Dean of the department Prof. Sinerik Ayrapetyan (Chairholder of UNESCO Chair in Life Sciences, coordinator of UNESCO/UNITWIN Network Yerevan, Armenia)
The Department of Biophysics and Biomedical Sciences offers a program leading to Ph.D. degree, making it suitable for a variety of scholars looking to expand their knowledge and develop their career in research. The Department is interdisciplinary in its orientation, and draws on diverse resources of participant institutions and international scientific communities. This course develops critical analysis and depth of knowledge through advanced coursework, independent study, and research.
Programs of instruction and research are conducted in experimental, theoretical, and medical biophysics.
Experimental biophysics incorporates with the structural molecular biology, radiobiology, transport processes with emphasis on biological membranes, the elucidation of the nature of biological sensors and receptors, the understanding of rhythmic behavior of biological systems, and electrochemical intercellular information transfer.
Theoretical biophysics comprises such diversified areas as non-equilibrium thermodynamics, stochastic methods, transport, regulation and control, modeling of biological systems, application of quantum mechanics to biopolymers, theoretical estimates of forces between membranes, theoretical treatment of intermolecular interactions involving proteins and nucleic acids, and the structure and function of the nervous system.
Medical biophysics involves the application of biophysics in medicine and healthcare. Medical biophysicists are expected to carry out biophysical research on topics directly related to medical problems, generally in close collaboration with medics and to act as efficient intermediaries between medical and biomedical engineers.
Students are expected to participate for one semester in a pre-candidacy program of courses and preliminary research before being specialized in a specific area of research. Special attention is given to the development of teaching abilities of students being prepared for an academic career. The students will enjoy a high degree of independence and freedom in the development of research programs, choice of major advisors, and pursuit of dissertation research.
Program flexibility is a combination of required core and elective courses offered, to balance the needs for requisite knowledge together with dissertation preparation. Program format is designed to be; formal courses, seminars, independent studies, examinations, written papers, workshops, presentations, and dissertation. Total of 66 credits is a combined course work of 17 credits for core courses, and 11 credits of electives and thesis preparation (35 credits).
Core Courses in Biophysics (17 credits)
1. Biological Information and Kinetics of Enzyme Processes (2 credit)
Information theory and its application in biology. Topics: physicochemical principles of information transfer at the molecular level, including DNA, RNA, proteins, peptides, storage and retrieval of information in the brain, molecular modification of information by radiation, chemical, and biological methods.
2. Thermodynamics (linear and nonlinear) of Biological Processes (2 credits)
The purpose of this course is to introduce the students to the major areas of molecular biophysics and their foundations in chemistry and physics. Topics: molecular interactions, structural analysis through diffraction techniques, macromolecular physical chemistry, the effects of physical forces on biological structures, thermodynamics systems.
3. Molecular Biophysics II (1 credit)
The studying program of conformational of Biological Macromolecules includes: structure of ferments, nucleic acids and other biological polymers; the role of hydrogen bonds, hydrophobic forces and ion bonds in stabilization of the different structures of biomacromolecules will be discussed.
4. Processes in Biological Systems (1 credit)
This course comprises the fundamental physical and physicochemical treatment of various kinetic processes underlying the normal function of biological systems. Topics: no equilibrium processes, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, osmotic and hydrostatic forces, membrane permeation and potentials, mechanisms of excitability.
5. Cellular Biophysics I: Membrane Transport (2 credits)
This field of study constitutes of the fundamental theory and principles of transport processes and membrane phenomena in biological systems. The course serves as a basis for discussion of representative biological examples, including: transport involving water, non-electrolytes, electrolytes. Theories and principles developed to the state of current research knowledge.
6. Cellular Biophysics II: Structure and Function of Neuromuscular System (2 credits)
The studying program covers current concepts and experimental approaches to study the cellular bases for nerve and muscle structure and function. Topics: bioelectric phenomena, membrane excitability, mechanochemistry, bioenergetics, current theories of muscle contraction. The course is self-contained and independent of Cellular Biophysics I.
7. Membranes (1 credit)
The course covers biophysical aspects of model and biological membranes. Topics: chemical composition and physical properties of membranes, structure-functional relationships, model systems, lipid-protein interactions, other selected topics of biological interest.
