Molecular Biophysics (PHYS*4540)

Code and section: PHYS*4540*01

Term: Winter 2011

Instructor: Leonid Brown


Course Information

Course Objectives

This course’s main objective is to introduce the students to molecular biophysics, with the emphasis on protein structure and structure/function of biological membranes. We plan to cover the following topics: Structure of biomolecules. Factors determining protein structures. Overview of methods for protein structure determination. Intermolecular interactions. Biological membranes. Protein folding and mebrane insertion. Membrane proteins and their functions. Receptors and signal transduction. Membrane transport - channels and transporters. Bioenergetics.

The students will be given two assignments. The first one (individual) will introduce the students to protein structures and their analysis using the most common software in the field. The second assignment (group, the students will do it in pairs) will improve skills related to search, analysis, and synthesis of available literature data. Each pair of students will be given an important class of biological molecules (for example, channels, transporters, pumps, bioenergetically important enzymes, receptors) to study, and the results will have to be presented in class.

The course also aims to improve the oral and written communication skills of the students. Besides the presentation of the second (group) assignment, each student will have an opportunity to present an important research paper in the field and lead a discussion of this work in the second half of the course. In addition, a final essay will be submitted (in lieu of the final exam) on a topic of student’s choice, in consultation with the lecturer. The topic should not be directly related to student’s own research work and not extensively covered in the lectures. Graduate students taking the course will have to write an additional research proposal.


Lecturer Office Extension Email
Leonid Brown MacN 325 53777

Lectures and Presentations

Day Time Location
Tue, Thu 11:30 - 12:50 MacN 101

Course Materials

Course Website


There is no required text, but any of the following good books on Structural Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics can be useful. Note that some of these resources are available in electronic format in PubMed.

  • Lodish et al, “Molecular Cell Biology”
  • Charles R. Cantor and Paul R. Schimmel, “Biophysical chemistry”
  • Thomas E. Creighton, “Proteins: Structure and Molecular Properties”
  • Karp, “Cell and Molecular Biology”
  • Voet and Voet, “Biochemistry”
  • Stryer, “Biochemistry”
  • Alberts, "Molecular Biology of the Cell"

Additionally, students will be provided with lecture notes in pdf format and given references to the appropriate research and review papers (licensed to the University of Guelph). The students are also encouraged to read major biophysical and biochemical journals (the links are provided on the course website).


Assessment Weight
Written individual assignment (due mid-February) 20%
Group assignment with presentation (mid-February – mid-March) 20%
Research paper presentation/discussion (mid-March – early April) 25%
Final essay on one of the topics (April) 30%
Participation in the discussions 5%

Tentative Schedule

(can change depending on the number of students)

  1. Weeks 1-6. Lectures on general principles of protein structure, biological membranes organization and function, protein folding and insertion, overview of structural methods.
  2. Weeks 6-8. Student presentations of the second (group) assignments with discussions on biophysically important classes of proteins.
  3. Weeks 8-12. Student presentations of research papers with discussions.
  4. Exam period. Essay in lieu of the final exam.

Course Policies

Course Evaluation

The Department of Physics requires student assessment of all courses taught by the Department. These assessments provide essential feedback to faculty on their teaching by identifying both strengths and possible areas of improvement. In addition, annual student assessment of teaching provides part of the information used by the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee in evaluating the faculty member's contribution in the area of teaching.

The Department's teaching evaluation questionnaire invites student response both through numerically quantifiable data, and written student comments. In conformity with University of Guelph Faculty Policy, the Department Tenure and Promotions Committee only considers comments signed by students (choosing "I agree" in question 14). Your instructor will see all signed and unsigned comments after final grades are submitted. Written student comments may also be used in support of a nomination for internal and external teaching awards.

NOTE: No information will be passed on to the instructor until after the final grades have been submitted.