Biophysics

Biophysics lies at the intersection of physics, biology and chemistry. Biophysicists apply the understanding, methods and quantitative skills gained in physics to a vast array of biological systems in order to gain new insights into biological problems ranging from brain function, and vascular networks, to DNA synthesis, and biomedical devices.The bachelor’s degree in biophysics is an interdisciplinary major designed to prepare students for a wide variety of career paths including graduate study in: biophysics, bioengineering, medical physics, biochemistry and chemistry. It is also superb preparation for any of the health professions (medical, dental, veterinary), or direct employment in the fields of biotechnology, bioengineering, and biomedical industries following USD.

The Biophysics Major

Preparation for the Major (46-48 units)

Preparation for the biophysics major is designed to give the student a broad background in biology, chemistry and physics. In order to successfully navigate these diverse fields, a strong background in math is also required. Although PHYS 136/137 is allowed it is highly recommended that students take PHYS 270/271 instead if possible.

MATH 150Calculus I4
MATH 151Calculus II4
MATH 250Calculus III4
PHYS 270
270L
Introduction to Mechanics
and Mechanics Lab
4
PHYS 271
271L
Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism
and Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism Lab
4
PHYS 272
272L
Introduction to Modern Physics
and Introduction to Modern Physics Lab
4
CHEM 151
151L
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry I Laboratory
4
CHEM 152
152L
General Chemistry II
and General Chemistry II Laboratory
4
CHEM 301
301L
Organic Chemistry I
and Organic Chemistry I Laboratory
4
CHEM 302
302L
Organic Chemistry II
and Organic Chemistry II Laboratory
4
Introductory Biology Courses
BIOL 240
240L
Bioenergetics and Systems
and Bioenergetics and Systems Laboratory
4
BIOL 242
242L
Genomes and Evolution
and Genomes and Evolution Laboratory
4
OR
BIOL 190Introduction to Evolution3
BIOL 225Introduction to Cell Processes3

Major Requirements (25 units)

Courses required for the Biophysics Major reflect the integration of the sciences, with upper-division courses from each of the sciences, as well as interdisciplinary Biophysics lecture and lab courses. Students are urged to work with their biophysics academic advisor to work out a schedule of courses and electives that best fits their career goals and aspirations. Students are also encouraged to start research (PHYS 496) as early as possible.

PHYS 319Thermal and Statistical Physics3
PHYS 340Biological Physics3
PHYS 381WExperimental Biophysics4
PHYS 493Seminar I: The Craft of Scientific Presentation1
PHYS 495Seminar II: Frontiers of Physics1
PHYS 496Research1-3
CHEM 331Biochemistry3
BIOL 300Genetics3
Two Upper-Division Electives from BIOL, PHYS, CHEM or EOSC (subject to advisor approval)6

Suggested Upper-Division Electives include:

PHYS 301Energy and the Environment3
PHYS 307Astrophysics3
PHYS 314Analytical Mechanics3
PHYS 324Electromagnetism3
PHYS 330Quantum Mechanics3
PHYS 371Computational Physics3
PHYS 477Introduction to Fluids3
BIOL 342Microbiology4
BIOL 432Electron Microscopy4
BIOL 480Cell Physiology3
BIOL 482Molecular Biology3
BIOL 332Biochemistry II3
BIOL 484Immunology4
CHEM 311Physical Chemistry I3
CHEM 332Biochemistry II3
CHEM 335Biochemistry Laboratory3
CHEM 427Biophysical Chemistry3
EOSC 452Marine Geochemistry4
EOSC 473Climatology4

