Teaching plan for the course unit



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General information


Course unit name: Biophysics

Course unit code: 363745

Academic year: 2021-2022

Coordinator: Pere Roca-cusachs Soulere

Department: Department of Biomedical Sciences

Credits: 6

Single program: S



Estimated learning time

Total number of hours 150


Face-to-face and/or online activities



-  Lecture





-  Laboratory session





-  Seminar




Supervised project


Independent learning






It is advisable to have acquired the relevant knowledge and skills taught in Physics and Mathematics before taking this subject.



Competences to be gained during study



To be able to analyse and summarize (Instrumental).


To be able to work independently (Personal).


To be able to work in a team or a multidisciplinary group (Personal).


To be able to work in a multilingual environment and communicate and transmit knowledge, procedures, results, abilities and skills (oral and written) in a native and a foreign language (Instrumental).


To gain knowledge of biomedical concepts and language.


To know about and apply engineering concepts to the study of biological processes and the functions of the human organism. To gain knowledge of the atomic, molecular, cellular and organic levels of the physical mechanisms and phenomena that have an impact on health and disease.


To gain knowledge of the structure and normal function of apparatuses and systems, as well as their homeostatic and regulatory mechanisms. To understand the principles of adaptation to the environment.


To know about alterations in the structure and function of the different types of cells.


To know about cell function and structure and the techniques that are used to study this area.

Learning objectives


Referring to abilities, skills

General skills. Upon completion of the course, students are able to:

— Use the laws of physics to interpret biological phenomena, analyse and understand physical mechanisms at a molecular, cellular and organic level, and normal and pathological physiological functions.
— Apply the concepts, methods and techniques of biophysics in the study of the functions of the human body.
— Solve numerical problems by formulating hypotheses and making a critical assessment of the results.
— Understand the theoretical and experimental biophysical models of physiological functions.
— Understand fundamental diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, and explain the workings, applications and limitations of the instrumentation and technology available in this context.
— Use the appropriate language for scientific communication.


Specific skills. Upon completion of the course, students are able to:

— Relate changes in the electronic structure of atoms and molecules to the absorption or emission of energy.
— Describe the electromagnetic spectrum and explain the effects of electromagnetic radiation on different atoms and molecules.
— Describe the basic principles of the most commonly used spectroscopic techniques in medicine.
— Relate molecular structure to polar characteristics.
— Interpret the phenomenon of nuclear decay and apply the law of radioactive decay.
— Describe the interaction of electromagnetic and corpuscular ionizing radiation with matter.
— Describe the working principles of an X-ray tube.
— Describe the physical basis of imaging techniques utilising the emission and attenuation of ionizing radiation.
— Produce thermodynamic characterisations of biological processes and systems.
— Quantify the energy balance of biological processes and of human metabolism using the first law of thermodynamics.
— Apply the second law of thermodynamics to biological systems.
— Relate the state of equilibrium of a system to free energy changes.
— Justify the need for coupling between endergonic and exergonic processes in biological systems.
— Explain the processes of diffusion through membranes.
— Describe the processes of water transport across membranes.
— Explain the processes of ion transport in an electric potential gradient.
— Explain the molecular mechanisms of transport across membranes, outlining the different types.
— Interpret the appearance of diffusion potential and describe the instrumentation needed to record and quantify it.
— Describe the mechanisms for the generation of membrane potential.
— Describe action potential and relate it to changes in ionic conductance.
— Explain the mechanisms of nerve impulse transmission in the axon.
— Explain the mechanism of sound propagation and its dependence on the environment.
— Define sound intensity and explain and use the decibel scale.
— Define and explain the acoustic impedance of sound reflection and transmission at an interface.
— Explain the mechanism of sound transmission in the ear.
— Explain the basis for the use of ultrasound in medicine.
— Describe the characteristics of the eye as an optical system and explain how images are formed on the retina.
— Describe the main optical defects of the eye and how they are corrected.
— Understand the concept of visual acuity and explain the characteristics of colour vision.


Generic skills. Upon completion of the course, students are able to:

— Analyse and synthesise information.
— Organise and plan work.
— Understand and apply the software tools relevant to the subject.
— Understand the principles of the scientific method.
— Produce critical analyses of biomedical information.
— Formulate hypotheses and apply theoretical models to problem-solving.
— Interpret graphs.
— Work in teams.
— Use the appropriate language and tools for writing up and presenting results.



Teaching blocks


1. Atomic and molecular structure

1.1. Atomic structure

1.2. Molecular structure

1.3. Absorption and emission of light by atoms and molecules

1.4. Laser

1.5. Thermography

1.6. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

2. Radiophysics

2.1. Radioactivity

2.2. Applications of medical isotopes

2.3. X-rays

2.4. Photon-matter interaction

2.5. Molecular and cellular effects of ionizing radiation

3. Biological thermodynamics

3.1. Conservation of energy

3.2. Human metabolism and heat dissipation

3.3. Entropy and irreversibility

3.4. Free energy and spontaneity

3.5. Metabolic reactions

4. Transport across membranes

4.1. Diffusion

4.2. Osmosis

4.3. Ion flow

4.4. Electro-diffusion balance

5. Bioelectricity

5.1. Diffusion potential

5.2. Membrane potential

5.3. Action potential

5.4. Action potential conduction

6. Biophysics of hearing

6.1. Nature of sound

6.2. Ultrasounds: medical applications

6.3. Sound transmission in the ear

6.4. Sound transduction in the ear

7. Biophysics of vision

7.1. Optical system of the eye

7.2. Transduction of light in the eye

7.3. Refractive index and its correction

7.4. Visual acuity

7.5. Colour vision



Teaching methods and general organization


This course is taught entirely in English and delivered in face-to-face mode. In case the current health situation worsens and restrictions are introduced, theory and problem-solving sessions may be adapted to online mode.



Official assessment of learning outcomes


Continuous assessment comprises an examination carried out during the course and a written report on some topics of the practical contents.


Examination-based assessment

Single assessment comprises an examination covering the entire content of all theoretical and practical classes and practical laboratory sessions.

The examination contains:
— multiple-choice questions;
— short-answer questions;
— problem-solving exercises.

The examination is designed to assess:
— understanding of general concepts;
— knowledge of laws, phenomena and processes;
— ability to relate and integrate theoretical knowledge;
— ability to apply knowledge to problem solving;
— ability to solve numerical exercises;
— ability to describe and interpret data using graphs.