Biophysics Concentration

Haverford’s biophysics program is located at the interface between physical and biological sciences. For our ambitious students and faculty who seek to understand biological processes from physical and chemical points of view, this is an especially exciting place to be. Our rigorous program combines classroom and laboratory training along with significant faculty mentorship—all in an environment that facilitates moving freely between traditional disciplinary boundaries.

A highly specialized program, students pursuing the concentration must also be biology, chemistry, or physics majors; we offer a range of courses of study depending on the student’s particular area of interest. Concentrators can choose to focus on biochemistry, biophysics, or biochemistry/biophysics, all of which provide exceptional training for students interested in pursuing Ph.D. and/or M.D. degrees.

Curriculum & Courses

Our curriculum varies depending on the particular concentration each student chooses to pursue. However, all students in the program are required to complete our core curriculum, which includes courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Required courses include Biology 200, which covers cell structure and function; Biology 300, a lab in biochemistry and molecular biology; and Chemistry 112, which covers chemical dynamics. Concentrators must also take a math course at the level of calculus II or higher and an introductory physics class.

Additional courses specific to each student’s major combined with their biophysics concentration are also required.

  • Concentration Requirements

    Biochemistry/Biophysics Core Curriculum (required of all):

    • BIOL H200 (Evolution, Genetics and Genomes) and BIOL H201 (Molecules, Cells, and Organisms)
    • CHEM H104CHEM H112 or CHEM H114 (Chemical Dynamics).
    • MATH H118 (Calculus II) or a one semester mathematics or statistics course with MATH H118 as a prerequisite.
    • PHYS H105 and PHYS H106, or PHYS H101 and PHYS H102 (two semesters of Introductory Physics), or the Bryn Mawr equivalents. 

    Concentrators typically complete required coursework at the 200-level and higher in participating Haverford departments.  One course taken elsewhere may be substituted with prior approval of the relevant department and the Concentration coordinator; students seeking additional flexibility may petition the Concentration Committee in advance regarding their needs and plans.

    The advanced interdisciplinary coursework requirements vary by major and desired concentration:

    Biology Major with a Biochemistry Concentration:

    Biology majors seeking a biochemistry concentration must complete the biochemistry/biophysics core curriculum (see above) as well as the following additional requirements: 

    • CHEM H111 or CHEM H113 or CHEM H115 (Chemical Structure and Bonding), CHEM H222 and CHEM H225 (Organic Chemistry).
    • CHEM H304 (Statistical Thermodynamics and Kinetics) or CHEM H305 (Quantum Chemistry).
    • One semester of advanced biochemistry-related laboratory coursework: CHEM H301 or CHEM H302 (Laboratory in Chemical Structure and Reactivity) or BIOL H303/CHEM H303 (Laboratory in Biochemical Research). For concentrators, this course will count towards the Biology major in lieu of either BIOL H300 or BIOL H301.
    • Two half-semester advanced courses with significant biochemistry content: CHEM H351 (Bioinorganic Chemistry), CHEM H352 (Topics in Biophysical Chemistry), and CHEM H357 (Topics in Bioorganic Chemistry); students may take topics courses multiple times with different topics.
    • Two half-semester courses with significant biochemistry content: BIOL H311 (Advanced Genetic Analysis), BIOL H313 (Structure and Function of Macromolecules), BIOL H314 (Biochemistry: Metabolic Basis of Disease and Adaptation), BIOL H316 (Inter- and Intra-Cellular Communication), BIOL H320 (Molecular Microbiology), BIOL H322 (Cell Architecture), BIOL H324 (Photosynthesis), BIOL H326 (Biochemical Adaptations), BIOL H328 (Immunology), BIOL H451 (Molecular Motors and Biological Nano-Machines), BIOL H452 (Advanced Topics in Immunology), BIOL H454 (Advanced Topics in Virology), and BIOL H457 (Topics in Protein Science).

