72576 - Physical Chemistry for Biology with laboratory

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course will present the fundamental principles of physics and their application to chemical and biological systems. Particular areas that will be covered include: thermodynamics applied to chemical and biochemical reactivity, chemical and biochemical kinetics and spectroscopy. Troughout the course emphasis will be put on the relation between microscopic and bulk properties and the use of mathematical skills to quantitatively describe chemical or biochemical systems and solve simple problems.

Course contents

Physical chemistry of the cell:

1. States of matter.

2. The principles of thermodynamics and the derived state functions. Chemical and mechanical equilibria. 

3. Systems with more than one phase or components. Partial molar quantities. Chemical potential.

4. Electrolite solutions. Ionic activity and the Debye-Huckel theory. Colligative properties of electrolite solution. Biological membranes.

5. Thermodynamics of electrochemical systems. Biological oxidation.

6. Chemical kinetics: reaction rate, order and molecularity. Reaction rates theories and temperature dependance. Complex reactions and reactions in solution. Enzymatic catalysis. Cellular dynamics of molecular motors.

7. Spectrophotometry and spectrofluorimetry

8. Functional imaging of living cells and biosensors.


Lecture notes and slides

P.W. Atkins, J. De Paula, Chimica Fisica, Zanichelli 2012

D. Eisemberg, D. Crothers, Physical Chemistry with applications to the life sciences, Benjamin /Cummings Company 1979

Rob Phillips, Jane Kondev, Julie Theriot "Physical Biology of the Cell". 2nd Ed. 2012

Teaching methods

The course consists in 32 hours of lectures. The course also comprises 12 hours of numerical exercises and 12 hours of laboratory practice.

Assessment methods

The exams is written and oral. The written part consists of numerical exercises similar to those solved during the course. The oral exam (which can be taken after passing the written part) will ascertain the comprehension of the theoretical part of the course and of the laboratory practicals. A written report on the laboratory practice is also required.

Teaching tools

Videoprojector, laboratories, PC

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Stefania Rapino