Philip C. Nelson

Biological Physics, University of Pennsylvania

About Me

My Books


Student's Guide to Physical Modeling

Student's Guide to Python for Physical Modeling, Updated Edition

(with Jesse M. Kinder) (Princeton Univ. Press, 2018). You can get it directly from Princeton. E-book editions are available from Amazon and other distributors.

The book has an associated blog. Chapter 1 is freely available. A Chinese-language translation of the first edition is available, and also a Korean-language edition.

"An excellent stepping stone into the world of using Python in computational science… After working through the chapters and their accompanying exercises, readers can expect not only to know how to write and read Python but also to achieve a thorough understanding for developing complex physical models and calculations." — Kevin Thielen and Vivienne Tien in "Computing in Science & Engineering" May/June 2016



From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision

(Princeton Univ. Press, 2017). The hard copy edition is available from Princeton. There is an e-book edition, available for Kindle or via Google Play. Chapter 1 is freely available. Three additional chapters are freely available in preliminary form.

From Photon to Neuron: Light, Imaging, Vision completes a trilogy begun by Biological Physics and Physical Models of Living Systems. Those works establish Nelson as the preeminent author of textbooks at the intersection of physics and biology… Nelson uses words, pictures, formulas, and code to teach students how to construct models and interpret data. His books provide a master class in how to integrate those four different approaches into a complete learning experience.” -- Brad Roth, in Physics Today magazine

“A thorough and sweeping tour from the fundamental physics of light to the neurobiology of the retina… Lavishly illustrated and carefully explained.” -- Sönke Johnsen, Biology, Duke University, in American Journal of Physics

"As elegant as it is deep. A masterful tour of the science of light and vision, it goes beyond artificial boundaries between disciplines and presents all aspects of light as it appears in physics, chemistry, biology and the neural sciences… One of the most insightful, cross-disciplinary texts I have read in many years. It is mesmerising and will become a landmark in rigorous, but highly accessible interdisciplinary literature." -- Luis Alvarez-Gaumé, Stony Brook University, in CERN Courier


Physical Models of Living Systems

(WH Freeman and Co, 2015), now available as an e-book via Google Play, Kindle, and CourseSmart. If you are looking for a hard copy, you may find a good deal from an Amazon affiliate, or here. Available in Chinese translation: 生命系统的物理建模 at these three links.

"Particularly compelling for its smooth integration of biological experiments, physical models, and computational exercises. Readers who complete the text will be well equipped with the computational and mathematical skills needed for a quantitative understanding of a range of biological systems… Thanks to Nelson's skillful writing and the excellent accompanying online resources, this book will appeal to a broad audience and teach even a beginner how to solve problems numerically." -- Eva-Maria Collins in Physics Today

"Philip Nelson has done a terrific job… There are numerous traits that make this text unique among the very many books of biological physics… The presentation of materials is developed in an innovative fashion… There is a nice balance between conceptual examples and end-of-the-chapter problemsPhysical Models of Living Systems… will benefit undergraduates as well as others with clear interests in genomics, proteomics, cellular signaling, bioengineering, regenerative medicine, and synthetic biology." -- Liviu Movileanu in American Journal of Physics 84 (6), June 2016

“[T]his excellent book will appeal to both students and professional scientists in the field of quantitative biology… [T]he book feels personal in its selection of topics and the training journey on which it takes its readership. In our opinion, the combination of this uniqueness with technical accuracy makes the book a noteworthy and valuable addition to resources for advanced biophysics education... [T]he book conveys rich information, is clearly structured, and provides comprehensive data sets... Nelson shows how computational programming can be used effectively in modeling biological systems at the cellular and molecular levels.” -- Dietlind L. Gerloff and Jonghoon Kang. Cell Biology Education (2016) vol. 15 (4) pp. fe11-fe11.



Biological Physics: Energy, Information, Life: With new art by David Goodsell

(WH Freeman and Co, 2014); now available via as an e-book from Amazon and from CourseSmart. Also available in translation: 生物物理学:能量、信息、生命.

"This book inspired me to write [my] book in the first place. Biological Physics is the most interesting and well-written textbook I have ever read." -- Peter M. Hoffman, Life's Ratchet

This 5th printing differs from the 4th by the updating of many of the beautiful drawings by David Goodsell. It also differs from the 3d and earlier printings by the addition of many new homework problems.

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