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Physical Chemistry Basics of DNA and Genetic Information

Module PH2154

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2018

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2022SS 2021SS 2020SS 2019SS 2018SS 2017WS 2008/9

Basic Information

PH2154 is a semester module in German or English language at Master’s level which is offered in summer semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Specific catalogue of special courses for Biophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for condensed matter physics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for nuclear, particle, and astrophysics
  • Complementary catalogue of special courses for Applied and Engineering Physics

If not stated otherwise for export to a non-physics program the student workload is given in the following table.

Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
150 h 60 h 5 CP

Responsible coordinator of the module PH2154 in the version of SS 2018 was Günther Woehlke.

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


Energetic, thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of the following issues: information encoding in DNA; DNA topology, twist, and formation of plectonemes; topological problems during DNA replication and repair; gene expression and it regulation; genetic switches

Learning Outcome

After successful attendance, the participants are able to judge the relevance of physical-chemical basics for storage, propagation and maintenance of genetic information. In particular, problems arising in cyclic DNA molecules can be described in a quantitative manner. Attendees are able to categorize and understand current literature and problems of the field.


Biophysics in cells; advanced knowledge of molecular biology and/or genetics.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

Lecture: physical chemistry of nucleotides; crash course 'molecular cloning' for the understanding of primary literature; torsonal stiffness of DNA and RNA; mechansims of topoisomerases, helicases, integrases and recombinases; Crispr/Cas

Exercises: Application of theoretical background to specific, cell biologically relevant examples

Current literature in the field, in particular with single-molecule experiment background


Lecture with script; study of current literature, possibly with student presentations


Phillips et al. (2013) Physical Biolog of the Cell. 2nd ed.

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

There will be an oral exam of 25 minutes duration. Therein the achievement of the competencies given in section learning outcome is tested exemplarily at least to the given cognition level using Questions concerning physical-chemical properties of DNA, and understanding of experimental observations.

For example an assignment in the exam might be:

  • Causes and consequences of DNA bending stiffness
  • Response of DNA on torsional forces
  • Questions concerning the understanding of single-molecule studies on DNA and RNA

Participation in the exercise classes is strongly recommended since the exercises prepare for the problems of the exam and rehearse the specific competencies.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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