BMS1031 - Medical biophysics - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

School of Biomedical Sciences

Chief examiner(s)

Professor Kristian Helmerson


Professor Kristian Helmerson
Professor Helena Parkington

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (On-campus)


Must be enrolled in one of the following:

  • Bachelor of Biomedical Science (including double degree programs)
  • Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Scholar Program)
  • Bachelor of Biomedical Science Advanced with Honours
  • Bachelor of Emergency Health (Paramedic)
  • Bachelor of Radiation Sciences


PHS1031, PHS1080.


The behaviour of human and biomedical systems are understood in terms of underlying physical principles. Forces involved in human movement and body systems including muscles and joints. Energy and heat flow and metabolism, pressure, osmosis, diffusion and respiration, fluid flow in the cardiovascular system. Electrical charges, current, potential and capacitance in simple circuits, EEG, ECG, cells and nerve conduction. Sound and ultrasound, human hearing, refraction and lenses, the human eye, optical and electron microscopes. X-rays and radiation, biological effects and damage, radiation therapy and medical imaging.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students should be able to apply concepts of physics and introductory physiology as they relate to biomedical sciences in the following areas:

  1. The laws of motion and the concepts of work, energy and power as they relate to human movement and biomechanics.
  2. Heat transfer and thermal properties, the behaviour of gases and fluids applied to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
  3. Principles of electricity, potential difference, current, resistance and capacitance; the basis of Nerst potential and the biological membrane potential, nerve conduction, ECG.
  4. Wave motion, the physics of sound and the properties of light and their relationship to auditory and visual phenomena, the function of the human eye and ear.
  5. Radiation physics underlying the medical use of x-rays and radiation in medicine and biomedical sciences including the effect of ionising radiation on living matter.

    Students will develop basic practical skills in problem solving, experimental methods and uncertainties, analysis of data and written scientific communication.


  • Written examination (3 hours) (50%) (Hurdle)
  • Practical work (25%)
  • Assignments (3 items consisting of set questions, online quizzes and a fact sheet A4 poster) (25%)

A pass in the final examination must be obtained to pass the unit.

Workload requirements

The workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours spread across the semester (roughly 12 hours per week) - approximately an even mixture of attendance at scheduled activities and self-scheduled study time. Learning activities comprise a mixture of instructor directed, peer directed and self-directed learning, which includes face-to-face and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study