Physical Biology of the Cell is a biophysics textbook that explores how the basic tools and insights of physics and mathematics can illuminate the study of molecular and cell biology. Drawing on key examples and seminal experiments from cell biology, the book demonstrates how quantitative models can help refine our understanding of existing biological data and also be used to make useful predictions. The book blends traditional models in cell biology with the quantitative approach typical in physics, in order to introduce the reader to both the possibilities and boundaries of the emerging field of physical biology. While teaching physical model building in cell biology through a practical, case-study approach, the text explores how quantitative modeling can be used to build a more profound, intuitive understanding of cell biology.
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Rob Phillips is in the Department of Applied Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He received a PhD in physics from Washington University in St. Louis.
Jane Kondev is in the Department of Physics and the Graduate Program in Quantitative Biology at Brandeis University. He attended the Mathematical High School in Belgrade, Serbia, received his Physics BS degree from the University of Belgrade, and his PhD from Cornell University.
Julie Theriot is in the Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She received concurrent BS degrees in Physics and Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD in Cell Biology from the University of California at San Francisco.Review:
Physical Biology of the Cell breaks the mold and defines a new paradigm for quantitative biology. Truly a masterpiece!
Ken Dill, University of California, San Francisco
Overall this is a beautiful book. It is idiosyncratic, engaging, fascinating-a book that I actually enjoyed reading. While many textbooks that address aspects of the molecular and cell biology field are essentially dry descriptions of many, many facts (or alleged facts), this book focuses instead on broad principles and underlying unifying themes, describing a much smaller number of systems and phenomena, but with real depth, explaining what we know, how we know it, how to think about it in plain terms, and how it relates to one or more of the broadly applicable principles that the book is really about. This is the kind of book that I would like my students to be learning from- and that I will certainly be treating myself to learning from, repeatedly.
Jonathan Widom, Northwestern University
One of the clear messages of the book is that at least some of the aspects of Biology can be made quantitative. In this sense, I like the idea to present systematically orders of magnitude and the fact that the authors show explicitly experimental results that can be compared quantitatively to the theoretical models presented. This is the classical approach of physicists but many of my biology colleagues do not work this way. In this sense, I think that this book could play a very important role. The book is also well structured with a rigorous outline, a short overview at the beginning of each chapter and a summary of the main points at the end of each chapter.
Jean-François Joanny, Institut Curie
I really enjoyed reading [Physical Biology of the Cell] tremendously and greatly benefited from it. I loved playing with the simple but very useful estimates spread throughout this book and, most importantly, it made me more optimistic about the role of physics in biology.
Yitzak Rabin, Bar-llan University
This book is a monumental intellectual achievement-the authors present a systematic, physical approach to understanding some of the deepest questions in biology. It will become an instant classic and a cornerstone for teaching biophysics. Stephen Quake, Stanford University
This is simply a wonderful-and totally unique-scientific textbook. The writing style is unlike any other....The authors are speaking directly to the reader. It is a warm and inviting conversation; not a recital of a string-of-factlets. They are conveying their deep respect for all things biological. And making it clear, without any hints of intellectual arrogance, that a true understanding of the cell-any cell-requires a quantitative tack...this is the text that we have been waiting 3 decades for. In short I believe this book, which perhaps could arguably be described as a non-fiction novel as much as a textbook, has within it the power to change the next generation of students.
Michael Reddy, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
I was very pleased with the balance of biology and physics. In fact, I think this may be the most important reason why the book worked well for the course I taught last Fall. My students all had engineering backgrounds, and thus came into the class with a very physical mindset, eager to learn something about mechanics and cell biology. And I don’t think they were disappointed at all-the book taught us a ton about both. William Klug, University of California, Los Angeles
This book is an excellent guide to the science making biology quantitative. By bringing together ideas traditionally taught in different disciplines in one resource, it provides a unique perspective on the new biology. A hands-on approach is used throughout to build intuition on both biological processes and the physics behind them. The book is enormously comprehensive and should become a standard for students with a physical sciences background moving into the life sciences and for biologists interested in the quantitative approaches and concepts now changing biology. Peter Swain, McGill University
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