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Applications of Physics: Biophysics

Biophysics is an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems. Studies span all levels of biological organization from the molecular scale to whole organisms and ecosystems. By drawing knowledge and experimental techniques from a wide variety of disciplines, biophysicists are able to directly observe, model or manipulate structures and interactions throughout the enormous range of organizational scale presented by the life sciences.

is the study of the emergence of self-organized, complex behaviors from the interaction of many simple agents. Such emergent complexity is a hallmark of life, from the organization of molecules into cellular machinery, through the organization of cells into tissues, to the organization of individuals into communities. Often, agents organize into much larger structures; those structures organize into much larger structures, etc. A classic example is the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary folding of DNA into chromosomes that allows a strand of a length of several centimeters to fold, without tangling or losing function, into a chromosome about one micron long. Biocomplexity is a methodology and philosophy as well as a field of study. It focuses on networks of interactions and the general rules governing such networks.

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Recommended electives in Biophysics

L 111 Foundations in Biology: Diversity, Evolution, and Ecology (N&M)*
L 112 Foundations in Biology: Biological Mechanisms (N&M)*
L 113 Foundations in Biology: Biology Laboratory (N&M)*
L 211 Molecular Biology (N&M) (P: L112 & C117)
P 317 Signals and Information Processing
S 320 Introduction to Statistics*
P 340 Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
P 410 Computing Applications in Physics
P 411 Computing Applications in Physics II
P 453 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics
P 454 Modern Physics
P 460 Modern Optics
P 425 Introductory Biophysics
L 311 Genetics (P: L211 Molecular Biology)*
L 312 Cell Biology (P: L211 Molecular Biology)*
L 317 Developmental Biology (P: L311 Genetics)*
P 346 Neuroscience (PSY) (P: P155, or P101, P106, or P151 or equivalent)
P 404 Computer and Statistical Models in Psychology (PSY)
P 411 Neural Bases of Learning and Memory (PSY) (P: P326 or P346)

*Satisfies requirement for a minor in Biology
(Requires 18 credit hours including L111, L112, & L113)

Career opportunities

With a BS in Physics with a concentration in biophysics you may find employment at

  • Academia (research and teaching)
  • Research institutes (e.g. NIH, DOD, DOE, etc.)
  • Industry (e.g. Genentech, Lilly, Cook, etc.)
  • National Laboratories (e.g. LANL, Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, etc.)
  • Government agencies (e.g. Agriculture, NASA, Defense, etc.)

For more information:

For useful career information, see the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook