PHYM008 Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine 2023-24
Dr. B. Gardner
Delivery Weeks: T2:01-11
Level: 7 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 34 students (approx)


This module will discuss principles and current techniques used for the understanding of biology at cellular and molecular level and the particular challenges arising in their application to living systems. In addition it will highlight some of the contributions these approaches can make to medicine and the life sciences.

Module Aims

Advances both in understanding biology at the cellular and molecular level as well as clinical diagnosis are increasingly dependent on the availability of new experimental techniques that are almost always based on physics ideas and principles. This module aims to give students an understanding of the physical basis of these techniques as well as their strengths and weaknesses, potential and limitations while also providing a concise introduction into muscle biophysics.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

  1. Biophysics of Muscle Cells as a Model System for Experimental Methods
    1. Revision of cell biophysics
    2. Specific structures and Properties of muscle cells
    3. Biophysics of muscular activation
  2. Signal Processing for Microscopy and Related Experimental Methods
    1. A-to-D conversion and aliasing
    2. Signal-averaging techniques to retrieve signals from noise
    3. Impulse responses, convolution and deconvolution in 2D and 3D
  3. Determination of Protein Structure
    1. Protein structure and its interaction with radiation
    2. Structural analysis of biomolecules
  4. Spectroscopy
    1. Molecular spectroscopy of biomolecules
    2. Properties of fluorescent dyes and labels for probing biological systems
    3. Applications to the study of muscle cells
  5. Microscopy Techniques
    1. Fluorescence microscopy
      1. optical microscopy Modalities
      2. wide-field microscopy
      3. confocal microscopy
    2. Nonlinear and other microscopies
      1. multi-photon microscopy
      2. TIRF and FRET microscopy
      3. CARS microscopy
    3. Modern single molecule techniques
    4. Super-resolution microscopy
      1. localisation microscopy
      2. stimulated emission depletion microscopy
      3. structured illumination microscopy
    5. Application to investigation of muscle biophysics
  6. Other Techniques
    1. Computed tomography
      1. Whole body scanning
      2. Micro CT methods
    2. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy and applications in muscle

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
20×1-hour lectures 20 hours SLT
2×1-hour problems/revision classes 2 hours SLT
5×6-hour self-study packages 30 hours GIS
4×4-hour problem sets 16 hours GIS
Reading, private study and revision 82 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Guided self-study 5×6-hour packages Fortnightly 1-10 Discussion in class
0% 4 × Problems sets 4 hours per set Fortnightly 1-10 Solutions discussed in problems classes.
100% Final Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-10 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Thermal Physics (PHY2023) , Electromagnetism II (PHY3051) and Nuclear and High Energy Physics (PHY3052)
Co-requisite Modules none


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-10 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 22 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 128 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • N/A this is an optional module
Availability MPhys only
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Biomedical Physics; Spectroscopy; Microscopy; Imaging.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised 13-Sep-13