8. Ion Channels (2 credits)
Ion channels are responsible for information transmission in biological cells. They generate nerve and muscle electrical activity, control the secretion of hormones, and account for sensory transaction. This course will examine ion channels from the molecular level up to their role in controlling cellular processes. The course will be a combination of lectures, problem sets, and student seminars on current topics.
9. Radiation Biophysics (2 credits)
The course compromises radiation effects on water properties. Radiation-induced excitation, oxidation, reduction, and dissociation examined particularly in biomolecules. Modern approaches on Dosimetery of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation are also included in the course. The emphasis is made on the analysis of radiation effects by magnetic resonance methods.
10. Mathematical biophysics (1 credit)
This course presents the theoretical aspects of biology and biophysics. Various aspects of chemical physics, quantum mechanics, and statistical mechanics, together with thermodynamics relevant to biophysics solutions, proteins, cell membranes, and transport will be covered in the first semester. Appropriate aspects of mathematics will be also reviewed. The second semester mainly applies to theoretical biology, including mathematical modeling. Both linear and nonlinear problems of biology will be studied in this particular framework.
11. Computers and their Applications in Biomedicine (1 credits)
An intermediate level approach to the range of applications of computer techniques in biomedical research and in the clinics. Emphasis is placed upon hand-on experience with existing applications software, development of special purpose programming, and analysis of algorithms and their hardware implementations to accomplish typical computational tasks.
Supporting Courses (11 credits)
1. Medical Biophysics (2 credits)
The course involves application of physical and physiochemical principles to diagnosis and treatment. It defines the design of diagnostic and therapeutic instruments. The scope and limitations of these techniques are discussed in the context of appropriate medical situations, as are methods for quantitative evaluation of diagnostic information.
2. Nerve System Theory (2 credit)
Responses and interactions of single cells; nerve nets; receptive fields, visual adaptation, size and space perception; information processing; general principles of nervous system structure and function.
3. Biophysics of Processes of Intracellular Signaling (1 credit)
Following brief review of history of theories on the origin of life the course focuses on the current theories and their foundations in stellar evolution, geochemistry, molecular biology, and paleontology. It also emphasizes thermodynamic and kinetic constraints of chemical evolution to select the most plausible mechanisms. Different fundamental biochemical processes are discussed with an attempt to come up with plausible theories for their evolution. The general characterization of the living systems is discussed considering the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.
4. Engineering and Physical Principles of Clinical Biophysics I (2 credits)
This course is offered to the medical students and graduate students in electrical engineering, physics, and biophysics. It intends to familiarize them with the advances in medical technology, as well as with underlying principles of physics and engineering. The following course emphasizes application of existing and forthcoming technology to medical problems. Students are encouraged to develop innovative ideas regarding new or improved technological solutions to pertinent medical problems.
5. Engineering and Physical Principles of Clinical Biophysics II (2 credits)
The topics discussed in this course include: use of ultrasound, electric pacing of heart, diagnostic radiology (including computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, radiation therapy and intensive care instrumentation).
6. Experimental Biophysics (1 credit)
During the course of experimental biophysics the students have opportunities to have intensive laboratory experience with contemporary biophysical techniques: quasi-elastic laser scattering from cells and polymers, electrophysiology of membrane transport, fluorescence probe studies of membranes, dynamics of muscle contraction and psychophysics of vision. Lab reports are presented orally each week. Students are expected to do a brief independent project.
7. Isotopes and Their Applications (1 credit)
The following course is primarily intended for biochemists, pharmacologists, physiologists, as well as for medical researchers, interested in the application of isotopes as tracers, isotopic dilatants, probes of molecular structure and dynamics of chemical behavior at the molecular level. The course includes:
- isotope effects and their utilization in isotope production and in chemical,
- physiological research;
- Methods of radioisotope production,
- Measurement and assay techniques including mass spectrometry,
- Magnetic resonance,
- Infrared and Raman spectroscopy;
- major routes for the synthesis of single and multileveled compounds;
- detection techniques for radioisotopes;
- atomic and molecular tracers in biological systems;
- isotope dilution analysis in pharmacology and toxicology;
- potential uses in clinical laboratory and in routine clinical practices.
*Supporting courses will be selected by students.