Cellular biophysics: a framework for quantitative biology

By Prof. Chaitanya A. Athale   |   IISER Pune
Learners enrolled: 392
Given than most biological systems are in fact out of equilibrium, this course will touch upon some of the most recent theoretical and experimental approaches to understand the out of equilibrium aspects of biophysics. To this end we make a thermodynamics detour to answer the question posed by Schroedinger: “What is life?” We then consider a diversity of cell types to ask how the hierarchies of molecules and cells integrate. The question of how stochastic processes lead to deterministic outcomes will be briefly touched upon. Research paper reading will highlight case studies of the successful application of physics biological problems.

INTENDED-AUDIENCE: 3rd year B.Sc, 1-2 year M.Sc. students in Biology and Physics

PRE-REQUISITES: BSc/BE/BTech 2nd year; BSc level knowledge of Classical mechanics; MSc level knowledge of Cell and molecular biology; MSc level knowledge of Biochemistry; Basic python programming

INDUSTRY-SUPPORT: Microscopy companies, Centrifuge companies, Spectroscopy companies
Course Status : Completed
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 8 weeks
Category :
  • Biological Sciences & Bioengineering
  • Bioengineering
Credit Points : 2
Level : Postgraduate
Start Date : 25 Jul 2022
End Date : 16 Sep 2022
Enrollment Ends : 08 Aug 2022
Exam Date : 25 Sep 2022 IST

Note: This exam date is subjected to change based on seat availability. You can check final exam date on your hall ticket.

Page Visits

Course layout

Week 1: Concepts in fluid dynamics as they apply to cellular scale life
Week 2: Diffusion & Macromolecular crowding
Week 3: Dynamics of macromolecules: Cytoskeleton
Week 4: Molecular motors and Brownian Ratchets
Week 5: The rate equation paradigm and genetic networks
Week 6: Noise in biological systems
Week 7: Turing patterns in embryogenesis
Week 8: Mechanics in embryogenesis and Future directions

Books and references

  1. Howard Berg (1993) Random Walks in Biology Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 9780691000640
  2. Philip Nelson (2007) Biological Physics: Energy, Information, Life. W. H. Freeman. ISBN-13: 978-0716798972
  3. Rob Philips, Jane Kondev, JulieTheriot, Hernan Garcia (2013) Physical Biology of the cell. CRC Press. ISBN 9780815344506
  4. David Boal (2012) Mechanics of the Cell. 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press. Online ISBN: 9781139022217
  5. Gabor Forgacs and Stuart Newman (2005) Biological Physics of the Developing Embryo. Cambridge University Press. Online ISBN: 9780511755576

Instructor bio

Prof. Chaitanya A. Athale

The instructor has obtained his MSc in Zoology from Pune University in 1996. He received a PhD from the University of Heidelberg, Germany in Biology with magna cum laude in 2003 working on the topic of diffusion inside cells using a combination of stochastic simulations, cell biology and microscopy. Since then he worked from 2003-5 as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts General Hospital on simulating avascular tumour growth and from 2005-9 as a fellow in the EMBL Heidelberg working on self organizing principles of microtubule spindle assembly. Since 2009 he has worked as a faculty in the Division of Biology at IISER Pune first as Assistant Professor and since 2016 as Associate Professor. His lab works at the interface of experiment and theory on the role of microtubule-motor mechanics and systems level properties in cell shape. He also has a peripheral interest in bacterial biophysics and synthetic cell biology.

Course certificate

The course is free to enroll and learn from. But if you want a certificate, you have to register and write the proctored exam conducted by us in person at any of the designated exam centres.
The exam is optional for a fee of Rs 1000/- (Rupees one thousand only).
Date and Time of Exams: 25 September 2022 Morning session 9am to 12 noon; Afternoon Session 2pm to 5pm.
Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.
The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam fee needs to be paid. More details will be made available when the exam registration form is published. If there are any changes, it will be mentioned then.
Please check the form for more details on the cities where the exams will be held, the conditions you agree to when you fill the form etc.


Average assignment score = 25% of average of best 6 assignments out of the total 8 assignments given in the course.
Exam score = 75% of the proctored certification exam score out of 100

Final score = Average assignment score + Exam score

YOU WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CERTIFICATE ONLY IF AVERAGE ASSIGNMENT SCORE >=10/25 AND EXAM SCORE >= 30/75. If one of the 2 criteria is not met, you will not get the certificate even if the Final score >= 40/100.

Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup.It will have the logos of NPTEL and IISER Pune. It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.

Only the e-certificate will be made available. Hard copies will not be dispatched.

Once again, thanks for your interest in our online courses and certification. Happy learning.

- NPTEL team

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