Recommended Program of Study, Biophysics 

Freshman Year
Semester IHours
MATH 150Calculus I4
CHEM 151
151L
General Chemistry I4
BIOL 240
240L
Bioenergetics and Systems4
CORE or electives0-3
Semester II
PHYS 270
270L
Introduction to Mechanics4
MATH 151Calculus II4
CHEM 152
152L
General Chemistry II4
CORE or electives0-3
Sophomore Year
Semester I
PHYS 271
271L
Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism4
MATH 250Calculus III4
CHEM 301
301L
Organic Chemistry I4
CORE or electives0-3
Semester II
PHYS 272
272L
Introduction to Modern Physics4
BIOL 242
242L
Genomes and Evolution4
CHEM 302
302L
Organic Chemistry II4
CORE or electives0-3
Junior Year
Semester I
PHYS 381WExperimental Biophysics4
PHYS 319Thermal and Statistical Physics3
PHYS 496Research1
CORE or electives4-7
Semester II
PHYS 340Biological Physics3
CHEM 331Biochemistry3
PHYS 496Research1
CORE or electives5-8
Senior Year
Semester I
BIOL 300Genetics3
PHYS 477Introduction to Fluids (suggested elective)3
PHYS 493Seminar I: The Craft of Scientific Presentation1
PHYS 496Research1
CORE or electives5
Semester II
PHYS 371Computational Physics (suggested elective)3
PHYS 495Seminar II: Frontiers of Physics1
PHYS 496Research1
CORE or electives7-10

Courses

PHYS 101 | PHYSICS AND SOCIETY

Units: 3

A discussion of the concepts which unify our experience with the physical world. Topics are presented at an introductory level for the student with little or no background in physical science. Science related topics of special interest are discussed. Examples include: alternatives for energy production and conservation; radiation, its effect and applications; and ethical decisions in the application of new scientific discoveries. Weekly lectures include demonstrations and discussions. Every semester.

PHYS 102 | PHYSICS, ENERGY, AND INFORMATION

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Corequisites: PHYS 102L

An introduction to physics concepts and principles with tangents into related technologies and global issues. Special attention is paid to devices and networks that furnish two necessities of modern life: energy and information. No background in physical science is required.

PHYS 102L | PHYSICS, ENERGY, AND INFORMATION LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Corequisites: PHYS 102

Laboratory component of PHYS 102. Guided hands-on investigation of physics principles and related technologies.

PHYS 105 | PHYSICAL SCIENCES FOR K-8 TEACHERS

Units: 3

A laboratory/lecture/discussion class designed to lead students toward an understanding of selected topics in chemistry and physics. The course topics are selected to satisfy the Physical Science specifications of the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (K-12). Enrollment is limited to liberal studies majors. Two two-hour laboratory sessions per week. This course is cross-listed with Chemistry 105. Fall semester.

PHYS 117 | ASTRONOMY WITH LAB

Units: 3

A survey of astronomy covering astronomical history, descriptive astronomy, planetology, stellar birth/life/death, and cosmology. This course satisfies the core curriculum physical science requirement with laboratory. Two lectures and one laboratory weekly. No science prerequisites. Fall semester.

PHYS 136 | GENERAL PHYSICS I

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (MATH 130 or MATH 150)

Corequisites: PHYS 136L

A study of the fundamental principles of mechanics and wave motion, sound, and heat. Algebra and some calculus are required. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 136L required.

PHYS 136L | GENERAL PHYSICS I LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 136 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 137 | GENERAL PHYSICS II

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 136 and PHYS 136L and (MATH 130 or MATH 150)

Corequisites: PHYS 137L

A study of the fundamental principles of electricity and magnetism, light, and modern physics. Algebra and some calculus are required. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 137L required.

PHYS 137L | GENERAL PHYSICS II LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 137 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 270 | INTRODUCTION TO MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 150 (Can be taken Concurrently) or MATH 151 (Can be taken Concurrently)

Corequisites: PHYS 270L

A study of the fundamental principles of Newtonian mechanics, kinematics, and momentum and energy conservation laws. Harmonic oscillations and wave motion will also be discussed. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 270L required.

PHYS 270L | MECHANICS LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 270 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course introducing the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 271 | INTRODUCTION TO ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (PHYS 270 and PHYS 270L) or (PHYS 136 and PHYS 136L) and MATH 151 and PHYS 271L (Can be taken Concurrently)

A study of the fundamental principles of classical electricity and magnetism focusing on electrostatics and magnetic force. Circuits, electromagnetism, and light are also introduced. Three hours of lecture weekly. Concurrent enrollment in 271L required.

PHYS 271L | INTRODUCTION TO ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM LAB

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A laboratory course that introduces the concepts and techniques of experimental physics. Meets weekly.

