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Courses Phys courses for biology research

  1. Mar 18, 2012 #1
    Hello, I'd like to pursue a career in bio research (MD/PhD), preferably in molecular, structural bio alike. I plan to minor in phys and math and would like some guidance in coursework. I'll take:

    Modern phys (trans to upper division phys course)
    Math methods in physics
    Theoretical mechanics
    int ro to Quantum mechanics (1 to 2 semesters)

    Math courses
    Intro to higher math
    Calc of sevreral varariables (taking it now)
    Intro to diffeq
    Linear algebra
    Qualitative ordinary diffeq (more advanced course)
    Graph theory
    Math bio.

    I plan to take intro to quantum mechanics in my senior yr, the 2nd semester course will have time conflict with math bio; i wonder if these phys courses will serve me well for bio research in the future. I know thermodynamics is really important in protein science, but will i be better off taking the chem sequence? I'm not too crazy about chem because the class, from wat i've hrd is poorly taught. The phys chemistry sequence (2 semester) cover thermochemistry and quantum chemistry, but i figure it maynot be as in depth as that in phys. which one should I take?
    How will quantum mechanics play a role in molecular biology? How will it help exactly if I were to pursue a career in research (MD/PhD programs)
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2012 #2

    Andy Resnick

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    Education Advisor

    What is your major? If you are serious about pursuing cell&molecular biology, you should get some serious exposure to organic chemistry/biochemistry as well.

    Thermo is definitely an essential background- so is statistical mechanics. QM per se does not play a large role in biology, but understanding QM is not a bad thing and it's needed to understand certain measurement techniques like NMR and its variations.
  4. Mar 18, 2012 #3
    This. A solid, year long sequence in organic chemistry followed by bioorganic wouldn't hurt. It's also not a bad idea to take an inorganic course.

    What chemistry courses are bad at your school? Physical chemistry wouldn't be a bad idea as thermodynamics in a chemistry department generally spends more time on topics of interest to a biologist than in a physics department.
  5. Mar 18, 2012 #4
    I'm a biochem major at the same time, so I'll have 2 semesters of organic as well and plenty of bio classes. not too crazy about them since lots of classes are repetitive. The phys chem sequence is 2 semesters, i don't think i have enough spots to put them in my schedules; i jst think the phys. has more theoretical foundation, and it matches well to obtain a minor in phys (jst enough courses)
  6. Mar 18, 2012 #5
    One thing to keep in mind is that the correspondence between a year-long sequence in physical chemistry and upper-division courses in quantum mechanics and thermal physics isn't quite that clear. There's usually more exposure to material involving chemical bonding and spectroscopy, to say nothing of (bio)chemically relevant applications of thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and usually some surface & solids chemistry. Of course, the trade-off is depth for breadth, although it's typically made up later on (when my one graduate co-advisor taught quantum for chemistry grad students, he used the doorstop, err, the Cohen-Tannoudji two-volume QM text).

    I suppose the question is - what is it that you envision yourself doing in structural/molecular biology research? There are plenty of people who basically just crank out structures of (reasonably) interesting and biologically relevant macromolecules with the appropriate biochemical data and (if possible) in vivo studies as a complement. People doing methods development (e.g., devising new NMR pulse programs or scattering techniques) generally will need a deeper appreciation of the underlying formalisms, although it's usually something which is picked up outside of the classroom and within a research group via group meetings, tutorials, and so on.
  7. Mar 19, 2012 #6
    I'd like to have a strong foundation in the sciences. I have no idea wat sort of research I'll do later
  8. Mar 19, 2012 #7
    In that case....honestly, it almost doesn't matter. Any of the paths you outlined would set you up well for further research. I'd pick the courses that are taught by the most dynamic and instructive faculty. One really interesting thing about structural/molecular biology is that people come to the field from all over the natural sciences and engineering.
  9. Mar 21, 2012 #8
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