Available in 2022
Course code



10 units


3000 level

Course handbook


Biophysics deals with the application of physics to biological systems, from the first picture of the structure of DNA, to the treatment of cancer, and the understanding of allergic reactions. The concepts and techniques of biophysics find applications in bioelectronics, medicine/health, and population dynamics and are closely related to statistical mechanics and transport processes. Interdisciplinary skills and knowledge have heralded novel scientific outcomes with benefits to society. As such, this course develops foundational thinking and methods that are fundamental to an effective interdisciplinary STEMM workforce.

Specifically, this course provides an introduction to the physics of many body systems, transport phenomena and biological systems.

Blended problem-based conceptual learning (lectorials) will be used to gain an understanding of key developments, ideas and theories covered in Biophysics. Blended problem-based, hands-on learning (computational and laboratory workshops) will be used to gain an understanding of key concepts.



  • Semester 1 - 2022

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Explain models of biological systems and models dealing with statistical mechanics and transport phenomena.

2. Solve qualitative and quantitative problems, using appropriate statistical mechanics and computing techniques.

3. Perform experiments which involve making correct and appropriate use of a range of scientific equipment, keeping an accurate record of experimental work and analysing results and reaching non-trivial conclusions from them.

4. Communicate at an advanced level the results of both theoretical and experimental work in various forms including written reports, oral presentations and poster presentations.

5. Collaborate effectively with team members for scientific investigations and for the process of learning.


  • Statistical mechanics
    • Review of classical thermodynamics, equilibrium statistical mechanics and ensemble theory
    • Boltzmann factor
    • Applications to ideal gas, Einstein solid, two-state paramagnet,┬áhaemoglobin, DNA compaction, Bose-Einstein condensation and Fermi-Dirac gases
  • Transport processes
    • Random walks and diffusion with application to biological macromolecules
    • Brownian motion of nanoparticles and viruses
    • Langevin equation and fluctuation-dissipation theorems
    • Driven diffusion of oxygen to cells, and receptors on a cell surface
    • Cell membrane potential
  • Biosystems
    • Biological terminology for physicists
    • Neuron function
    • Microscopy and its application to biology
    • Bio-electronics used to detect cells and viruses for medicine


Students must have successfully completed MATH2310, and either PHYS2111 or PHYS2250 to enrol in this course. Students cannot enrol in this course if they have previously successfully completed PHYS3375.

Assumed knowledge

PHYS2112 or PHYS2160 and/or PHYS2260

Assessment items

In Term Test: 3 In Term Tests

Tutorial / Laboratory Exercises: 12 Weekly Tasks

Formal Examination: Formal Examination

Contact hours



Face to Face On Campus 3 hour(s) per Week for 11 Weeks


Face to Face On Campus 2 hour(s) per Week for Full Term starting in week 1

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.