B.S. Requirements in Biophysics

Note: as of fall 2012, the Biophysics Oversight Committee is in the process of making changes to the Biophysics requirements that will be submitted and hopefully approved by spring of 2013. The following requirements are not the official ones stated in the 2012-2013 Course Bulletin but are what the Biophysics DUS is implementing until the proposed changes are approved.

The main proposed changes are the elimination of the two concentrations (molecular and cellular) so that there is only one Biophysics degree, and the requirement that students learn about thermal physics and quantum mechanics by taking either two physics courses or two physical chemistry courses. Otherwise, the required courses are similar to the requirements stated in the Bulletin.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Biophysics.


  • "Fundamentals of Physics I", Physics 161L or equivalent
  • "Fundamentals of Physics II", Physics 162L or equivalent
  • "Introductory Calculus II With Applications", Math 122L or equivalent
  • "Multivariable Calculus", Math 212 
  • "Linear Algebra", Math 221
  • "Elementary Differential Equations", Math 356
  • "Core Concepts in Chemistry", Chemistry 101DL or equivalent.

Major Requirements

  • "Organic Chemistry", Chemistry 201DL
  • "Molecular Biology", Biology 201L
  • ONE of
    • "Genetics and Evolution", Biology 202L
    • "Cell and Developmental Biology", Biology 220
  • Quantum physics and thermal physics via:
    • "Optics and Modern Physics", Physics 264L
    • "Thermal Physics", Physics 363

    or via

    • "Physical Chemistry", Chemistry 310 (quantum chemistry)
    • "Physical Chemistry", Chemistry 311 (thermal physics and kinetics)
    • "Physical Chemistry Laboratory", Chemistry 310L or Chemistry 311L
  • "Introduction to Biophysics", Physics 414 (cross listed as Biology 418)
  • "Biophysics II", Physics 415 (cross-listed as Biology 425)
  • One of the following physics courses:
    • "Intermediate Mechanics", Physics 361
    • "Electricity and Magnetism", Physics 362
    • "Quantum Mechanics I", Physics 464
    • "Nonlinear Dynamics", Physics 513 (especially recommended)
    • A physics course numbered 300 or higher with approval of the Biophysics DUS
  • After satisfying the above prerequisites and major requirements, a Biophysics major must take three electives. These can be chosen from a diversity of Departments including Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Biomedical Engineering, Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Computer Science upon discussion with and approval by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Biophysics. The following electives are suggestive and many other choices are possible:
    • "Introduction to Biochemistry I", Biochemistry 301
    • "Principles of Animal Physiology", Biology 329L.
    • "Sensory Signal Transduction", Biology 412S
    • "Biomedical Electronic Measurements I", Biomedical Engineering 153L
    • "Quantitative Physiology", Biomedical Engineering 244L (especially recommended).
    • "Biophysical Chemistry", Chemistry 302
    • "Modeling Biological Systems", Mathematics 573S
    • "Fundamentals of Neuroscience", Neuroscience 201 (CL Bio 224, PSY 275).
    • "Electronics", Physics 271L
    • "Research Independent Study" through Biology, Chemistry, Neuroscience, or Physics

Recommended Other Courses

Biophysics majors seeking the BS degree are strongly recommended to take:

  • a research-independent study related to biophysics, with the topic approved by the Biophysics DUS.
  • an introductory course on computer programming such as Computer Science 101L or Engineering 53L as soon as possible. Programming is essential for nearly all biophysics-related research, for analyzing data and for controlling and carrying out experiments.
  • an introductory statistics course that will give them the background to understand how complex biological and medical data are summarized statistically, and to carry out statistical analysis themselves. Some possible courses are STA 130 ("Probability and Statistics in Engineering") and STA 102 ("Introductory Biostatistics").

Descriptions of the above courses can be found in the Duke University Undergraduate Bulletin