Honours Biophysics

The primary objective of the Biophysics program is to give students a good working knowledge of one subfield in the biological sciences at the senior undergraduate level. Students graduating in the program will also have an understanding of the basic concepts and quantitative skills of physics. It is intended that graduates of this program will be able to go to graduate school in biological sciences or physics with minimal remedial work.

The biophysics program is intended to keep available all of the options to students in either biology or physics, while opening new opportunities in fields that benefit from the combination.  For example pharmaceutical companies are interested in biophysics students.  Biophysics program is excellent preparation for the medical profession.  One field for example where physicists make a tremendous impact in medicine is in radiology, where imaging techniques like MRI, PET, and ultrasound are based on physical phenomena.

The Science I program is an ideal entry point for this program integrating as it does the physical and biological sciences. However, there is no reason why students in the regular first year science stream cannot take this program as well.

Students in this program have formed the Biophysics Society and organize a seminar series.

A coop option is also available for this program.


Please be aware the official requirements for the program are listed in the UBC calendar - please see the appropriate calendar section for more information. Since the Honours biophysics programs involves required courses in several departments with many different options scheduling may be difficult. It is therefore not always possible to take the courses in the order listed below.

Year 1 - Term 1 and 2 Description Credits
BIOL 1211,140 Ecology, Genetics and Evolution 5
PHYS 107, 108, 109 (or 101, 102)2 Enriched Physics I, Enriched Physics II, and Experimental Physics 6-8
CHEM 121, 123 (111, 113) Structural and General Chemistry 8
MATH 120, 121 (100, 101) Differnetial and Integral Calculus 6-8
ENGL 100 level   6
Elective3   3
Total Credits Year 1  



1BIOL 112 is the preferred prerequisite for BIOL 200. Students in the Biophysics program may substitute BIOL 121.

2Advanced Credit or Placement in Physics are both excellent preparation but they are NOT a substitute for these first year Physics courses, which are prerequisites for all second year Physics courses. Students without Physics 12 must take PHYS 100 prior to PHYS 101 or 107.

3PHYS 210 or a course in CPSC  is highly recommended.

Year 2 - Term 1 Description Credits
BIOL 200, 2404 Cell Biology I Structural Basis 3-4
CHEM 233, 235 Organic Chemistry I 4
MATH 2175 Multivariable and vector Calculus 4
MATH 223 (221) Linear Algebra 3
PHYS 200 Relativity and Quanta 4
PHYS 209 Int. Exper. Physics (both terms) 1.5
Year 2 - Term 2 Description Credits
BIOL 201 Cell Biology II: Intr. to Biochem 3
MATH 215 Differential equations I 3
PHYS 2036 Thermodynamics 4
PHYS 209 Interm. Exper. Phys. (both terms) 1.5
Total Credits Year 2   34-5

4BIOL 240 is the lab associated with BIOL 200/201. It is not required, but students in Biophysics program are encouraged to take the lab.
Note: BIOL 240 is no longer offered. The recommendation of taking BIOL 240 along with BIOL 200/201 will be removed from the Calendar next year.

5MATH 217 may be replaced by MATH 200 and 317, or MATH 226 and 227.

6There is significant overlap between PHYS 203 and CHEM 205 but they are not credit excluded. Since CHEM 205 (or CHEM 213) is the prerequisite for BIOC 302 in third year, students may wish to take CHEM 205 or 213 in second year as an elective.

Year 3 - Term 1 Description Credits
BIOC 3026,7,8 Molecular Biochemistry 3
MATH 316 Elementary Differential Equations II 3
PHYS 301 Electricity and magnetism 3
PHYS 305 Biophysics 3
Electives   6
Year 3 - Term 2 Description Credits
PHYS 206 Mechanics 3
PHYS 3199 Laboratory 3
MATH 300 Introduction to Complex Variables 3
MATH 318 Probability with Physical Applications 3
Bio-science Elective   3
Electives   3
Total Credits Year 3   36

7The Biochemistry Department recommends replacing this course with BIOC 303 (6) using 3 credits of BIO-Science electives.

