Biophysics

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, 3 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 Semester Hours Second Semester Semester Hours
PHYSICS 170
University Physics I
3 PHYSICS 172
University Physics II
3
PHYSICS 171
Explorations in Physics
1 PHYSICS 173
Explorations in Physics II
1
BIOLOGY 160
General Biology I
3 MATH 171
Calculus II
4
BIOLOGY 161
General Biology I Lab
2 ENGLISH 101 or 115
English Composition or Rhetoric
3
MATH 170
Calculus I
4 FINE ARTS
Elective
3
PHILOSOPHY 100
Ethics and Intro to Philosophy
3 SOCIAL SCIENCE
Elective I
3
Total 16 Total 17

Sophomore Year

First Semester Semester Hours Second Semester Semester Hours
PHYSICS 330
Modern Physics I
3 PHYSICS 340
Modern Physics II
3
PHYSICS 331
Modern Physics I Lab
1 PHYSICS 341
Modern Physics II Lab
1
CHEMISTRY 160
General Chemistry I
3 CHEMISTRY 162
General Chemistry II
3
CHEMISTRY 161
General Chemistry I Lab
1 CHEMISTRY 163
General Chemistry II Lab
1
THEOLOGY 111
Theological Foundations
3 MATH 230
Differential Equations
4
FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Elective I
3 FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Elective II
3
HISTORY
Elective I
3 HISTORY
Elective II
3
Total 17 Total 18

Junior Year

First Semester Semester Hours Second Semester Semester Hours
PHYSICS 350
Theoretical Mechanics
3 PHYSICS
Elective
3
CHEMISTRY 240
Organic Chemistry I
3 CHEMISTRY 242
Organic Chemistry II
3
CHEMISTRY 241
Organic Chemistry I Lab
1 CHEMISTRY 243
Organic Chemistry II Lab
1
PHYS / CHEM / BIOL
Elective
3 PHYS / CHEM / BIOL
Elective
3
PHILOSOPHY 290
Theory of Knowledge
3 THEOLOGY
Scrip/Hist or Christ Sys Elective
3
SOCIAL SCIENCE
Elective II
3 LITERATURE 
Elective
3
Total 16 Total 16

Senior Year

First Semester Semester Hours Second Semester Semester Hours
BIOLOGY 440
Biochemistry
3 PHYSICS 387
Biophysics
3
PHYSICS 395
Physics Research
1 PHYSICS 398
Physics Thesis
1
PHYSICS
Elective
3 PHYS / CHEM / BIOL
Elective
3
PHILOSOPHY 300 - 499
Elective
3 THEOLOGY
Ethics or Rel/Cult Elective
3
ENGLISH / CLAS / SPAN 205
Literature & the Moral Imagination
3 ER/S FOCUS
Elective
3
DIVERSITY CURRICULUM
Elective I
3 DIVERSITY CURRICULUM
Elective II
3
Total 16 Total 16

Note that ER/S and Diversity Curriculum requirements can be fulfilled with other core courses, although this is not always possible.

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.