PHYS 272 | INTRODUCTION TO MODERN PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 151 and MATH 250 (Can be taken Concurrently) and PHYS 272L (Can be taken Concurrently) and (PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L) or (PHYS 137 and PHYS 137L) and PHYS 272L (Can be taken Concurrently)

An introduction to modern physics including principles and applications of quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, and special relativity. Required for all physics and biophysics majors and physics minors, and is an accepted elective for engineering students. Concurrent enrollment in 272L required. Three hours of lecture per week. Spring semester.

PHYS 272L | INTRODUCTION TO MODERN PHYSICS LAB

Units: 1

Corequisites: PHYS 272

Laboratory experiments to illustrate the topics presented in the lecture course: Introduction to Modern Physics (PHYS 272).

PHYS 301 | ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: (PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L) or (PHYS 137 and PHYS 137L)

Energy is the lifeblood of civilization, but its use entails substantial environmental costs. This course examines the physics and technology of energy production, distribution and use, as well as its environmental and societal consequences. It is suitable for students having completed lower-division physics.

PHYS 307 | ASTROPHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L

A study of the fundamental principles of astrophysics including topics such as stellar formation, life and death, galaxy evolution, special and general relativity, and cosmology.

PHYS 314 | ANALYTICAL MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L and MATH 250

Statics and dynamics are developed using vector analysis, the Hamiltonian and Lagrangian formulations. Orbit theory and chaos are among the special topics treated.

PHYS 319 | THERMAL AND STATISTICAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272

This course develops modern statistical mechanics and its application to thermodynamic principles and phenomena. Topics include ideal gases, phase transitions, stellar systems, chemical equilibrium, kinetic theory, paramagnetism, polymers and biophysics.

PHYS 324 | ELECTROMAGNETISM

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 250 (Can be taken Concurrently) and PHYS 272

A development of Maxwell’s equations using vector calculus. The electrical and magnetic properties of matter, solutions of boundary value problems, special relativity and radiation theory are also developed. Three lectures per week.

PHYS 330 | QUANTUM MECHANICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 250 and PHYS 272

Introduction to the fundamental properties of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics, including the Schrödinger equation in 1-3 dimensions, the mathematical formalism (involving linear algebra and partial differential equations) of quantum theory, the solution of the hydrogen atom, and elementary perturbation and scattering theory. Entanglement, Bell’s theorem, exotic states of matter, and history of physics are among the special topics discussed.

PHYS 331 | ADVANCED TOPICS IN QUANTUM PHYSICS

Units: 3

Prerequisites: PHYS 330

Applications of Quantum Theory in areas such as atomic, nuclear, solid state, and elementary particle physics.

PHYS 340 | BIOLOGICAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272

Biological physics introduces the interface between the two classic sciences. Physics principles and techniques are applied to questions and problems in biology with a focus on molecular and cellular biology. Topics will be introduced systematically, building on the fundamentals of thermodynamics up to current cutting edge research topics such as protein folding, molecular machines and brain function. Specific topics may include single-molecule biophysics, optical trapping, molecular and cellular self-assembly, gene regulation, biomaterials and biomedical imaging.

PHYS 371 | COMPUTATIONAL PHYSICS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: MATH 151 and PHYS 272 (Can be taken Concurrently)

A hands-on introduction to the implementation of computational algorithms to solve problems in physics and biophysics and the interpretation of the results. Detailed topics covered will depend on instructor expertise. Topics may include solutions to ordinary and partial differential equations, linear algebra, fast Fourier transforms, numerical integration, differentiation and approximation, statistics and Monte Carlo methods.

PHYS 381W | EXPERIMENTAL BIOPHYSICS

Units: 4 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L

A laboratory-based course introducing biophysics majors to interdisciplinary research techniques. Instrumentation development and experimental research explore topics of fluorescence and force spectroscopy, molecular diffusion, fluctuation-dissipation theory and viscoelasticity related to molecular and cellular biophysical systems. Students are trained in wet-lab techniques and computational methods using Matlab and Fiji. This is the primary upper-division laboratory requirement for biophysics majors and fulfills the core advanced writing and quantitative reasoning requirements. Students write and edit research reports on their experimental results at a level suitable for journal publication. The writing process also includes literature search techniques and an introduction to the peer review process.