    Biology Major with a Biophysics Concentration:

    Biology majors seeking a biophysics concentration must complete the biochemistry/biophysics core curriculum (see above) as well as the following additional requirements:

    • MATH H121 (Calculus III) or MATH H216 (Advanced Calculus).
    • PHYS H213 (Waves and Optics), PHYS H211 (Laboratory in Electronics, Waves and Optics); half-credit course), and PHYS H301 (Advanced Laboratory in Modern Physics). For concentrators, PHYS H301 will count towards the Biology major in lieu of either BIOL H300 orBIOL H301.
    • PHYS H214 (Quantum Mechanics) or CHEM H305 (Quantum Chemistry).
    • PHYS H303 (Statistical Physics) or CHEM H304 (Statistical Thermodynamics and Kinetics).
    • PHYS H320 (Topics in Biological Physics) or a similar course approved by the coordinating committee
    • Two half-semester courses with significant biophysics content: BIOL H311 (Advanced Genetic Analysis), BIOL H313 (Structure and Function of Macromolecules), BIOL H314 (Biochemistry: Metabolic Basis of Disease and Adaptation), BIOL H316 (Inter- and Intra-Cellular Communication), BIOL H320 (Molecular Microbiology), BIOL H322 (Cell Architecture), BIOL H324 (Photosynthesis), BIOL H326 (Biochemical Adaptations), BIOL H328 (Immunology), BIOL H451 (Molecular Motors and Biological Nano-Machines), BIOL H452​ (Advanced Topics in Immunology), BIOL H454 (Advanced Topics in Virology), and BIOL H457 (Topics in Protein Science).

    Chemistry Major with a Biochemistry Area of Concentration:

    Chemistry majors desiring a biochemistry area of concentration must complete the biochemistry/biophysics core curriculum (see above) as well as the following additional requirements:

    • One semester of advanced biochemistry-related laboratory coursework: normally BIOL H300 or BIOL H301 (Advanced Lab in Biology) or BIOL H303/CHEM H303 (Laboratory in Biochemical Research). Any of these courses, along with one semester of either CHEM H301 or CHEM H302, satisfy the advanced laboratory requirement for the Chemistry major. Citing clear educational advantages, a student may petition the Concentration Coordinator to satisfy the advanced biochemistry-related laboratory coursework requirement with similar study abroad laboratory course(s), or with a CHEM H36x research tutorial course involving biochemical experiments; this course must be in addition to the research course required for the Chemistry major.
    • Two half-semester courses with significant biochemistry content: CHEM H351 (Bioinorganic Chemistry), CHEM H352 (Topics in Biophysical Chemistry), and CHEM H357 (Topics in Bioorganic Chemistry). Students may take topics courses multiple times with different topics.
    • Two half-semester courses with significant biochemistry content: BIOL H311 (Advanced Genetic Analysis), BIOL H313 (Structure and Function of Macromolecules), BIOL H314 (Biochemistry: Metabolic Basis of Disease and Adaptation), BIOL H316 (Inter- and Intra-Cellular Communication), BIOL H320 (Molecular Microbiology), BIOL H322 (Cell Architecture), BIOL H324 (Photosynthesis), BIOL H326 (Biochemical Adaptations), BIOL H328 (Immunology), BIOL H451 (Molecular Motors and Biological Nano-Machines),  BIOL H452​ (Advanced Topics in Immunology), BIOL H454 (Advanced Topics in Virology), and BIOL H457 (Topics in Protein Science).

    Physics Major with a Biophysics Area of Concentration:

    Physics majors desiring a biophysics area of concentration must complete the biochemistry/biophysics core curriculum (see above) as well as the following additional requirements:

    • An advanced biochemistry or biology laboratory course: one semester of BIOL H300 or BIOL H301 (Advanced Lab in Biology) or BIOL H303/CHEM H303 (Laboratory in Biochemical Research).
    • Either PHYS H320 (Topics in Biological Physics) or two half-semester courses with significant biophysics content: BIOL H311 (Advanced Genetic Analysis), BIOL H313 (Structure and Function of Macromolecules), BIOL H314 (Biochemistry: Metabolic Basis of Disease and Adaptation), BIOL H316 (Inter- and Intra-Cellular Communication), BIOL H320 (Molecular Microbiology), BIOL H322 (Cell Architecture), BIOL H324 (Photosynthesis), BIOL H326 (Biochemical Adaptations), BIOL H328 (Immunology), BIOL H451 (Molecular Motors and Biological Nano-Machines), BIOL H452​ (Advanced Topics in Immunology), BIOL H454 (Advanced Topics in Virology), and BIOL H457 (Topics in Protein Science).

    The Biophysics Concentration may be elected with either the Interdisciplinary or Traditional Physics major. BIOL H200, BIOL H201 and  the advanced biochemistry or biology laboratory course satisfy the Interdisciplinary Physics major requirement of two 200(+)-level courses in a related field as well as the upper level laboratory course requirement. The 300-level biology courses meeting concentration requirements may be used in lieu of one or two of the six required 300-level physics courses required for the Traditional Physics major. 

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