Resources and community for teaching physics for life sciences





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Living Physics Portal Team

NEXUS Physics


Edward Redish

Pedagogical Methods Used

Peer Instruction / Think-Pair-Share, Collaborative problem-solving, Conceptually-oriented activities, Context-rich problems, Ranking tasks, Mathematically-focused activities, Experimentally-focused activities, Tutorials

Life Sciences Focus

Focus on mathematical modeling. Viscous and drag forces, Reynolds’ number; resistive fluid flow; Random motion, Fick’s laws, and the implication of thermal motion for cellular biology; Understanding binding energy and the source of energy in chemical reactions; Entropy, micro and macro-states, and free energy; Energy exchange among mechanical, thermal, and chemical energies; physics in cellular and biochemistry; Interactions of photons with matter and discrete molecular energy levels.

Education Research and Pedagogy Expertise

Cognitive modeling of student thinking, issues in interdisciplinary instruction. Epistemological resources and epistemic games. Use of mathematics in science.

Years teaching physics for life sciences


Describe the courses that you teach for life sciences students

Fundamentals of Physics for the Life Sciences I and II (NEXUS Physics): A two semester class for bio and life science majors. Intended to fit in the middle of their program and to interact with it. Biology, chemistry, and calculus, and it is designed to help with physical issues in upper division biology classes. There is an emphasis on molecular and cellular issues rather than on physiology.

What is your approach to teaching physics for life science students?

I focus my IPLS instruction on issues that complement and support the instruction that my students receive in their biology and chemistry classes. This has implications on many levels includes broad issues such as learning how to think with and interpret symbolic equations, to understand thinking about physical mechanism, and to understand science as modeling, and specific issues, such as helping students understand diffusion, fluid flow, chemical binding, and entropy. I teach physics to demonstrate that taking a physics perspective often can provide deeper understanding of what they have learning in biology and chemistry classes.

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Ray Optics Virtual Lab

Remote Learning, In-class activity, Lab, Homework, Restricted access, Student reading, Exam problem

A lab designed as an online replacement for a hands-on exploration of the principles of optics.

Animal Adaptations, Natural Selection and Adaptation, Vision

Straight Line Propagation, Reflection - Flat Surfaces, Reflection - Curved Surfaces, Refractive Index, Refraction - Flat Surfaces, Thin Lens, Thick Lens

Edward Redish


Using math in physics - Functional dependence

Instructor supplement, Restricted access, Homework, Student reading, In-class activity, Lecture materials, Exam problem

An introduction to functional dependence with readings, problems, and examples throughout the curriculum

Evolution, Physical Mechanisms, Intracellular Components, Cellular Structure, Surface Area/volume, Synapse Structure/Function, Signaling Molecules, Medical Applications, Cardiovascular System

Electrostatics, Color, Oscillations, Force of Surface Tension, Capillary Action, Flow Rate, Hagen-Poiseuille Equation, Viscosity, Transverse Pulses and Waves, Wave Packets, Diffusion, Coulomb's Law, Electric Field, Thin Lens, Equation of Continuity

Edward Redish


Using math in physics - Toy models

Instructor supplement, Restricted access, Student reading, Homework

A set of readings and problems on the use of simplified (toy) models in physics.

Evolution, Causal Mechanisms, The Cell, Matter/energy Transfer & Transforms, Neural Info: Processing & Transport

Classical Mechanics, Fluid Mechanics, Oscillations & Waves, Thermo & Stat Mech, Electricity & Magnetism, Optics

Edward Redish


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