Level 3 Physics course
3 units of credit
Offered in session 2 every 2 years
Information for Term 2, 2010

Lecture Times: Wednesday 11.0 - 12.0 OMB 112, Friday 2.0 – 3.0 OMB 112


Assumed knowledge: 1st Year Physics, some calculus, some knowledge of biology an advantage, but not necessary. Similarly, Introductory Biophysics Phys 2410 an advantage but not necessary.

Assessment: Two assignments (10 % for the first part of the course, 20% for the second part of the course), 2 hr exam (70%) in November, time to be announced.

Part 1: Thermodynamics of Biological Systems

Dr. Mary Beilby
room  G67A

Textbooks (or rather books that might be helpful)
Dilip Kondepudi and Ilya Prigogine: “Modern Thermodynamics: from heat engines to dissipative structures.” John Wiley & Sons, 1998
HGL Coster: “Thermodynamics of Life Processes” NSW University Press Ltd. 1981
Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers: "Order out of chaos" Fontana Paperbacks, 1985
Roland Glaser: "Biophysics" Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Couse syllabus (part 1):

  1. Basic concepts of thermodynamics: first and second law (some overlap with Thermal Physics – mainly intended to get everybody past basic themodynamics principles)
  2. Entropy production and life
  3. Extremum principle and thermodynamic potentials
  4. Flow of chemical reactions
  5. Phenomenological equations
  6. Active transport
  7. Far from equilibrium: new order
  8. Dissipative structure

In this part of the course we examine basic principles that are vital to structure, function and normal operation of living systems. Some of these principles will be familiar to you as physics students, such as minimization of energy, flows down their potential gradients and systems tending towards equilibrium or a steady state. Other concepts, such as maximization of entropy, coupling of chemical reactions to flows of energy, matter and entropy or formation of dissipative structures, will take you to a new territory. 


Further Information

For more information about PHYS3410 contact:

last updated 1st February 2011