Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 20.416J Topics in Biophysics and Physical Biology as it was taught by Professors Mark Bathe and Jeff Gore in Fall 2014.

This course provides broad exposure to research in biophysics and physical biology, with emphasis on the critical evaluation of scientific literature. Weekly meetings include in-depth discussion of scientific literature led by various MIT faculty on active research topics. Each session also includes a brief discussion of non-research topics including effective presentation skills, writing papers and fellowship proposals, choosing scientific and technical research topics, time management, and scientific ethics.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Meet the interdisciplinary faculty at MIT who research biophysics and physical biology
  • Learn about important topics in the fields of biophysics and physical biology
  • Discuss topics relevant to becoming a successful scientist
  • Write a scientific research proposal

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

This course prepares students for a future in academia, specifically for success in graduate school in biophysics and/or physical biology.

Instructor Interview

"Part of our motivation for developing 20.416J Topics in Biophysics and Physical Biology was to create a forum for exposing students to … essential non-research topics."
— Mark Bathe

In the following pages, Professors Mark Bathe and Jeff Gores describe various aspects of how they taught 20.416J Topics in Biophysics and Physical Biology.

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied

MIT Biophysics Certificate Program requirement


Every fall semester


Grading was based on in-class participation, weekly reading sessions, and a research proposal.

Student Information


13 students

Breakdown by Year

Mostly first-year graduate students and a few upper-level undergraduates

Breakdown by Major

Mostly students involved in the biophysics certificate program and biological engineering, with a few people concentrating in biology and chemistry

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 6 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Lecture / Discussion

  • Met once per week for 2 hours per session; 12 sessions total; mandatory attendance.
  • MIT faculty guest lecturers led discussions about scientific journal articles on topics in biophysics and/or physical biology.
  • Each class session included a discussion about a non-research topic, such as “Becoming a Scientist,” or “Writing a Fellowship Proposal.”

Out of Class

  • Students read assigned readings about biophysics/physical biology topics and non-research discussion topics.
  • Before each class, students answered assigned reading questions.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

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