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Suggested Topics from HHMI Proposal

Page history last edited by Joe Redish 9 years, 3 months ago

BERG > HHMI Project  > Content 


HHMI course topics proposed


First semester

  •  Introduction to Physics thinking (quantification and estimation, units and dimensional analysis, coordinates and graphs, scaling)
  • Principles of mechanics (velocity, acceleration, and distance, Newton’s laws, biological applications – biomechanics of muscles and bones)
  •  Properties of matter (solids, stress-strain relationships, design principles of biomaterials, fluids including biological applications)
  •  Principles of electricity and magnetism (fundamental physics – charge, current flow, resistance, capacitance, electrical potential, magnetic fields, electricity in biological systems)
  • Principles of wave generation and propagation (geometric optics, sound waves and biological mechanosensation, electromagnetic waves and their interactions with biological molecules)
  •  Principles of systems behavior (simple dynamical networks, emergent properties)


Second semester 

  • Physics at energies comparable to thermal energy (spontaneous motion, spontaneous transition between states of different energies, stochastic behavior, Boltzmann distribution, relationship between energy change and probability of achieving the change)
  • Diffusion: How the rate of diffusion in liquids determines the size and shape of cells, strategies used by cells to move particles, and mechanisms of cell-cell communication
  •  Force: Forces in liquids, force defined as change in free energy with distance, concentration gradients as phenomenological forces, how random motion leads to directed motion
  • Charges, voltages, electric fields: Macroscopic electroneutrality, properties and generation of transmembrane electric fields, electrodes and the measurement of electrical potential differences
  • Energy: Energy conservation and energy available to do work, living systems as dissipative structures, distinction between energy and free energy, the chemical potential equation, energy level is distance from equilibrium, electrochemical and osmotic equilibria, coupled processes and mechanisms of energy conversion
  • Electromagnetic radiation (absorption and emission of light, molecules as antennas, light-driven processes, radiationless energy transfer)



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