Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.

MSc SIS Edinburgh Course - Biophysical Chemistry Level 11 PHYS5076

  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Physics and Astronomy
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This is a course of lectures, tutorials and workshops that focuses on the interaction between key biological macromolecules and a wide range of fundamental physical phenomena. The course will describe the means by which these potentially highly informative interactions can be studied, and the data collected and processed. The subsequent exploitation of this data to infer key information concerning the three-dimensional structures, composition, dynamics, spatiotemporal distributions and mutual interactions of biological polymers such as proteins and nucleic acids will be outlined. The benefits to be gained from combined use of orthogonal but complementary techniques in an integrated fashion will be emphasized. The course will also teach how knowledge of the physical properties of biological polymers can be used to predict the way in which they fold, adopt quasi-stable tertiary structures and form complexes with other molecules. Either the Level 10 or Level 11 version of this course version of this course (as specified in the degree programme tables) is a compulsory requirement for Year 4/5 students on degrees in Medicinal and Biological Chemistry, but can be taken by Year 4/5 students on any Chemistry degree programme.



Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses



PHYS5044 Fundamentals of Sensing


100% Written exam

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No

Edinburgh University does not provide resit examinations for MSc students. In cases where an assessment is affect by reasons of good cause a revised mark, based on other completed assessments, may be substituted.

Course Aims

The course consists of a series of modules on the following topics: hydrodynamics i.e. the inference of molecular size, shape and association properties based on the movements of molecules with or in relation to aqueous solvent; the application of visible and ultra-violet light to studies of native biomolecules or biomolecules conjugated with chromophores or fluorophores (biophotonics); nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and its applications to structural and dynamic studies of proteins and protein complexes; X-ray crystallography and high-resolution structure determination of macromolecules; electron microscopy applied to biomacromolecules and composite biological structures; and the use of in silico techniques such as molecular dynamics and simulated annealing to predict the structure and behaviour of proteins based on an understanding of their physical properties. The course will emphasise the physical basis of each technique and how this relates to its limitations leading to an appreciation of why several experimental and computational techniques, applied in combination, provide the most robust information.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles underlying the interplay between various physical phenomena and the physical properties of biomolecules, along with an awareness of the limitations of current understanding.

2. Apply this knowledge and understanding to achieve a critical and nuanced appreciation of how the information needed to determine macromolecular structures and properties is acquired, processed, synthesised and assembled. 3) Generic Cognitive Skills

3. Review the theory and practices of a range of biophysical techniques and demonstrate an ability to assess the robustness of the hypothetical models and mechanisms that are inferred from the data they generate, exercising an informed and critical judgement of the available data.

4. Critically evaluate and understand the benefits as well as the theoretical and practical limitations of widely used software for simulating protein folding and protein-ligand interactions, and communicate the outcomes effectively.

5. In workshops and small-group work collaborate with peers in self learning exercises and share findings and informed judgements on protein folding predictions and the orthogonality of biophysical methods with the rest of the class.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.