The Science of Sensory Perception

Fall 2015 quarter

Taught by

physics, biomedical engineering, optical imaging and microscopy
veterinary medicine


One year each of precalculus, general biology and general chemistry.  Students will need to be familiar with basic DNA and protein biochemistry. A good working knowledge of precalculus (functions, algebra and trigonometry) will be necessary for success in this program.

Students in this lower-division physics/optics and upper-division biology program will gain exposure to how the sensory organs and systems for touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision work on a basic scientific level.  Students will learn the fundamental steps in sensory perception, starting with the transmission of a given physical phenomenon from the outside world to a molecular cell receptor and ending with neurophysiologic interpretation by the brain.

The physics component of the program will focus primarily on elements of nerve transduction as well as the behavior and detection of sound and light. In the biology component, the somatosensory, olfactory, gustatory, auditory, and visual systems will be used as focused topics to study more general concepts in molecular cell biology and neuroscience.

Weekly assignments will consist of textbook readings with assigned problems as well as primary scientific and review papers. Electrophysiology, cell signaling, synaptic function, neuroanatomy, psychophysics, and neural integration will be emphasized for each sensory system studied, with special emphasis on physics of the auditory and visual systems (wave propagation, interference, and introductory optics). Laboratory sessions will reinforce the physics and biology concepts learned in lecture and provide students with opportunities to learn fundamental optical, cell, and molecular biology techniques.

This program is appropriate for students interested in pursuing further work in biophysics, biological research, neurobiology, and the biomedical sciences. Students who successfully complete this program will attain upper-division credit in cell biology, molecular biology, and neuroscience, and lower-division credit in introductory biophysics.*

* Note: For purposes of graduate and medical school prerequisites, the physics in this program is not intended to replace a standard introductory physics sequence.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biochemistry, biology, neurobiology, biophysics, biological research, biomedical sciences and engineering, and veterinary medicine.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through The Greener Store.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$200 for lab kits and experimental materials.

Upper Division Science Credit

Those successfully completing all components of the program will receive eight upper-division credits in biology.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Numbers

So (16 credits): 10177
Jr (16 credits): 10178
Sr (16 credits): 10179

Go to to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

Contact Academic Advising for help in answering your questions, planning your future and solving problems.