Physics of Biological Systems

By Prof. Mithun Mitra   |   IIT Bombay
Learners enrolled: 639
The application of physical principles to biological systems is an exciting and rapidly evolving feld of research. Methods of equilibrium and non-equilibrium statistical physics, stochastic processes, non-linear dynamics and polymer physics, among others have helped understand the guiding principles of a variety of biological processes. In this course,we will attempt to provide an introduction to the physics of biological systems using theoretical tools, with examples from diverse areas of biology such as pattern formation, low Reynolds number fows, cytoskeleton and motors and transport in cells, gene expression and chromatin organisation, among others.

INTENDED AUDIENCE : All Engineering students

PREREQUISITES : Statistical Mechanics (Preferred, not a hard prerequisite)

Course Status : Completed
Course Type : Elective
Duration : 12 weeks
Category :
  • Physics
Credit Points : 3
Level : Undergraduate/Postgraduate
Start Date : 24 Jan 2022
End Date : 15 Apr 2022
Enrollment Ends : 07 Feb 2022
Exam Date : 23 Apr 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 : Introduction to Biophysics, Spatial and temporal scales
Week 2 : Random walks and diffusion in biology, FRAP, cell signaling
Week 3 : Diffusion and capture processes, Mean capture times 
Week 4 : Fluid flows in biology, viscosity and Navier Stokes equation 
Week 5 : Life at low Reynolds number, Scallop theorem and bacterial flagella 
Week 6 : Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics: Energy, entropy, free energy 
Week 7 : Two-state systems, cooperative binding, Hemoglobin
Week 8 : Polymers and biopolymers, Entropic elasticity, persistence length
Week 9 : Force spectroscopy, HP model of protein folding, Chromosome models
Week 10 : Life in crowded environments, Depletion forces
Week 11 : Biological dynamics and rate equations, motors and filaments
Week 12 : Pattern formation in biology, Reaction-diffusion systems

Books and references

  1. Physical Biology of the Cell, Rob Phillips, Jane Kondev, Julie Theriot,
  2. Hernan Garcia (CRC Press)
  3. Biological Physics, Philip Nelson (W.H. Freeman)
  4. Mathematical Models in Biology, Elizabeth Allman, John Rhodes
  5. (Cambridge University Press)
  6. Random Walks in Biology, Howard Berg (Princeton University Press)

Instructor bio

Prof. Mithun Mitra

IIT Bombay
I am a theoretical physicist with a training in statistical mechanics and soft condensed matter physics. My research focuses on understanding the physics of living systems, using both theoretical and simulation methods. In particular, some of the topics I am interested in include transport inside cells, the packaging of chromosomes in nuclei, and the physical principles underlying morphogenesis and growth of embryos.

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: 23 April 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 8 assignments out of the total 12 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 IIT Bombay.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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