Course content: Introduction to several major biophysical/structural methods, including electron microscopy, light microscopy, X-ray crystallography, NMR, mass spectrometry, molecular dynamics, circular dichroism, surface plasmon resonance, and systems biology. The course will consist of both live and recorded ("online") lectures, outside reading, homework problems, "field trips" to Caltech facilities that support the various methods, a midterm and a final exam. The object is not for students to become practicing experts of each method, but rather to understand the basic physics behind each technique, its potential and limitations, how to understand literature reporting its application, and whether they should use it to further their own research later on.

Prerequisites for course: BMB/Bi/Ch 170/173/174 is intended as a year-long "core" sequence for first-year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate students. Thus while it is expected that all BMB graduate students will have just finished BMB/Bi/Ch 170, that class is not a prerequisite, and graduate students in other programs are also welcome. Advanced undergraduates majoring in biology or chemistry may also take the course with permission from the instructor.

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Homework policy: The homework problem or problems for each topic will become available on the web soon after each lecture. You may use textbooks and other resources to complete problem sets. You may consult with others on the problem sets, but the written work must be done independently by each student. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. All the problems from the previous week will be due before class each Tuesday. Late homework submitted after that time will not be accepted without a medical excuse.

Field trips: There will be five "field trips" to Caltech facilities housing the instrumentation for some of the methods discussed, including X-ray crystallography, NMR, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and light microscopy. The purpose is to allow students to see the equipment and become acquainted with who is doing such work on campus so students know where to go to actually try it later on in their research careers. The field trips will be from 12:00-12:30 and are mandatory.

Grading: This course is offered for a letter grade only. The homework will be worth 25%, the 15-min midterm oral exam 10%, and the 30-min final oral exam the remaining 65%. There will be a penalty of 1 percentage for each field trip missed without being excused by the TA beforehand.

Exemptions: We recognize that some of our incoming BMB graduate students are already experts in one or more of the techniques that will be discussed. While they are encouraged to still participate in those lectures and homework assignments (if nothing else than to see one way the material can be presented, should they have to teach it themselves later in their career), if a student wants, they can ask to be "exempted". If Professor Jensen agrees the student already knows what they need to, they can skip those parts of the class without impact on their grade. Everyone who wants credit will have to take the complete final, however. Likewise, if you already have experience with a particular method or instruments you can be exempted from a field trip by a TA. Also, if you cannot attend due to conflicts (we understand the time runs into the next hour), tell a TA beforehand and he/she can give you make-up credit later for visiting the facility at some other time by yourself.


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Textbooks: There really is no good textbook available yet that covers all the subjects, but here are some recommendations for those who want to read further:
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Last modified 07-JAN-2019