Ruprecht Karls Universität Heidelberg

Lecture course Theoretical Biophysics summer term 2019

This course is MVBP2 in the modul handbook and is addressed to master students in physics with a background in statistical physics. Motivated bachelor or PhD-students are also encouraged to attend. There are two lectures each week, each for 90 minutes, plus weekly homework and exercises. Together you can earn 6 credit points from this course. This lecture can be used for the oral master examination if combined with e.g. the lecture on statistical physics or the lecture on simulation methods, or with two short specialized lectures (like non-linear or stochastic dynamics). The lecture takes place Tue and Thu 9.15 - 10.45 in room 106 at Philosophenweg 12 and is given by Ulrich Schwarz. The details for the tutorial will be discussed in the first lecture. Earlier exposure to biology and biophysics (e.g. the experimental biophysics course in the winter term, bachelor courses on biophysics, biology courses) is helpful, but not required.



The exact choice of subjects depends also on the background and suggestions of the students.
  1. biomolecules (DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids and sugars) and their interactions
  2. protein folding, helix-coil transition, Zimm-Bragg model
  3. electrostatistics in the cell, genome compactification
  4. self-assembly, nucleation and growth, aggregation-fragmentation model, micelles, filaments, virus capsides, clathrin cages
  5. membranes, Helfrich bending energy, thermal fluctuations, Helfrich interaction
  6. polymers, Rouse model, force spectroscopy, force-extension curves
  7. allostery, cooperativity, reaction kinetics, Michaelis-Menten kinetics, homeostasis, feedback, oscillations
  8. diffusion and convection, life at low Reynolds number, diffusion to capture
  9. living polymers, polymerization ratchet, growing actin networks
  10. force spectroscopy for clusters, adhesion clusters, catch bonds
  11. molecular motors, ratchet models, cross-bridge models, force generation in muscle, Huxely model, cooperative transport
  12. cell shape and mechanics, cell division, physics of development and tissue
  13. excitable systems, ion channels, action potentials, Hodgkin-Huxley model, FitzHugh-Nagumo model, cable equation, waves
  14. gene expression, kinetic proofreading, sequence analysis, gene expression and protein interaction networks
  15. evolution, population models, game theory, dynamics of infections, range expansion
  16. reaction-diffusion systems, self-assembly, pattern formation, Turing-instability, Min-system


  • Bruce Alberts et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell, 6th edition 2015
  • R. Phillips, J. Kondev and J. Theriot, Physical Biology of the Cell, 2nd edition, Garland Sci. 2012
  • Ron Milo and Rob Phillips, Cell biology by the numbers, Garland Sci. 2016
  • P. Nelson, Biological Physics, Freeman 2007
  • P. Nelson, Physical models of living systems, Freeman 2015
  • P. Nelson, From photon to neuron, Princeton University Press 2017
  • KA Dill and S Bromberg, Molecular Driving Forces, 2nd edition, Garland 2011
  • Ivet Bahar, Bob Jernigan and Ken Dill, Protein Actions, Taylor & Francis 2017
  • Jacob Israelachvili, Intermolecular and Surface Forces, 3rd ed 2011
  • J.D. Murray, Mathematical Biology I and II, 3rd edition, Springer 2002
  • James Keener and James Sneyd, Mathematical Physiology, 2nd edition Springer 2009