. .

Physics of the Cell


Introduction to Biophysics


Nicolas Minc, Antoine Jégou, Jean-Léon Maitre, Sven van Teeffelen, Paolo Pierobon 


10 Sessions of 3 hours each.

Overview of the class

This course will lead the student in a voyage along the principles of Physics that are responsible for shape, movement and development of organisms. An introduction on the tools of quantitative biology will be given. The course then will focus on structural and dynamic forces who are at the base of architecture and movement at the scale of molecules (cytoskeleton, molecular motors), prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (dynamics of cell wall, polarity, cell division), up to the level of tissues (patterning, tissue dynamics). The course will be supported by examples in experimental and computational techniques that are currently used to describe the dynamics of living systems. Students will learn how to observe, ask questions, formulate simple hypothesis and to propose simple experiments to verify them, through computational tools and through theoretical models.

Goal of the class

The aim is to present to students the Physicist’s approach to the study of Biology. At the end of the course, students will have a good working knowledge of Physics’ principles that control movement, shape and development at the scale of molecules, cells and tissues, and of the experimental and computational tools to study them.


To take maximal advantage of the class you should have a broad idea of how cells function (What is a gene, a protein, the plasma membrane…), and a basic knowledge of physics principles (What is a force, a torque, an energy…).

Grill, Science. 2003 Jul 25;301(5632):518-21.
Dogetrom et al, Curr Opin Cell Biology 2005
Kirschner M, Mitchison T. Cell. 1986 May 9;45(3):329-42.
Minc, Trends Cell Biol. 2012 Apr;22(4):193-200.
Pollard, TD Science. 2009 Nov 27;326(5957):1208-12.
Heisenberg CP and Bellaïche Y, Cell. 2013 May 23;153(5):948-962.