Resources and community for teaching physics for life sciences

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Life Sciences Topics

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238 Contributions

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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.

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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Using math in physics - Anchor equations

Instructor supplement, Restricted access, Student reading, Homework, In-class activity

A few fundamental equations can help organize large blocks of conceptual knowledge and serve as starting points for problem solving

Medical Applications, Human and Animal Physiology, Biomechanics

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

Edward Redish

NEXUS Physics


Photons in biology

Remote Learning, In-class activity, Homework, Restricted access

Answering questions about light frequencies in jellyfish and xray lines emitted from tungsten


Synthesis and Analysis of Color, Spectra, Absorption

Edward Redish

NEXUS Physics

Flame test

Remote Learning, In-class activity, Homework, Restricted access

Finding the number of atoms in the first excited state of sodium


Atomic Physics, Spectra

Edward Redish

NEXUS Physics

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