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This subject aims to develop students’ understanding of the physics principles underpinning biological and environmental systems. It is designed for students with a sound background in physics, whose interests lie mainly in the biological sciences. Topics include:
Fluids: blood pressure and the circulatory system, breathing and respiration (pressure in fluids, fluid flow, viscosity).
Thermal physics: heating and cooling, energy balance of living organisms, ion movement across membranes (temperature and thermal energy, phase changes, heat transfer mechanisms, first law of thermodynamics, diffusion).
Electricity and magnetism: bioelectricity, nerve conduction, electrical safety, power transmission, synchrotron, biological effects of electromagnetic fields (electric charge and field, electric potential, capacitance, electric circuits, resistance, magnetic fields and forces, Faraday’s law of induction).
Atomic physics and lasers: fluorescence imaging and spectroscopy, laser surgery (structure of the atom, photons, spectroscopy, interaction of light with matter);
Radiation: radiation safety, therapeutic uses of radiation (the atomic nucleus, isotopes, nuclear decay and radiation, physical and biological half-life, ionising radiation); and
Imaging: modern biomedical imaging (X-rays, CT-scans and angiography, ultrasound imaging, positron emission tomography).
Intended learning outcomes
To enable students to understand the importance of physical principles to biological and environmental sciences, and develop their capacity to:
- understand and explain the physics principles of fluids, thermal physics, electricity and magnetism, atomic, radiation and imaging physics;
- apply these principles using logical reasoning, together with appropriate mathematical reasoning, to a variety of familiar and novel situations and problems in the biological and environmental sciences;
- make considered and logical predictions of the outcomes of different physical situations in the context of the relevant physics principles; and
- acquire experimental data using a range of measurement instruments and interpret these data.
A student who completes this subject should be able to:
- explain their understanding of physics principles and applications lucidly, both in writing and orally;
- acquire and interpret experimental data and design experimental investigations;
- participate as an effective member of a group in tutorial discussions, laboratory and study groups;
- think independently and analytically, and direct his or her own learning; and
- manage time effectively in order to be prepared for regular practical and tutorial classes, tests and the examination.
Last updated: 6 December 2023