In the twenty–first century, it has become increasingly clear that the quantum nature of light is essential both for the latest imaging modalities and even to advance our knowledge of fundamental life processes, such as photosynthesis and human vision.
From Photon to Neuron places the modern synthesis of wave and particle aspects of light front and center, then uses it both to develop quantum physics and to give a unified view of a wide range of optical and biological phenomena. Along the way, the book builds the needed background in neuroscience, photochemistry, and other disciplines, bringing students from their first–year physics courses to the ongoing revolutions in optogenetics and superresolution microscopy. Other topics include fluorescence and two–photon imaging, as well as Förster resonance energy transfer, all with an eye to what these indispensable techniques teach us about their physical underpinnings.
With its integrated approach, From Photon to Neuron can be used as the basis for interdisciplinary courses in biophysics, sensory neuroscience, the physical foundations of laboratory instrumentation, biophotonics, bioengineering, or nanotechnology. Throughout, the goal is for students to gain the fluency they need to derive every result for themselves. To that end, the text includes exercises at all levels of complexity, including many that guide students through computer-based solutions. Supplementary online materials include experimental data for use in working these exercises.
Readers will acquire several research skills that are often not addressed in traditional courses:
- Basic modeling skills, including dimensional analysis and maximum-likelihood estimation.
- Computer programming using a general-purpose platform like MATLAB or Python, with short codes written from scratch.
- Data visualization skills.
These basic skills, which are relevant to nearly any field of science or engineering, are presented in the context of case studies from living systems, including:
- Photochemistry (photodamage, photoisomerization, photoactivation, phototherapy)
- Interplay between particle-like and wavelike aspects of light
- Fluorescence microscopy, FRET, and associated genetically encoded reporters
- Image formation in the human eye, its limitations and abberrations
- Diffraction and other optical phenomena
- Traditional and modern microscopy including fluorescence, confocal, superresolution, and two-photon
- X-ray diffraction imaging
- Sensory biophysics, with an emphasis on phototransduction
Here are slides from a talk about the book at the 2016 AAPT national meeting.
Who takes this class?
At my institution, the students are undergraduates who have taken one year of university physics. No background in computer programming, and no Biology or Chemistry prerequisite courses are assumed. However, each chapter has a ”Track 2” appendix with more advanced material; with these sections and some assigned primary research articles, the book can also serve a graduate–level course.
Although the book is not about medicine per se, many students who take the course at Penn are premedical, in part because the course addresses many of the competencies that form the basis of the new MCAT2015 (see the Instructor’s Preface and the 2015 MCAT guide).
The book has almost no overlap with my previous books Biological Physics and Physical Models of Living Systems. Biological Physics focused on molecular mechanics, fluid mechanics, molecular machines, and neural signaling. Physical Models of Living Systems focused more on intracellular control systems, and on general background skills. From Photon to Neuron focuses on quantum physics and its application to imaging, neural readout and control, and human vision.
All of the graphics are freely available in a form suitable for classroom use here. Additional Instructor Resources, including solutions to the problems both in Python and in MATLAB and ideas for classroom demonstrations, are available from the publisher.
Student resources, including online experimental datasets, suggestions on the “Your Turn” questions, and videos, are available on the Student Resources Page.
Samples and Ordering Information
ISBN information for Photon to Neuron: ISBN-13: 9780691175195