This course has three interrelated goals: (i) to develop an intuitive understanding of the thermodynamic forces that control the structure of biological macromolecules and the evolution of life, (ii) to learn how to apply that understanding to experimental analyses of macromolecular interactions, and (iii) to master the use of molecular graphics software for understanding and interpreting macromolecular structures and interactions. The lectures develop the essential thermodynamic theory from the ground up, starting from a review of the relevant physical forces (Newton's and Coulomb's Laws) and culminating with an intuitive explanation of how complex biological organisms can evolve spontaneously, in a universe in which all natural processes are driven by increasing randomness or entropy, as specified by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Subsequent lectures elaborate how these thermodynamic principles govern the formation and interaction of macromolecular structures, which represent the physical foundation for the evolution of life, and how the same principles are applied to analyze related experimental data. The problem sets for the course focus on practical applications of these principles to the analysis of data from common experiments used by molecular biologists to characterize macromolecular interactions. Extensive use is made of molecular graphics software throughout the semester, including in the problem sets, based on instruction provided in both the lectures and recitation sections. The course is designed to develop a deep understanding of the physical mechanisms controlling macromolecular interactions while simultaneously empowering students to critically read related literature and rigorously design and analyze related experiments themselves.
Department of Biological Sciences
500 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2401
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027