Class Syllabus Membrane Biophysics BSC5786              

Fall 2021

Lecture: T 9:45 - 11 am, room 257 King Life Sciences (South Tower)

Presentations: F 9:20 – 11:30 pm, room 257 King Life Sciences (South Tower)

Office Hours 12-1 MWF and by appt.
Professor: Dr. Debra Ann Fadool
Office: 3008 King Life Sciences - Ext. 4-4775
Lab: 3014 King Life Sciences (North Tower)

Required Text Books:

Hille, third edition, 2001; “Ionic Channels of Excitable Membranes”.

Supplementary Text Books:

I have a collection of text books that we will use from my library to supplement the classical calculations presented from the Hille text.

If your dissertation work directly overlaps with the topics of these specialty texts, you may elect to purchase these authors to start your own professional collection.


1. Rationale for the Course:

Given the volume of molecular and structural information that has been generated with regards to excitable membranes, the historical approach to learning the principles of membrane biophysics through experimental discussions has been pushed aside.  Computational aspects applied to the analysis of classic experiments are also less studied today.  As students tackle modern questions with regards to structure/function of membrane proteins, little attention is paid to a working knowledge of mathematics applied to physiological principles.  There is also less comprehension of the equipment used to record the physical properties of a biological response.   While it is no longer practical to study the experimental details of the classic physiological experiments within the framework of a semester course, it deepens the scientific design of modern experiments to understand the physical laws that govern physiological processes that occur in excitable membranes.  This course will attempt to merge classical principles and analyses of membrane biophysics with that of current focal areas of physiological research in order to best prepare an analytical-minded student for today’s scientific applications.  

2. Course Objectives:

The primary objective of this course is to train the graduate student with the necessary mathematical, physiological, and molecular background that he or she will need to be able to design competitive research in the field of membrane biophysics.  This course is an integrated approach to modern biophysics with an emphasis on neural applications.  Modern biophysics requires a strong working knowledge of physical laws, molecular approaches, physiological responses, structural proteins, and the mechanics of the equipment used to measure the physical properties of biological membranes.  It is a tandem objective of this course that the student will be able to apply this working knowledge to a deep comprehension of the primary literature.  Towards this end, the class will collectively build a literature resource that can be drawn upon for a firm foundation for comprehensive research directives in two fields 1) Ion Channels, and 2) Biophysical Methods. 

3. Course Evaluation:

You will be graded based upon the following –


Channel/Receptor Presentation 25%

Technique Presentation 25%

Participation and Computations 25%

Final Examination 25%

4.  Calendar of Assigned Readings:


The table of assigned readings is specifically for our Tuesday survey of classical Membrane Biophysics and the page numbers listed correspond to the Bertil Hille text or I will supplement with another text such as the Johnson/Wu or Sakmann /Neher text.  The individual Friday presentations will utilize select readings from the Bertil Hille text that align with the group leader’s selection of ion channel topic.  The page numbers for the Hille readings will be updated on a weekly basis, according to each leader’s decision following their individual literature research. 

5.  Course Presentations:


6. Student Responsibilities:

It is the student’s responsibility to read the weekly assignment in the Hille text prior to the Tuesday lecture.  Following the Tuesday lecture by Dr. Fadool, it is in the best interest of the student to complete any website posted homework practice problems.  Each student in the class will make 2 presentations during the Friday sessions on each of the following topics:  1) Ion Channel, 2) Biophysical Method.  You will be required to lead a 2-hour presentation on your topic using prepared visual aids.  As part of your presentation, you will assign 3 significant articles in the primary literature that you feel represent the most noteworthy scientific discoveries of your selected ion channel or biophysical method.  These will be posted to the “Course Presentations” division of the website as pdf files at least one week prior to your assigned presentation day so that your classmates have access to the literature.  At least 30 minutes of your presentation should involve active participation of your audience in the assigned readings.  As part of your presentation, you will also hand out an annotated bibliography on the day of your lecture that summarizes the top ten publications and top ten websites for your topic.  This will be used as a resource packet for your classmates; representing our self-made modern text book by the end of the semester!   We will post the powerpoint file and your annotated bibliography to our website under the “presentations” portion of the site. 

The final examination for this course will be drawn from all presented lecture material (Tuesday and Friday), textbook assigned readings, primary literature (top 3 significant articles/week), and homework calculations.  The format for the examination will be short answer, computational, and expository.  

7. Florida State University Honor Code:

Students are expected to uphold the Academic Honor Code published in The Florida State University Bulletin and the Student Handbook. The academic honor system of The Florida State University is based on the premise that each student has the responsibility (1) to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity in the student's own work, (2) to refuse to tolerate violations of academic integrity in the university community, and (3) to foster a high sense of integrity and social responsibility on the part of the university community.

8. Class Attendance:

Class attendance is required. Data support the idea that class attendance improves learning. It is very difficult and as well as uninspiring for me to help a student who does not attend lecture. What is created in the classroom cannot be reenacted.

9. Policy on Missed Material or Missed Exams:

There will be NO exam makeups without PRIOR notice of a VERIFIED university excused absence (illness, death of family member, academic society meeting, subpoena to court, varsity athletics, or religious holiday). If you are ill, you must have a signed statement from the treating physician. The student must contact the instructor prior to the exam if they anticipate an university excused absence on the day of the exam. Final grades will be determined from the weighted average of all exams and presentations and a curve will be established in the event of a low class average (an overall class average of less than 70%).  In the case of borderline grades, the pattern of class performance, level of continued effort and academic growth, and student development will be taken into consideration by the instructor.

10. American Disabilities Act Policy:

Students with disabilities needing academic accommodation should (1) register with and provide documentation to the Student Disability Resource Center, and (2) bring a letter to the instructor indicating the need for accommodation and what type. This should be done during the first week of class.

11.  Administrative Note From Faculty Senate (Click for Link)

As of Fall 2011, all Florida State University syllabi must have uniform statements with regards to attendance, honor policy, disabilities, free tutoring, and syllabus change policies.  You may view the official wording of these university-wide policies at the link above.