Biophysics is an interdisciplinary field that applies the theories and methods of physics to problems in biology, medicine, and related fields. Biophysics is a vibrant, growing field, driven by the large amounts of detailed data now available in 21st century biological research. Biophysicists are uniquely trained in the quantitative sciences of physics, mathematics, and chemistry to process these data and build models to describe a wide array of topics, from cell signaling to photosynthesis to how cells are transformed from healthy to cancerous.

The biophysics major is highly interdisciplinary, resulting in a strong foundation in physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Students will develop skills in laboratory techniques, computer programming, data analysis, and mathematical modeling. The subject matter ranges from the fundamental principles of physics to chemical reactions and processes to complex biological systems. This broad curriculum provides students majoring in biophysics with opportunities for careers in biotechnology, biomedical technology, medicine, and medical physics. The biophysics major also provides a solid grounding for pursuing a Ph.D. in biophysics or related fields.Bachelor of Science in Biophysics

A Bachelor of Science major in Biophysics consists of a total of 16 courses, with the following list of 13 required courses:

  • BIOL 205 Introduction to Molecules and Cells
  • BIOL 206 Organismal Biology or BIOL 207 Genetics
  • CHEM 205 Principles of Chemistry or CHEM 207 Explorations in Chemistry
  • CHEM 211 Organic Chemistry I
  • MATH 201 Calculus I
  • MATH 202 Calculus II
  • MATH 211 Calculus III
  • PHYS 211 Classical and Modern Physics I
  • PHYS 212 Classical and Modern Physics II or PHYS 212E Classical and Modern Physics II
  • PHYS 222 Wave Mechanics and Quantum Physics
  • PHYS 315 Experimental Biophysics
  • PHYS 317 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
  • PHYS 340 Biophysics

And three advanced electives from the following list of courses, with at least one elective from BIOL, and up to one credit-bearing research with faculty:

Advanced electives in Physics:

  • PHYS 303 Modern Optics
  • PHYS 331 Advanced Classical Mechanics*
  • PHYS 332 Quantum Mechanics*
  • PHYS 333 Electromagnetic Theory I
  • PHYS 334 Electromagnetic Theory II
  • PHYS 338 Contemporary Study in Physics
  • PHYS 339 Advanced Quantum Mechanics and Particle Physics

Advanced electives in Biology:

  • BIOL 302 Microbiology (with BIOL 207)
  • BIOL 306 Biology of Host-Microbe Interactions
  • BIOL 312 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 313 Mammalogy
  • BIOL 318 Principles of Physiology (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 323 Mammalian Histology (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 326 Cytogenetics (with BIOL 207)
  • BIOL 327 Molecular Biology (with BIOL 207)
  • BIOL 328 Endocrinology (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 331 Genomics (with BIOL 207)
  • BIOL 337 Biology of Aging (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 339 Developmental Biology (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 347 Virology (with BIOL 207)
  • BIOL 352 Cell Biology
  • BIOL 362 Topics in Cell Biology (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 363 Receptors of Biological Membranes (with BIOL 206)
  • BIOL 365 Introduction to Microscopy

Advanced electives in Chemistry**:

  • CHEM 341 Physical Chemistry I
  • CHEM 347 Special Topics in Physical Chemistry
  • CHEM 351 Biochemistry I
  • CHEM 358 Biochemical Methods

*These courses include a prerequisite that is not part of the core curriculum for Biophysics.

**Students who are interested in a more chemistry-focused direction can pursue this path by taking CHEM 212 and CHEM 231.

Courses in the Biophysics degree program are designed to provide students with many opportunities to practice and develop their writing, speaking, and information literacy skills, consistent with the learning objectives of the College Core Curriculum.

Students majoring in Biophysics also satisfy the Culminating Experience component of the College Core Curriculum by taking the combination of PHYS 315 Experimental Biophysics and PHYS 340: Biophysics. PHYS 315 is a W-2 course within the major and provides a suite of project-based modules to hone in experimental skills in probing biological systems. In addition, students will write research-style papers, work in teams, and present the research outcomes in this course. Complementary to the experimental aspects, PHYS 340 is a theory-based course that studies the physics of cellular structures and processes, with emphasis on mechanics and thermodynamics of biological systems.

Study abroad is possible for students majoring in Biophysics. Students are strongly encouraged to plan such study so that they can complete their culminating experience in time. It is also advised that students discuss their plan to study abroad well in advance with the academic adviser and the chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.