The University of Western Australia
School of Physics

Biophysics Programme


    Biophysical Science programme
    Second year
    Third year
    Honours program


    Research topics & Personnel
    Graduate outcomes

In collaboration with

Biophysics is an exciting new field of basic research into the nature and structure of biological molecules, their interactions and the physical principles involved in the machinery of life. The development of high-precision imaging and crystallographic structure determination, coupled with recent advances in high-level computers have made biophysics a rapidly growing and fertile area of both pure and applied research. A new degree course in Biophysics has been set up by the School of Physics at U.W.A. for students commencing first year in or after 1994. Job prospects for graduates are very positive, especially considering the enormous interest and investment shown by medical and pharmaceutical companies in the areas of membrane biophysics and biomolecular design and synthesis.

What's it about?

If you are curious about biological processes and would enjoy unravelling complex problems, designing experiments or using computers to analyse and model situations in real life, then you will find many exciting opportunities in biophysics. Biophysicists use the methods of mathematics, physics, chemistry & biology to study how living organisms work. They investigate how the brain processes and stores information, the heart pumps blood, muscles contract, plants use light in photosynthesis, genes are switched on and off and many other questions. Other kinds of scientists, including physiologists, cell and molecular biologists, geneticists and biochemists also work on these problems; however biophysicists are especially interested in the physics and physical chemistry of biological processes and make far greater use of quantitative measurements and analysis.

Recent years have seen great discoveries in Biology - a trend that is expected to accelerate. These discoveries reflect in part the progress of Biology towards the atomic and molecular level - where Physics becomes essential. The development of high-precision imaging and crystallographic structure determination, coupled with recent advances in high-level computers have made biophysics an important and fertile area of both pure and applied research particularly concerning membrane biophysics and synthetic biomolecular design.

How do you get in?

Biophysics is studied in the School of Physics as second and third year options leading to a Science degree. TEE level Physics and TEE Applicable Maths are the usual prerequisites for entry into first year Physics. TEE level calculus, while not a prerequisite, would be extremely valuable to students in Biophysics and is strongly recommended. TEE level chemistry is very appropriate for study in Biophysics, but students without it can enrol in a special 1st year chemistry unit designed for students in the Biological Sciences without any Chemistry background.

What do you study?

1st year

2nd & 3rd years

course flow chart

What do you get out of it?

The discoveries of biophysicists have a broad impact on biotechnology and medicine. Biophysics gives us the tools to understand the molecular basis of diseases such as sickle cell anemia and AIDS. Knowledge of the way proteins and membranes work provides a basis for rational drug design. By understanding how proteins fold and accelerate chemical reactions, biotechnologists will be able to design proteins to carry out specific tasks, such as digesting crude oil and toxic wastes.

Biophysicists use methods and instruments designed by physicists and physical chemists. Computers are used extensively for data collection and analysis, as well as for modelling learning and memory, the flow of material through metabolic pathways and motion of atoms within large molecules. In the future, as larger, faster computers become available, biophysicists will use them to analyse the mass of information about the chemical structure of human genes and chromosomes that the Human Genome Project will provide.

Biophysicists work in universities, industry, medical centres, research institutes and government. Currently there are numerous research groups in Australia and overseas who indicate that there is a shortage of qualified Biophysics Graduates to fill research positions


UWA Biophysics welcomes interest from high schools and we are happy to provide information on courses and career opportunities. We are also available to visit local high schools to discuss our program with students and teachers. Please do not hesitate to contact us.


To contact us directly, send e-mail to Ralph James, course coordinator ralph@physics.uwa.edu.au or Tim St.Pierre stpierre@physics.uwa.edu.au


Master Classes in Biophysics 2000

CRICOS Provider Code: 00126G