Welcome to Biology 3550/3551

Physical Principles in Biology

Biology 3550/3551 is an interdisciplinary course designed to highlight the many connections between the physical and biological sciences.

This course is intended for undergraduate majors in any of the sciences:

  • Biology majors can expect to learn how the principles they have learned in chemistry, math and physics classes can lead to a deeper understanding of biological processes.
  • Majors in the physical sciences and mathematics will learn about new and challenging applications for their disciplines.
  • Biology 3820 satisfies graduation requirements for:
    • Biology major
    • Chemistry minor
    • Chemistry major (Biological Chemistry track)
    • B.S. Quantitative Intensive (QI) requirement
    Please see your departmental academic advisor for details.
  • Students from other disciplines are also welcome! (See the list of prerequisites below.)

Special note for Biology 3551 (honors)

Biol. 3551 is designated as an Honors class and enrollment is restricted to students in the Honors College. However, the two classes meet together and their requirements and policies are identical. Furthermore, there is no distinction in grading for students enrolled in Biol. 3550 or Biol. 3551. The distinction is entirely administrative and is intended to ensure that spaces are available to all students.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Probability
  • Random walks and diffusion
  • Energy and thermodynamics
  • Molecular motors
  • And more! (See the Lecture Schedule)

Course prerequisites:

The official course prerequisites are:
  • One semester of biology:
    BIOL 1210 or BIOL 2020
  • One semester of chemistry OR physics:
    CHEM 1210, PHYS 2010, PHYS 2120 or PHYS 2210
  • One semester of calculus:
    MATH 1170, MATH 1210, MATH 1250 or MATH 1270

However, these prerequisites reflect the original intent of the course, which was meant for first- or second-year students. As things have evolved, however, most of the students in the course are juniors and seniors, and the content has evolved to reflecct that. As a consequence, students who have oly these minimimum prerequisites may struggle a bit with some parts of the course.

As of Fall 2018, the prerequisites will be:

  • BIOL 2020 or BIOL 2021
  • Chem 1229 or Chem 1221
  • MATH 1180 or MATH 1220
  • Recommended: PHYS 2020 or PHYS 2120 or PHYS 2220 or PHYS 3220
If you have any concerns about your preparation for this class, please feel free to contact the instructor.


Like the course, this web page is a work in progress! It will be updated as the semester approaches and throughout the course.

The information provided here and in the course syllabus does not represent a binding legal contract. It may be modified by the instructor when the student is given reasonable notice of the modification