65824 - Spectroscopic Methods in Biology

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course will present the physical bases of the main spectroscopic methods currently used in biological research. Mathematical formalism will be kept to a minimum and specific biological applications will be considered.

Course contents

Introductory notions. Photoelectric effect and the photon theory of light. Black body radiation. Planck's quantum hypothesis. Wave nature of matter. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle. General aspects of the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and a molecular system. Spectroscopy and spectral regions. UV-visible absorption spectroscopy. Electronic transitions in biological molecules. The free electron model of polyenes. Spectrophotometry in the study of proteins and nucleic acids. Fluorescence spectroscopy. Energy transfer. FRET. Principles of Raman and infrared spectroscopy. Introduction to magnetic resonance: NMR and EPR spectroscopy. Advanced spectroscopic methods: ENDOR, Moessbauer, time resolved spectroscopies, single molecule spectroscopy. Simmetry in crystals; the reciprocal lattice. Diffraction of x-rays from crystals. Experimental methods in X-ray crystallography. Protein crystallography. X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Phenomenology. Experimental methods. The near edge region. The extended energy range spectral region. Examples of applications  to metalloproteins.


For the introductory part of the course: Douglas C. Giancoli. FISICA. Principi ed Applicazioni. Casa Editrice Ambrosiana (Milano).

Reference textbooks: (a) C.R. Cantor, P.R. Schimmel. Biophysical Chemistry. II. Techniques for the study of biological structure and function. W.H. Freeman and Co. (San Francisco); (b) R. Chang, Chimica Fisica, Vol. 2, Zanichelli; (c) C. Giacovazzo, Fundamentals of Crystallography (International Union of Crystallography Monographs on Crystallography),  Oxford University Press.

Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures.

Assessment methods

The examination aims to ascertain the attainment of the following, main didactic objectives: (a) the knowledge of the basic principles of the spectroscopic methods presented in the lectures; (b) the knowledge of the potentialities of the handled spectroscopic approaches in biological and biochemical studies; (c) the ability of analyzing and discussing spectroscopic results in the context of the scientific literature in the fields of biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. The exam consists in the presentation and discussion of a first argument chosen by the candidate, followed by a colloquium on arguments treated during the course.

Teaching tools

All the didactic material used during the lectures is made available to the students in electronic form.

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Venturoli