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Syllabus for

Academic year
FKA116 - Living state physics
Owner: TTFYA
5,0 Credits (ECTS 7,5)
Grading: TH - Five, Four, Three, Not passed
Level: D
Department: 16 - PHYSICS

Teaching language: English

Course module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 No Sp
0104 Examination 5,0 c Grading: TH   5,0 c   Contact examiner,  Contact examiner

In programs



Docent  Tomas Carlsson
Docent  Marina Voinova


For single subject courses within Chalmers programmes the same eligibility requirements apply, as to the programme(s) that the course is part of.

Course specific prerequisites

Students should have a background in general physics, mechanics and electrdynamics.


To present fundamental physical principles of biological and soft matter within a biophysical framwork and within basic theoretical physics of biopolymers and complex systems.


Living State Physics is a natural extension of Soft Condensed Matter Physics. It is the physical study of building blocks and forces relevant to biological matter. It is a branch of Biological Physics - the use of biosystems to study physics, complexity, physics of functions, and new mechanisms and concepts (self-assembling, self-organization, signal transduction, biomimetics).

In biological textbooks the description of a cell cycle, in terms of morphological transitions and phases, sounds surprisingly easy. However regarding the functions of a living cell as collective phenomena of the constituent molecules, and considering that a living cell with receptors and ligands is a chemically open system working at nonstationary conditions, this question appears to be an interdisciplinary nightmare. This is one reason why we approach this system from the condensed matter side to delineate the physical components.

Apart from the biological and chemical aspects, living matter is also condensed and thus requires to be understood in terms of physics. How groups of molecules assemble, into different subcellular systems such as DNA and proteins and whole living cells (beings), is a problem area per se with a vast interface to condensed matter physics, statistical physics and nanobioscience.

The main focus of the course is on tools developed by theoretical physics for the quantitative analysis of complex biological structures in various scales from nano- to microscopic. 'Hot' topics, ranging from micromechanics of single biological molecules (DNA, molecular motors, protein folding) to the dynamics of living cells will be studied in terms of simple physico-mathematical models and illustrated with practical examples and laboratory studies of lipid membranes, cell components and living cells.

The course is self-contained, requiring no background knowledge of biology, and only with basic concepts from theoretical physics, such as mechanics, electrodynamics and statistical physics.


Lectures, 4-6 h per week. Four laborations. In the course there is also an individual mini-project and compulsary home assignments.


Lecture notes: 'Living State Physics'(M.Voinova).

The following books are also recommended: Gennes. Scaling Concepts in Polymer Physics.
M.Doi and S.F.Edwards. The theory of Polymer Dynamics.
J.Israelachvili. Intermolecular and Surface Forces.
G.B.Benedek, F.M.H.Villars. Physics with illustrative examples from medicine and biology. Vol. II Statistical Physics and Vol. III Electricity and Magnetism. Biological Physics Series. 2001 (Springer)


In order to pass the course, the following items are needed:

Approved mini-project.
Approved laborations' report.
Approved written solutions of at least 50% of the home assignments.
Approved oral examination.

Page manager Published: Mon 28 Nov 2016.