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Biophysics of Cells and Single Molecules
Provider: Faculty of Science

Activity no.: 5898-21-11-31
Enrollment deadline: 30/07/2021
PlaceNiels Bohr Institute
Date and timeSeptember 2021 - November 2021
Regular seats20
ECTS credits7.50
Contact personJulie Meier Hansen    E-mail address: juliemh@nbi.ku.dk
Enrolment Handling/Course OrganiserLiselotte Jauffred    E-mail address: liselotte.jauffred@nbi.ku.dk
Semester/BlockBlock 1
Scheme groupB
Exam formOral examination
Exam formContinuous assessment
Exam detailsOral examination, 20-30 minutes Continuous assessment The mandatory project will be in the middle of the course period and will be based on answering questions in connection to scientific papers. The oral exam will take place in the exam week after the course period; the students will beforehand receive the questions for the oral exam and there will be no preparation time at the exam.
Exam aidsWithout aids
Criteria for exam assessmentEach student must have presented at least once during the course and must have completed the mandatory project in order to register for the oral exam.
Exam re-examinationSame as the regular exam. It will be possible to re-submit the presentation and the mandatory project before the re-exam; please contact the course responsible.
Course workload
Course workload categoryHours
Class Instruction20.00
Project work30.00
Theory exercises20.00


This course aims to give a broad introduction to cell mechanics and single molecule research with a focus on experimental biophysics.

Cells generate and sustain mechanical forces within their environment as part of their normal physiology. The active materials of the cell can detect mechanical stimulation by the activation of mechanosensitive signaling pathways, and respond to physical cues through cytoskeletal re-organization and force generation. Perturbations to the mechanical environment can affect cell behavior through mechano-sensing at the cell surface. To better understand these mechanisms we will explore physical phenomena like cytoskeleton dynamics, cell-cell interactions, viscoelasticity and perturbations to the mechanical environment influences cellular growth, shape maintenance, decision-making, motility etc.

The course is based on a combination of classical cell mechanics in combination with recent research results. Hence, an important aspect of the course is critical assessment of primary literature.

Learning outcome


The aim of the course is to make the students able to:

  • describe biological polymers with continuous mechanics;
  • explain how entropy drives elasticity of biopolymers;
  • describe polymerization dynamics and how it drives pushing and pulling;
  • explain directed motion of molecular motors;
  • identify the few key parameters that drive cell motility;
  • apply non-equilibrium theories; including Jarzynski's Equality and Crooks theorem;
  • describe polymer networks and membranes with continuous mechanics;
  • classify viscous and elastic regimes for cellular micro-rheology;
  • derive analytical expressions predicting shapes of biomembranes;
  • classify the different physical interactions that exist between biomembranes;
  • derive analytic expressions for the different nano-scale interactions between biomembranes.


The course aims at providing an overview of the field of cell mechanics; including single molecule systems such as molecular motors and nuclear acids, as well as the mechanics of membranes and the dynamic filaments of the cytoskeleton. Furthermore, the student will gain knowledge of particular examples from the forefront of experimental biophysics research.


The aim of the course is that the student should be able to apply physics to obtain a quantitative understanding of complex biological systems. The course participants will understand how important force and mechanical properties are for the development of life at all scales. The course participants will also gain competences in understanding the principles, capabilities, and limitations of some techniques commonly used to study experimental biophysics. Finally, the students will learn to critically read scientific papers and to disseminate the content to fellow students.

Applying for the course:
If you are a PhD student, please apply as a credit student. More info on the MSc course page: kurser.ku.dk

Direct link to application for admission as a credit student here

MSc students: please sign up via kurser.ku.dk

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