Honours Biophysics

The primary objective of the Biophysics program is to give students a good working knowledge of one subfield in the biological sciences at the senior undergraduate level. Students graduating in the program will also have an understanding of the basic concepts and quantitative skills of physics. It is intended that graduates of this program will be able to go to graduate school in biological sciences or physics.

The biophysics program is intended to keep available all of the options to students in either biology or physics, while opening new opportunities in fields that benefit from the combination.  For example pharmaceutical companies are interested in biophysics students.  Biophysics program is excellent preparation for the medical profession.  One field for example where physicists make a tremendous impact in medicine is in radiology, where imaging techniques like MRI, PET, and ultrasound are based on physical phenomena.

The Science I program is an ideal entry point for this program integrating as it does the physical and biological sciences. However, there is no reason why students in the regular first year science stream cannot take this program as well.

Students in this program have formed the Biophysics Society and organize a seminar series.

A coop option is also available for this program.


Please be aware the official requirements for the program are listed in the UBC calendar - please see the appropriate calendar section for more information. Since the Honours biophysics programs involves required courses in several departments with many different options scheduling may be difficult. It is therefore not always possible to take the courses in the order listed below.

Year 1 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
BIOL 1121,2 Ecology, Genetics and Evolution 3
PHYS 106, 108, 119 (or 117, 118, 119 ) + 129 is recommended2,3 Enriched Physics I, Enriched Physics II, and Enriched Experimental Physics 7
CHEM 121, 123 (111, 113)2 Structural and General Chemistry 8
MATH 100, 101 (120, 121 or 102, 103 or 104, 105)2 Differential and Integral Calculus 6
Communication Requirement4   6
Elective5,6,16   3
Total Credits Year 1   33

1BIOL 112 is recommended as the preferred prerequisite for BIOL 200. Please note BIOL 121 can no longer be accepted to replace BIOL 112 as the prerequisite for the admission requirement of Biophysics. Students who do not have BC High School Biology 11 or Biology 12 or equivalent must take BIOL 111 before taking BIOL 112. Students who do not have BC High School Chemistry 12 or equivalent must take CHEM 100 or CHEM 111 before taking BIOL 112.
2 First-year physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be replaced by Science One (25 credits).
3Advanced Credit or Placement in Physics are both excellent preparation but they are NOT a substitute for these first year Physics courses, which are pre-requisites for all second year Physics courses. Students with AP credits should contact the Department for advice. Students without Physics 12 must take PHYS 100 prior to PHYS 131, 107 or 117. Students that took PHYS 131 may enter the specialization but will need to take PHYS 106, 117, or 170 before the required PHYS 216. Students must complete PHYS 119 lab before they can take PHYS 129 Enriched lab. The PHYS 129 Enriched lab is recommended for all PHAS program specializations.
4A total of six credits of coursework is required to meet the Communication Requirement. ENGL 112 is recommended. For a full list of acceptable courses see Communication Requirements.
5 The elective credits taken throughout the program must include at least 12 credits in the Faculty of Arts. ENGL credits taken to meet the Faculty of Science Communications credit will not count as part of the 12 credits of Arts. Some course alternates have different credit value. The number of electives in each year is chosen to balance the total number of credits (i.e., make the yearly total close to 33). However, since the number of available elective credits may not be a multiple of three, students are permitted to move elective credits between years. A minimum of 30 credits must be taken each Winter Session.
6 Elective credits together with required courses must fulfill the Faculty of Science’s:
a) Foundational Requirement;
b) Laboratory Science Requirement;
c) Science Breadth Requirement;

Note that Biophysics is considered a Combined Honours specialization.

Year 27 - Term 1 Description Credits
BIOL 200 Cell Biology I Structural Basis 3
CHEM 233, 235 Organic Chemistry I 4
MATH 2178 Multivariable and vector calculus 4
MATH 223 (221) Linear algebra 3
PHYS 2108 Introduction to Computational Physics 3
PHYS 219 Intermediate Experimental Physics I 2
Year 2 - Term 2 Description Credits
BIOL 201 Cell Biology II: Intr. to Biochem. 3
MATH 215 Differential equations I 3
PHYS 203 Thermodynamics 4
PHYS 229 Intermediate Experimental Physics II 1
Elective5,6   3
Total credits Year 2   33

7For admission to the specialization, students must be in good standing with an overall standing of at least 68% in each first-year physics and mathematics course. See also Introduction to Degree Options, Second Year Application, Promotion to Second Year, and Admission as a Post-Secondary Transfer.

