Standard Program for the ScB Degree

A defining characteristic of Biophysics is that it is a quantitative science that requires a significant level of competence in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology. These areas therefore form the required background coursework for this program, and serve as a springboard to an advanced focus, developed in consultation with a concentration advisor. Advanced foci may include structure-function relations of macromolecules, biomechanics of cell cytoskeleton, biotechnology for drug and gene delivery, molecular mechanisms of membrane transport, sensory signal transduction, for examples. The program also requires a capstone research project that reflects this focus and may be drawn from collaborative research opportunities offered by faculty in biology, chemistry, or physics departments.

Because of this breadth of subject matter, the Biophysics concentration at Brown prepares students for careers in many fields, including academic or industrial research, health careers, teaching and patent law.



Physics Courses:
Students are required to take all of the following.

  • Foundations of Mechanics (PHYS 0050)
  • Foundations of Electromagnetism and Modern Physics (PHYS 0060) or Analytical Mechanics (PHYS 0070), Introduction to Relativity and Quantum Physics (PHYS 0160)*
  • Electricity and Magnetism (PHYS 0470)

**Formerly (PHYS 0080)

Chemistry Courses:
Students must take all of the following.

  • Equilibrium, Rate, and Structure (CHEM 0330)
  • Organic Chemistry, Part I (CHEM 0350)
  • Organic Chemistry, Part II (CHEM 0360)

Students must select one of the following.

  • Biophysical and Bioinorganic Chemistry (CHEM 0400)
  • Physical Chemistry: Quantum Chemistry (CHEM 1140)
  • Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics (PHYS 1530) or Biological Physics (PHYS 1610)

Mathematics Courses:
Students must take two courses.

  • Introductory Calculus, Part II (MATH 0100) or equivalent
  • and Intermediate Calculus (MATH 0180) or equivalent

Biology Courses:
Students must take the following course in biology.

  • The Foundation of Living Systems (BIOL 0200)

Students must also take two additional biology courses, chosen with approval of the advisor. Examples include the following courses in cell biology, physiology, pharmacology, and biotechnology.

  • Cell biology: Cell and Molecular Biology (BIOL 0500), Biology of the Eukaryotic Cell (BIOL 1050), Protein Biophysics and Structure (BIOL 1200)
  • Physiology: Principles of Physiology (BIOL 0800), Cell Physiology and Biophysics (BIOL 1100), Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity (BIOL 1190), Principles of Neurobiology (NEUR 1020)
  • Pharmacology: Physiological Pharmacology (BIOL 1260)
  • Biotechnology: Polymer Science for Biomaterials (BIOL 1090), and Biomaterials (BIOL 1120), or Tissue Engineering (BIOL 1140)

Directed Research:

  • Students must take one semester (two recommended) of Directed Research in biology (BIOL 1950/1960), or Chemistry Undergraduate Research (CHEM 0970/0980), or physics Senior Conference Course (PHYS 1990)

Advanced Courses:

  • Students must take six additional intermediate or advanced level courses, chosen from biology (e.g., biochemistry, genetics, physiology, physics, chemistry, and/or computer sciences and mathematics). Examples are listed in the chart below.


  • Introductory Biochemistry (BIOL 0280), Genetics (BIOL 0470), Principles of Physiology (BIOL 0800), Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity (BIOL 1190)


  • Advanced Classical Mechanics (PHYS 0500), Experiments in Modern, Physics (PHYS 0560), Quantum Mechanics A (PHYS 1410), Quantum Mechanics B (PHYS 1420), Biological Physics (PHYS 1610)


  • Linear Algebra (MATH 0520)

Applied Mathematics

  • Methods of Applied Mathematics I, II (APMA 0330, 0340, or 0350, 0360)


  • Chemical Biology (CHEM 1230), Advanced Organic Chemistry (CHEM 1450), Topics in Advanced Chemistry (CHEM 1560)