What Is Biophysics?

Biophysics is the application of the laws of physics to biological problems. It uses the languages of math and computation in seeking to describe biology in quantitative terms. Biophysicists use the ideas, instrumentation, and computational models of physics to understand living things. From the molecules within cells to the creation of medical technologies, biophysics has an enormous impact on our daily life.

Majoring in Biophysics

The undergraduate major in biophysics is a great choice for students who enjoy math and physics but are interested in problems related to biology or medicine.

The Hopkins major in biophysics has always been a rigorous and challenging major that attracts students interested in biology as well as mathematics, physics, and computation. The goal of the major is to achieve true integration among biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computation, and our majors become competent in all five areas.

However, interdisciplinary education is not just a matter of taking courses in different departments. The strength of our major is that we integrate all these scientific areas. This integration is accomplished through courses in biophysics, the advanced laboratory course, and the independent research requirement. Our courses emphasize concepts and problem solving over memorization. We train our students to become thinkers who will have the quantitative skills and technical abilities to address any biological problem at hand.

All our upper-level courses are small, and biophysics faculty members provide majors with personal, individualized mentorship.

In the first two years, students take foundation courses in math, physics, chemistry, and biology. In the second two years, students take specialized courses in biophysics, physics, and biology. Biophysics majors also complete at least two semesters of independent research. This curriculum prepares students to succeed in today’s interdisciplinary research and technology environment.

Mentor Program

The biophysics student-mentoring program has been a very successful program that connects freshmen and sophomores with junior and senior biophysics majors. Mentors provide advice about our program as well as life at Hopkins.

Where Can I Go With a Degree in Biophysics?

Many of the most important advances in biotechnology and medicine are occurring at the intersection between biology, physics, computer science, and engineering. The biophysics major provides the broad math and science skills necessary to compete in this interdisciplinary environment. More importantly, students are encouraged to think independently. This establishes problem-solving skills useful throughout life.

Biophysics majors follow many different professional paths after leaving Hopkins. Biophysics majors typically go to medical, doctoral, or combined MD/PhD programs following graduation.

Many of our majors enter highly ranked graduate programs in biophysics, cell biology, public health, physiology, and neuroscience. Such programs prepare individuals for careers in basic biomedical research, biotechnology and pharmaceutical R&D, private business consulting, governmental regulatory agencies, science education, science journalism, and many other fields. A large number of our graduates are accepted each year to medical school, while still others pursue degrees in law or environmental sciences.

Learning Goals

  • Develop quantitative and physical understanding of molecular and cellular aspects of biology and the underlying logic of living systems. Develop skills to identify meaningful, fundamental, critical questions of biological systems in the postgenomic era.
  • Understand fundamental concepts and methods of physics and their application to the study of biological molecules, living systems and life processes.
  • Develop a thorough grounding in fundamental mathematical, statistical and analytical approaches for quantitative study of living systems and life processes.
  • Develop skills in critical thinking and reading, and in effective written and oral communication.
  • Develop working knowledge of a modern computer programming language or environment (e.g. UNIX, Python) and of a software package (e.g. Mathematica or Matlab) for statistical analysis and simulation. Develop the skills to use computational approaches to study biological molecules, living systems and life processes.
  • Learn laboratory skills and technique for analysis of biomolecules, with emphasis on structure-function relationships.
  • Prepare for careers in the biological and physical sciences and engineering, including medical and veterinary medicine, and for graduate studies in the biological sciences and biologically-focused chemistry, physics.