8See Bio-Science Electives below. Note 3 credits of bio-science electives may be used to replace BIOC 302 (3) with BIOC 303 (6). Students considering the Co-op option are recommended to take BIOC 301 as one of the Bio-Science electives in their 3rd year.

9May be replaced by PHYS 309 (in term 1).

Year 4 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
PHYS 304 Quantum Mechanics 3
BIOC, BIOL, MICB, or PHYS 44910 Honours thesis 6
Bio-science electives   15
Electives11   6
Total Credits Year 4   30
Minimum credits to graduate   133

10Co-op students may substitute other Physics or life sciences upper level courses with the permission of the Biophysics Advisor. 449 is strongly recommended for students planning on continuing to graduate school.

11The elective credits taken throughout the program must include at least 12 credits in the Faculty of Arts, 6 credits in the Faculty of Science, and at least 3 additional credits. Recommended Physics electives suitable as Science credits: PHYS 408,315,407,410,409,474

Bio-science Electives:

Of the 18 credits of biosciences in the third and fourth year at least 3 credits must be a laboratory course: BIOC 301, BIOL 337, BIOL 351, BIOL 352, BIOL 360, BIOL 363, BIOL 437,  MICB 322, MICB 323 are recommended. The electives should mainly concentrate in one of the following broad categories:

  1. Molecular and Cell Biology
  2. Macrobiology (biology on the level of organisms)
  3. Applied Biology (mainly medical applications)

A Physics Advisor, who will direct you to the appropriate Life Science Advisors, must approve your list of electives. The program should give the student good working knowledge of one sub field in the biological science. Most of such electives have prerequisites, early consultation with an advisor is therefore recommended.  List of Biophysics Advisors.

The following is a list of suggested Bio-science electives:

  • ANAT 390, 391
  • BIOC 301, 303 (in place of 302), 402, 403, 410
  • BIOL 301, 320, 325, 327, 331, 334, 335, 337, 351, 352, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364, 415, 425, 430, 431, 433, 434, 437, 454, 455, 458, 463
  • CHEM 304, 305, 405
  • MATH 361
  • MICB 202, 301, 322, 323, 325, 405, 424, 425
  • PHYL 301, 426
  • PHYS 404, 405

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there other requirements I should be aware of?
A: Yes! You should read the Faculty of Science chapter of the UBC calendar. Some of the requirements are: 1) The Faculty of Science expects students in Honours programs to complete at least 30 credits in each winter session with an average of at least 68%, with no failures. 2) Of the electives taken in the program, you will need 12 credits of Arts (in addition to the 6 credits of 100 level English), and at least 6 additional elective credits in Science.

Q: I want to go to medical school, should I take CHEM 205?
A: In the end it is up to you. You must take PHYS 203 as a part of the program. There have definitely been students from Biophysics who've gone on to medical school who haven't taken CHEM 205. Medical schools look at many factors in their admissions process and I would suggest taking their printed course requirements as guidelines that aren't necessarily set in stone. Remember, thousands of students come to UBC every year with plans to go to medical school, and only a small fraction eventually get in. Make sure you have a backup plan!

Q: PHYS 305 conflicts with PHYL 301?
A: Unfortunately it does. Your choices are: take PHYL 301 in third year, then PHYS 305 in fourth year (a good plan if you want to take PHYL 426 in fourth year, or take PHYS 305 in third year and PHYL 301 in third year. On the bright side, PHYS 305 is no longer at 8am!

Q: Are there other course substitutions I can make if I want to take courses in the summer?
A: Yes, you can take PHYS 250 in place of PHYS 200, and BIOC 300 in place of BIOC 302 + BIOL 201.

Q: Should I take MATH 217, or 200+317?
A: This is a personal decision. Math 217 is somewhat compressed, and has caused some difficulty for students to whom mathematics does not come as easily. MATH 200+317 is also a good choice if you enjoy the material and want to get a bit more depth.

Q: PHYS 449 and some other course conflict!
A: This is not necessarily catastrophic. You may well be able to take both. Speak to the instructor in charge of 449 about this first, but it is likely that your presentations for PHYS 449 can be scheduled to accommodate your other course. The system will no longer allow you to register for two courses at the same time however, so you will need to fill out a conflict form in Science Advising to register.

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