CHEM_ENG 372: Bionanotechnology & Nanoscale Phenomena (1 Unit)

Quarter Offered

Winter : MWF 4:00pm - 4:50pm ; Igor Kourkine


A course in thermodynamics and a course in calculus.


This course aims at creating a vivid mental depiction of biomolecular machines and unraveling their most fundamental underpinnings - energy and entropy – through a combination of highly acclaimed and exceptionally thought-provoking books, critical and creative thinking exercises, and guided exploration of contemporary bionanotechnology applications.  

What's bionanotechnology?

  • “Bionanotechnology is a subset of nanotechnology: atom-level engineering and manufacturing using biological precedents for guidance.”  - David Goodsell, Scripps
  • “Bionanotechnology is a young discipline, which is based on the conjunction of nanoscale objects and materials with biological systems and cells…  Whilst biology has provided nanotechnology with models of bio-assembled components as an inspiration source for the development of surrogate biosystems, nanotechnology offers to the biologist tools sized at the cell scale, which allow an in-depth investigation of biological systems, hence the coinage of bionanotechnology."  - Patrick Englebienne, U of Brussels
  • “Bionanotechnology is a multi-disciplinary area that sits at the interface between engineering and the biological and physical sciences.” - UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council 
  • “Biology is the nanotechnology that works”. - Tom Knight, MIT

Course objectives

  1. To develop a feeling for the sizes and shapes of cellular machinery and energy/entropy of nanoscale phenomena through studying excerpts from Physical Biology of the Cell (PBOC textbook, ISBN 978-0-8153-4450-6) and completing three quantitative assignments.
  2. To explore bionanotechnology through guided and self-directed studying of contemporary bionanotechnology literature and through giving three presentations.  Tentative areas include DNA nanotechnology (origami, molecular robots, etc.), lipid/peptide nanotechnology, microfluidics, and drug delivery.
  3. To practice critical thinking and active learning through constructing weekly concept/argument maps and writing a term paper.