Biophysics of Excitable Cells (PHYS*2030)
Code and section: PHYS*2030*01
Term: Winter 2022
Instructor: Leonid Brown
Course Calendar Description
An intermediate biophysics course with special emphasis on the physical properties of nerve cells and of biological transducers such as the ear and the eye.
Prerequisite(s): 1.00 credits in physics (excluding PHYS*1020, PHYS*1600, PHYS*1810)
Credit Weight: 0.5
By appointment, please email your TA or Leonid.
Lectures and Tutorials
Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30 – 10:20 AM, THRN 1307
Section 1: Tuesday 04:30 - 05:20 PM, MCKN 224
Section 2: Monday 03:30 - 04:20 PM, MCKN 227
(NOTE: no tutorials will be held in the midterm week and the week after, weeks 7-8)
NOTE: Both lectures and tutorials will be delivered in Synchronous (AD-S; VIRTUAL) mode until at least January 24th, via Zoom and Teams, see the Courselink to join. Stay tuned for the announcements regarding any changes in the delivery mode!
The main objectives of this course are to provide a basic understanding of the physical phenomena underlying nerve and membrane activity, and to illustrate how these phenomena are applied to different types of excitable cells.
By the end of this course students will be able to…
- Describe how physical principles influence the structure and function of excitable cells.
- Illustrate how physical phenomena can be applied to different types of excitable cells.
- Solve numerical problems using circuit analysis with various components including membrane resting and action potentials, membrane conductance and current flowing through cell membranes under different physiological conditions.
- Explain membrane and nerve activities with reference to the relevant underlying physical phenomena that give rise to them.
- Analyze how the principles of diffusion and electricity apply to biological membranes and individual nerve cells and how these result in cell resting and action potentials under different conditions.
- Apply the appropriate physical models to solve numerical problems describing sensory functions including hearing, vision, olfaction and taste.
- Generate simple circuit models to describe excitable cell membranes for excitable cells specific to the sensory systems.
- Compare and contrast the mechanisms underlying sensory functions of vision, hearing, olfaction and taste.
Lecture notes, problem sets, and supplementary materials will be available on Courselink.
- "Biophysics of Excitable Cells" by G.H. Renninger, U. of G., 2003.
Available from the UG Bookstore.
- "From Neuron to Brain" by J.G. Nicholls et al. (Library: QP 355.2.K83 2001)
- “Principles of Neural Science" by E.R. Kandel et al. (Library: QP 355.2.P76 2013)
|Week 1: Jan 10-14||Introduction to the course
Chapter 1: Membrane structure/function
Begin Chapter 2: Diffusion, Fick's Law, Permeability
|Tutorial 1 - review of mathematics|
|Week 2: Jan 17-21||Continue Chapter 2: Diffusion, Fick's Law, Permeability, active transport
Begin Chapter 3: Coulomb's law, Electric potential, Work, Electric fields, Capacitance
|Week 3: Jan 24-28||Continue Chapter 3: Coulomb's law, Electric potential, Work, Electric fields, Capacitance
Begin Chapter 4: Electric current, mobility, Nernst equation, Donnan equilibrium
|Week 4: Jan 31 - Feb 4||Continue Chapter 4: Electric current, mobility, Nernst equation, Donnan equilibrium, equivalent circuit of a membrane, Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation||Tutorial 4|
|Week 5: Feb 7-11||Chapter 5: Current injection; the nerve impulse, voltage clamps and ionic currents||Tutorial 5
Problem Set 1
Due on Monday, Feb 7
|Week 6: Feb 14-18||Chapter 6: Synaptic transmission
|Tutorial 6 - Midterm Review|
|READING WEEK: Feb 21-25||NO CLASSES|
|Week 7: Feb 28 – Mar 4||Chapter 7: Ion channels
Midterm Exam (Wednesday, Mar 2, Online or Room TBA)
|Problem Set 2
Due on Monday Feb 28;
Midterm is on Wednesday, Mar 2;
|Week 8: Mar 7-11||Chapter 7: Ion channels continued
Begin chapter 8: Vision, the invertebrate eye
|Week 9: Mar 14-18||Continue Chapter 8: Vision, the invertebrate eye||Tutorial 7|
|Week 10: Mar 21-25||Continue Chapter 8: Vision, the vertebrate eye||Problem Set 3
Due on Monday, Mar 21
|Week 11: Mar 28 – Apr 1||Chapter 9: Hearing||Tutorial 9|
|Week 12: Apr 4-8||Chapter 10: Olfaction and taste
|Problem Set 4
Due on Friday, Apr 8
Tutorial 10 – Exam review
|Problem Sets||4 total, 8% each||32%|
|Midterm||Mar. 2, Room TBA||28%|
|Final Exam||April 19, 2022, 11:30am, Room TBA||40%|
Tutorials will be held every week (except for the weeks 7 and 8). The tutorials are an important part of the course, since they provide practice and assistance with solving numerical problems.
These contain mainly numerical problem-solving questions showcasing the application of physics to biological membranes and sensory systems. There will be four (4) problem sets worth 8% each and have deadlines throughout the semester:
Problem Set 1: February 7
Problem Set 2: February 28
Problem Set 3: March 21
Problem Set 4: April 8
The Problem Sets should be submitted ELECTRONICALLY on the dates indicated above, by 11 PM, to the drop-box set up on the Courselink.
Wednesday, March 2, in class or online, Room TBA. In the first half of the course, physics principles are reviewed with specific application to cell membranes. The midterm is worth 28% of the total course grade.
Tuesday, April 19, 11:30 am, location TBA. In the second half of the course, sensory systems are discussed in detail with the application of physics phenomena and circuit models. The final exam is cumulative as the course builds throughout the semester and has both numerical and qualitative questions. The final exam is worth 40% of the total course grade.
The penalty for late assignments is a 20% deduction per day, to a maximum of two days. You will be given ample time to complete your assignments; accordingly, you will be required to provide medical documentation if you wish to submit your assignment later than two days after the deadline.
Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures
Presentations which are made in relation to course work—including lectures—cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a classmate or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.
As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.
When You Cannot Meet a Course Requirement
When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons please advise the course instructor (or designated person, such as a teaching assistant) in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. The grounds for Academic Consideration are detailed in the Undergraduate and Graduate Calendars.
- Undergraduate Calendar - Academic Consideration and Appeals
- Graduate Calendar - Grounds for Academic Consideration
- Associate Diploma Calendar - Academic Consideration, Appeals and Petitions
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- Undergraduate Calendar - Dropping Courses
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- Associate Diploma Calendar - Dropping Courses
Copies of Out-of-class Assignments
Keep paper and/or other reliable back-up copies of all out-of-class assignments: you may be asked to resubmit work at any time.
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When accommodations are needed, the student is required to first register with Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Documentation to substantiate the existence of a disability is required; however, interim accommodations may be possible while that process is underway.
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For Guelph students, information can be found on the SAS website
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- Undergraduate Calendar - Academic Misconduct
- Graduate Calendar - Academic Misconduct
Recording of Materials
Presentations that are made in relation to course work - including lectures - cannot be recorded or copied without the permission of the presenter, whether the instructor, a student, or guest lecturer. Material recorded with permission is restricted to use for that course unless further permission is granted.
The Academic Calendars are the source of information about the University of Guelph’s procedures, policies, and regulations that apply to undergraduate, graduate, and diploma programs.