8MATH 217 may be replaced by MATH 200 and 317, or MATH 226 and 227.

Year 39 - Term 1 Description Credits
BIOC 30210 Molecular Biochemistry 3
MATH 300 Introduction to Complex Variables 3
MATH 316 Elementary Differential Equations II 3
PHYS 301 Electricity and Magnetism 3
PHYS 200 Relativity and Quanta 4
Year 3 - Term 2 Description Credits
PHYS 30511 Biophysics 3
PHYS 21611 Intermediate Mechanics 3
PHYS 31912 Laboratory 3
MATH 318 Probability with Physical Applications 3
Bio-science elective11,13,14   3
Electives5,6,14,16   3
Total Credits Year 3   34

9 Consultation with a Physics Department advisor is recommended before entering third- and fourth-year. See also Introduction to Degree Options, Promotion Requirements and Courses Required for Promotion.

10The Biochemistry Department recommends replacing this course with BIOC 303 (6) using 3 credits of Bio-Science electives.
11 May be taken in fourth year in exchange for additional Bio-science electives in third year.
12 May be replaced by PHYS 309 (in term 1).
13See Bio-Science Electives below. Note 3 credits of bio-science electives may be used to replace BIOC 302 (3) with BIOC 303 (6). Students considering the Co-op option are recommended to take BIOC 301 as one of the Bio-Science electives in their 3rd year.
14MICB 201 and MICB 202 are not considered as upper-level credits even they are taken on the 3rd year. Students taking both of these two courses as bio-science electives will need to ensure that they have at least 48 upper-level credits when choosing other electives.

Year 4 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
PHYS 304 Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 44915 Honours thesis 6
Bio-science electives13   15
Electives5,14,16   8
Total Credits Year 4   32
Total credits to graduate   132

15It is possible for students to replace PHYS 449 with BIOC 449, BIOL 449, or MICB 449 with approval from both the Biophysics Advisor and the other department.
16The elective credits taken throughout the program must include at least 12 credits in the Faculty of Arts (excluding ENGL credits used to satisfy the Faculty of Science Communication Requirement), and remaining elective credits could be from any faculty but students must ensure that they have at least 48 upper-level credits, of which at least 42 being in Science. Recommended Physics electives suitable as Science credits: PHYS 408, 315, 407, 410, 409, 474.

Bio-science Electives

The 18 credits of biosciences in the third and fourth year must include at least one laboratory course: BIOC 301, BIOL 337, BIOL 340, BIOL 341, BIOL 351, BIOL 352, BIOL 363, BIOL 437, MICB 322, MICB323 are recommended. The electives should mainly concentrate in one of the following broad categories:

  1. Molecular and Cell biology.
  2. Macrobiology (Biology on the level of organisms)
  3. Applied Biology (Mainly medical applications).

A Physics Advisor, who will direct you to the appropriate Life Science Advisor, must approve your list of electives. The specialization should give the student good working knowledge of one sub field in the biological science. Most of such electives have prerequisites, early consultation with and advisor is therefore recommended. List of Biophysics Advisors.

The following is a list of suggested Bio-science electives:

Anatomy: CAPS 390, 391
Biochemistry: BIOC 301, 303 (in place of 302), 402, 403, 410
Biology: BIOL 301, 320, 325, 327, 330, 331, 335, 336, 337, 340, 341, 351, 352, 361, 362, 363, 364, 415, 425, 430, 431, 433, 434, 437, 447, 454, 455, 458, 463
Chemistry: CHEM 305, 313, 405, 413, 435
Mathematics: MATH 361
Microbiology: MICB 201, 202, 301, 306, 308, 322, 323, 325, 405, 424, 425
Pharmacology and Therapeutics: PCTH 305, 325. Only one of these may count towards the required 18 credits of bio-sciences electives
Physiology: CAPS 301, 426
Physics: PHYS 404, 405, 438

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