PHYS 477 | INTRODUCTION TO FLUIDS

Units: 3 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and MATH 250

An introduction to the basic principles of fluids. This course will serve as an introduction to concepts used in physical oceanography, atmospheric science, and other disciplines in which fluids are studied or utilized. Examples of applications to a broad range of disciplines (physics, engineering, earth sciences, astrophysics, and biology) will be developed.

PHYS 480W | EXPERIMENTAL MODERN PHYSICS

Units: 4 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 330

A laboratory-based course focused on the introduction to principles of research techniques with an emphasis on modern physics. Experiments illustrate physical phenomena pertaining to core areas of physics: quantum mechanics, atomic and nuclear physics, laser physics and plasma physics. Analog and digital data acquisition instrumentation, high-resolution optical and laser technology, and phase sensitive detection technology will be explored. This course is the required writing-intensive course for physics majors and fulfills the upper-division core writing requirement. Students write papers up to professional standards required of publication in physics research journals, learn to write mathematical prose, engage in the peer review process, and learn to code LaTeX.

PHYS 481W | EXPERIMENTAL BIOPHYSICS

Units: 4

Prerequisites: PHYS 272 and PHYS 272L and MATH 250

A laboratory-based course focused on the introduction to principles of biophysics research techniques. Instrumentation development and experimental research will explore topics of fluorescence and force spectroscopy, molecular diffusion, fluctuation-dissipation theory and viscoelasticity related to molecular and cellular biophysical systems. Students will also be trained in general wet-lab techniques and computational data acquisition and analysis using Labview and Matlab. This course is the primary upper division laboratory requirement for the biophysics major and fulfills the upper division core writing requirement. Students will write and edit research reports on their experimental results at a level suitable for journal publication. The writing process will also include literature search techniques and an introduction to the peer review process.

PHYS 487 | TECHNIQUES IN PHYSICS

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Training and practice in those areas of physics of practical importance to the technician, teacher, and researcher. To include, but not limited to, technical methodology, preparation and technique in the teaching laboratory, and routines supportive of research. May be repeated up to a maximum of four units of credit.

PHYS 493 | SEMINAR I: THE CRAFT OF SCIENTIFIC PRESENTATION

Units: 1 Repeatability: No

Prerequisites: PHYS 496

First semester of the physics and biophysics seminar series devoted to instruction on scientific presentations. Students give short presentations on topics of interest, and prepare a lengthy presentation on their research. Stress is laid on the preparation, execution, and critique of effective scientific presentations. One hour per week. Fall semester.

PHYS 494 | SPECIAL TOPICS

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

Prerequisites: PHYS 271 and PHYS 271L

Topics chosen by the instructor in areas such as: thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, solid state, hydrodynamics, quantum mechanics, plasma physics, nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, and advanced physics laboratory. May be repeated for credit if the course material is different.

PHYS 495 | SEMINAR II: FRONTIERS OF PHYSICS

Units: 1

The second semester of the seminar series focuses on exposure to current physics research in the form of informal and formal presentations, lab tours, and scientific articles on a wide range of current research fields. Students will attend physics seminars at UCSD and will meet with physicists in fields related to the seminar beforehand. To prepare for the seminars and meetings, students will read journal articles on the topic. Students will learn about a wide range of cutting-edge physics research topics such as: dark matter, global warming and alternative energy sources, biomechanics, string theory, neutrinos, etc. Meets 2-4 hours every other Thursday. Spring semester.

PHYS 496 | RESEARCH

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)

An independent research project supervised by a faculty mentor in the physics department. Each student works closely with a faculty mentor to address a mutually agreed upon research problem in experimental or theoretical physics. A student seeking PHYS 496 credit must take initiative to meet with physics faculty members to learn about their research interests and possible problems to research. PHYS 496 credit requires the consent of the faculty mentor. A written report is required.

PHYS 499 | INDEPENDENT STUDY

Units: 1-3 Repeatability: Yes (Can be repeated for Credit)