Historically, the fields of biology and physics have been fairly far removed from each other as undergraduate disciplines. After all, biology deals with life in its variety and complexity, whereas physics looks for mathematical laws of nature in order to allow detailed predictions about idealized systems. But the past few decades have seen an emergence of a new field – biophysics – that attempts to span the distance between the complexity of life and the simplicity of physical laws. This new and exciting field holds great potential toward solving some of today’s greatest challenges, including how to meet the future demands for energy and food while preserving biological diversity on our planet.

The biophysics program is highly interdisciplinary, providing students with the background and techniques of biology, chemistry and physics necessary to enter this rapidly growing field. A key component of the program is the hands on experience gained in numerous laboratory settings across the disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics, culminating in a senior capstone research experience in the biophysics area. The program’s flexibility is intended to allow students to tailor their experience toward their personal interests, be it in industrial research, engineering, teaching, or health-science. The program’s structure is intended to prepare a student for the rigors of advanced degree programs in biophysics as well as a wide variety of other fields of physics, law, medicine, health sciences, and biotechnology.

The biophysics major requires 24 semester hours of specific physics courses, 16 semester hours of specific chemistry courses, 8 semester hours of specific biology courses, 11 semester hours of a specific mathematics course, and 15 credit hours of natural sciences electives (5 of which must be in physics). To strengthen and broaden the background of all Xavier students, a liberal arts core curriculum consisting of courses in history, literature, foreign language, philosophy, social sciences, fine arts, and theology is also a part of the program. Upon successful completion of the undergraduate program, students receive a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in biophysics.

The following block schedule serves as a guideline for progress toward a degree in Biophysics.

Freshman Year

First Semester Credit Hours Second Semester Credit Hours
PHYS 170
University Physics I
3 PHYS 172
University Physics II
PHYS 171
Explorations in Physics
1 PHYS 173
Explorations in Physics II
BIOL 160
General Biology I
3 MATH 171
Calculus II
BIOL 161
General Biology I Lab
2 Theology 111 3
MATH 170
Calculus I
4 Philosophy 100 3
First Year Seminar 3    
Total 16 Total 14

Sophomore Year

First Semester Credit Hours Second Semester Credit Hours
PHYS 330
Modern Physics I
3 PHYS 340
Modern Physics II
PHYS 331
Modern Physics I Lab
1 PHYS 341
Modern Physics II Lab
CHEM 160
General Chemistry I
3 CHEM 162
General Chemistry II
CHEM 161
General Chemistry I Lab
1 CHEM 163
General Chemistry II Lab
Composition 100 or Rhetoric 115 3 MATH 230
Differential Equations
Second Language I 3 Second Language II 3
Total 14 Total 14

Junior Year

First Semester Credit Hours Second Semester Credit Hours
PHYS 350
Theoretical Mechanics
3 PHYS elective
CHEM 240
Organic Chemistry I
3 CHEM 242
Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 241
Organic Chemistry I Lab
1 CHEM 243
Organic Chemistry II Lab
PHYS / CHEM / BIOL elective 3 PHYS / CHEM / BIOL elective 3
PHIL 200
Philosophical Perspectives
3 Theological Perspectives 3
Lit. & Moral Imagination 205 3 Historical Perspectives 3
Total 16 Total 16

Senior Year

First Semester Credit Hours Second Semester Credit Hours
BIOL 440
3 PHYS 387
PHYS 395
Physics Research
1 PHYS 398
Physics Thesis
PHYS elective 3 PHYS / CHEM / BIOL elective 3
Social Sciences elective 3 Creative Perspectives elective 3
Humanities elective 3 ER/S* or General elective 3
DCR* or General elective 3 Writing Intensive* or General elective 3
Total 16 Total 16

* May double count with other core or major courses.

15 credit hours of natural sciences elective courses (at least 5 hours must be in physics) from the following:

  • BIOL: 222, 230, 231, 354, 360, 410, 411, 450, 451
  • CHEM: 220, 320, 322, 325, 330, 340, 341
  • PHYS: 242, 243, 355, 360, 364, 365, 376, 377, 382

Students interested in an advanced degree in biophysics are encouraged to take PHYS 382 Thermodynamics as one of their physics electives.

Students interested in health related careers should visit our Pre-health Options page

Note – Scientific Perspectives, Mathematical Perspectives, Natural Sciences, Oral Communications and Quantitative Reasoning electives satisfied in major.