8.592J - HST.452J

Statistical Physics in Biology

Spring 2013


Welcome to the Spring 2013 Homepage for Physics 8.592J

The course is taught by Prof. Mehran Kardar, in collaboration with Prof. Leonid Mirny.

Lectures and Recitations: TR 9.30-11, in room 5-134.


Catalogue Description:  A survey of problems at the interface of statistical physics and modern biology:  Bioinformatic methods for extracting information content of DNA; gene finding, sequence comparison, phylogenetic trees. Physical interactions responsible for structure of biopolymers; DNA double helix, secondary structure of RNA, elements of protein folding. Considerations of force, motion, and packaging; protein motors, membranes. Collective behavior of biological elements; cellular networks, neural networks, evolution.

Justification: There has been an explosion of biological data in the past few years, such as the complete genome of many organisms from bacteria to human, the structures of some RNA and numerous proteins, and the expression profiles of thousands of genes by chip technology. Converting this enormous data to useful biological knowledge requires a multitude of computational and statistical tools, as well as novel conceptual perspectives. Progress in this task requires knowledge of a number of issues such as optimization, partitioning, pattern recognition, collective behavior, which are in the domain of statistical physics. Since the central task of statistical physics is to describe how complex behavior emerges from interaction of large numbers of basic elements, its tools and concepts should be valuable in bioinformatics. The aim of this course is to introduce and explore some topics at the interface of physics and biology.


General course information:


Check these pages often for updates:

From these pages you can access copies of all handouts distributed in class.


- last update 1/30/13 by M. Kardar