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Physics of Life Processes


Admission requirements

Programming NA


In this course you will learn the physics behind elementary processes in living cells. The stochastic movement of molecules, and how this is used to drive biological reactions, takes a central place.
After a brief introduction of the physical and biological concepts in the weekly lecture you will make homework excercises to get a better grasp of the statistical physics behind the problem, making use of probability theory, statistics and conbinatorics.
Numerical programing excercises, to be done in experimental class from the hart of this course. By wrtiing a host of Python scripts you'll compute simulations of a number of stochastic and/or biological processes. Together with a partner, who will change on a weekly basis, you will hand in assignments, benefit from each others insights and learn to work in a small team.

Thes topics from biophysics will be discussed:

  • Contents of the cell

  • Brownsian movement

  • The Stokes-Einstein relation

  • Fick's law and the diffusion equation

  • Entropy en free energy

  • The Boltzmann distribution

Course Objectives

After this course, you can employ probability theory, statistics and conbinatorics to quantify a variety of (bio-)physical problems.
You learn to:

  • use of Python for computations and simulations

  • to apply simple numerical techniques to physical problems

  • relate analytical solutions to numerical simulations and critically test these

  • describe essential parts of the cell

  • extract statistical parameters from “random walks”

  • explain the concepts of entropy and frree energy

Transferable Skills

After this course you can:

  • Provide constructive feedback on the work of others

  • independently convert abstract problems to quantitative solutions

  • critically evaluate the accuracy of experimental results


See timetable in Brightspace

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of Instruction

See Brightspace

Assessment method

The final grade is calculated from: 6*(1/3 homework assignments + 2/3 programming assignments)/7 +1/7 final assignment. Thewre is no halfway test. The final assignment will be done individually and at home (take home exam).

Reading list

Available on Brightspace


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information. An exemption is the fall semester for 1st year bachelor students, the student administration will enroll this group.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


Lecturer: John van Noort


Your presence at the programming vclasses is mandatory.