Cell and Membrane Biophysics


The aim of this Curricular Unit is to provide students with knowledge on the physics of: a) molecular interactions of the cell components, since the combination of these interactions determines both the specific recognition of a molecule in a given environment and the molecule functionally; and b) the physics of principal functions of cell components. This curricular unit will provide a deep understanding of the causes and effects of processes inside membrane and cells, allowing the students to get acquainted with the primordial scientific questions associated to the cell, bringing this knowledge, and associated methodologies, to the other scientific areas of doctoral program, and will thus eventually open new doors for high-level approaches towards fighting membrane- and cell-related diseases. Finally, this curricular unit will be helpful for students who want to understand biological processes by applying both simple observations and fundamental scientific analysis.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Maria de Fátima Guerreiro da Silva Campos Raposo


Weekly - Available soon

Total - 28

Teaching language



No requirements.


Scientific literature related with the research topic. For general reading it is advised the following books: 1) Intermolecular and Surface Forces: Revised Third Edition, Jacob N. Israelachvili, Academic Press; 3 edition, 2011; 2) Cell Physiology Source Book: Essentials of Membrane Biophysics, Nicholas Sperelakis, Academic Press; 4th edition edition, 2012; e 3) Membrane Biophysics, Series: Biological and Medical Physics, Biomedical Engineering, Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, Jack A. Tuszynski, Springer, 2012.

Teaching method

Lectures of 2 hours, supported by presentations in video projector, simulations and demonstrations. The contents of the classes, organized into Learning Units (UA), are grouped into documents, available in Moodle platform. Each of these has associated an online self-assessment lesson-test.

Evaluation method

A list of themes will be presented to students at the beginning of the course and each student will be evaluated by presenting one of these issues both orally and in writing. The students will be also submitted to a continuous evaluation system based on the students’ performance and attitude in the classes, the knowledge acquired during the teacher(s) and colleague’s presentations and the understanding about the specific subject they worked with.

Subject matter

Intermolecular Forces. Contrasts between intermolecular, interparticle, and intersurface forces. van der Waals Forces between Surfaces. Electrostatic Forces between Surfaces in Liquids. Solvation, Structural and Hydration Forces. Steric and Fluctuation Forces. Adhesion. Fluid-like structures and self-assembling systems. Micelles, Bilayers, and Biological Membranes. Thermodynamic principles of self-assembly. Aggregation of amphiphilic molecules into micelles, bilayers, vesicles, and biological membranes. Interactions between lipid bilayers and biological membranes. Lipid bilayer-membrane protein coupling; Protein folding and dynamics, molecular aspects of membrane assembly and transport, membrane excitability and ion channels; transport physiology, pumps, and exchangers; noise-enhanced processes, photo-biophysics, synaptic transmission and sensory transduction and muscle and other contractile systems.