96023 - Cell Physical Chemistry and Quantitative Biology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the students know i) the physical-chemical principles governing the processes of energy transformations, diffusion and the kinetics of those processes in cells; ii) physical-chemical quantitative methods and approaches to study the cell biology. It includes making accurate measurements to test a predefined hypothesis and comparing the obtained experimental data with theoretical model predictions. The student is able to use calculation and experimental tools for the quantitative description of cellular processes.

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 in cells.

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

4. Electrolite solutions. 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.

9. Basics of statistics and probability with applications to experimental data. Data analysis and plotting.


Lecture notes and slides

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

P.W. Atkins, J. De Paula, Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences, 2nd Edition


Teaching methods

The course consists in 32 hours of lectures. The course also comprises 12 hours of numerical exercises and 15 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, online IOL platform.

Office hours

See the website of Stefania Rapino