BSCI 426 - Fall, 2014

     Membrane Biophysics

Rm.  1238 in Biol/Psyc   Tu.Th. 4 to 5:15 PM

Marco Colombini Tel: 405-6925 ( (don't be a stranger)
                                                                office: Bio/Psyc rm. 3283

I will not be following any one book.  All required information will be covered in class.  However, links to many important web sites are found under the “outline of the course” (below). 

Other sources of Information:

1.  Molecular Biochemistry on-line course

2. Lectures on line

3. Molecular and Cell Biophysics by R. Nossal and H. Lecar (Addison-Wesley)

4. Cell Physiology Source Book by Nicholas Sperelakis 3rd Edition

5. Molecular and Cellular Biophysics by Meyer B. Jackson

6. Biological Physics by Philip Nelson

7. An Introduction to Membrane Transport and Bioelectricity by J. Byrne and S. Schultz (Raven)

8. The Vital Force: A study of Bioenergetics by F.M. Harold (Freeman)

9. Ionic Channels of Excitable Membranes by Bertil Hille (Sinauer)

For up-to-date information on resources from the library:  Library Resources

Course Objective: My major goal in this course is to help you become comfortable with quantitative aspects of biology and with the biophysical approach. By using mathematical descriptions of biological phenomena one can gain real insight into these biological systems and biological processes. The strategies that cells use can be appreciated for their beauty and, once understood, can be modified in rational ways. I sincerely hope that all of you gain this kind of appreciation.

A second, important objective is to develop a sophistication, a higher-level of thinking, about membranes and membrane phenomena. I want you to go way beyond the oversimplified picture given in lower-level courses. Membranes are essential to life in many ways: form compartments that contain the critical mix of materials to sustain life processes; form barriers to toxins or invaders; transduce the energy needed for life; harvest light for energy or vision; allow fast, long-distance communication; and probably allow us to think. More importantly, they are interesting dynamic objects rich in fascinating phenomena.

CAPSTONE COURSE: You may have chosen this course as part of your CORE Liberal Arts Sciences Studies Program. A CORE Capstone Course, taken in your major and after 86 credits, satisfies one of the two Advanced Studies requirements. It is designed to integrate material learned previously in your major. A faculty and student committee approved this CORE Advanced Studies Capstone course because it calls on you to examine the inter-relationships that bind your discipline together and transfers to you the main responsibility for taking an active role in learning. Please take advantage of the opportunity this course offers to you.


There will be frequent homework assignments. These will be graded and counted toward your final grade in the course. A few ground rules:

a) Completed homework assignments are due 1 week after class distribution. 

b) Students may work together on assignments but each must return his/her own work.

c) Assignments must be neat, organized, and easily legible or they won't be accepted.

d) Assignments containing errors should be corrected and resubmitted along with the original submission to ensure that the lesson has been learned and to improve the grade.  All resubmissions will only be accepted within 2 weeks of my returning your original graded assignment to you. 

Link to the Assignments


A letter grade for the course will be assigned as follows:

10% attendance and class participation; 20% homework assignments; 20% midterm exam; 50% final exam

Mid Term: October 21

Final Exam: Dec. 19, 4:00-6:00 in BPS 1238

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes and are responsible for making up missed work and returning assignments on time. 

Note: Exams can be made up if missed for the following reasons:
a) University activities at the request of University authorities
b) illness backed up by a verifiable written excuse from a physician indicating the nature of the illness

Please note that exams are defined as "Major Scheduled Grading Events" and are covered by campus policy.

For any other problem, please see me and I’ll do what I can.  …help is also available at the Learning Assistance Service (2202 Shoemaker or 301-314-7693)

P.S. You might be interested in getting a feel for my research at:


Philolaus of Tarentum was a leading Greek scientist who lived around 500 BC.  He taught that the Earth and the planets revolved around a central fire. He said: "Without numbers, we understand nothing and know nothing."

The biophysical approach is a process for converting Biology from a descriptive hobby to a quantitative science.

Required Standard Statements

• Academic Accommodations:  If you have a documented disability, you should contact Disability Support Services 0126 Shoemaker Hall.  Each semester students with documented disabilities should apply to DSS for accommodation request forms which you can provide to your professors as proof of your eligibility for accommodations.  The rules for eligibility and the types of accommodations a student may request can be reviewed on the DSS web site at

• Religious Observances:  The University System of Maryland policy provides that students should not be penalized because of observances of their religious beliefs, students shall be given an opportunity, whenever feasible, to make up within a reasonable time any academic assignment that is missed due to individual participation in religious observances.  It is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor of any intended absences for religious observances in advance.  Notice should be provided as soon as possible but no later than the end of the schedule adjustment period.  Faculty should further remind students that prior notification is especially important in connection with final exams, since failure to reschedule a final exam before the conclusion of the final examination period may result in loss of credits during the semester.  The problem is especially likely to arise when final exams are scheduled on Saturdays.

• Academic integrity:  The University of Maryland has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity,

administered by the Student Honor Council. This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all

undergraduate and graduate students.  As a student you are responsible for upholding these 
standards for this course.  It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, 
fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism.  For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity 
or the Student Honor Council, please visit
         The University of Maryland is one of a small number of universities with a student-administered
Honors Code and an Honors Pledge, available on the web at  
The code prohibits students from cheating on exams, plagiarizing papers,submitting the same paper 
for credit in two courses without authorization, buying papers, submitting fraudulent documents, and
 forging signatures.  The University Senate encourages instructors to ask students to write 
the following signed statement on each examination or assignment: 
 "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination (or assignment).”
(Please note that this pledge is only necessary for the mid-term and final exams.)