Friederike Schmid / Peter Virnau: Master seminar

A seminar/lecture course on Biological Physics was offered in the summer term 2018.

     Time: Thursday 2pm - 4pm
     Place: Galilei-room (Staudingerweg 9, First floor)

It is open to master students (as Master Seminar I or II). Bachelor students with knowledge in statistical physics (Theory 4) are also welcome to attend.

Biological physics is an interdisciplinary field where methods and tools from physics are applied to problems in biology. The range of topics where physicists can contribute is broad and steadily growing. Examples are

  • Mechanics and thermodynamics of proteins
  • Biomaterials (membranes, bones, cartilage)
  • Cell mechanics and thermodynamics of cellular processes
  • Bioimaging and high resolution microscopy
  • Physics of living tissues (including: physics of cancer)
  • Biological networks
  • Neuroscience
  • Evolution

The purpose of the course is to introduce students into this fascinating field. We will not be able cover everything, but instead focus on selected aspects depending on the interests of the participants. The lectures will provide physical background (e.g., phase transitions, polymer physics, stochastic processes), and the seminar talks will present applications in biological physics. The topics of the talks are assigned to the students on April 19th.


  1. Biophysics, R. Glaser, Springer (available in the PMC library)
  2. Physics of Life, IFF spring school 2018 Lecture Notes, available online here.
  3. Biophysics: Searching for principles, W. Bialek, Princeton Univ. Press, preprint available here.
  4. Molecular Biology of the Cell  B. Alberts, A. Johnson, J. Lewis, D. Morgan, M. Raff, K. Roberts, Garland Science Publications (provides biology background, available in the PMC library)

Further literature and the slides of the presentations will be made available to participants here. Please log in with your ZDV credentials.

List of topics

(for example)
19.4, 26.4, 3.5. Introductory lectures: Some physics background
17. 5. Methods: Experimental (superresolution microscopy, scattering) [2] A1-A3 or A4,A5
  G. Settanni Methods: Simulations (biomolecular simulations)
[2] A9, A10
24. 5. Molecules - DNA: Sequence and alignment tba
  P. Virnau Molecules - DNA: Molecular organization and chromatin [2] B5
1. 6. Molecules - Proteins: Structure and crystallography [2] A4, A5
F. Schmid Molecules - Proteins: protein folding [3] Chap. III.A
7. 6. Cell components: Membranes [2] C1
  F. Schmid Cell components: Cytoskeleton [2] C3, C6
14. 6. Cellular organization: Cell states and Turing patterns [3] Chap III.C,
  P. Virnau Cellular organization: Tissue growth
[2] E6
21. 6. Neurons: Ion channels and neuronal dynamics [3] Chapter III.B
  F. Schmid Neurons: Neural networks [3] Chapter III.D
28. 6. Transport: Hydrodynamics in biology [1] Chap 3.7
T. Speck Transport: Motility of cells and bacteria [3(final)] Chap 4.2
5. 7. Evolution [2] F2, F7
  F. Schmid Systems theory [1] Ch. 5, [3] Ch. IV