologies, DNA sequencing.

II. THE BIONANOPHYSICS OF PROTEINS & CARBOHYDRATES: Protein structure, Proteins as bionanomachines, Protein thermodynamic stability,
Protein mechanical stability, Protein (un)folding and bonds, Molecular motors, Carbohydrate structure and mechanical properties.

III. THE BIONANOPHYSICS 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
Drop-in Session61.006.00
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 using MCQ and SATA (x3 per topic: 9 Total)
Example problems in lectures/workshops
One to one discussion with lecturers in open office sessions.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Online AssessmentRegular 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
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 00 mins70.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)70.00

Students will have to complete an in-person exam 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 serious attempt at all assessments for this module, in order to pass the module overall.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 29/04/2022 15:31:38


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