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Molecular Scale Biophysics

Learn how to use state of the art biophysics techniques, in order to understand molecular structure and function

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CIVIS focus area
Open to
  • Master's
  • Phd
Field of studies
  • Medicine and Health
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
12 February - 14 June 2024

During the virtual segment of the course, the students will learn about different techniques for studying and analyzing molecular structure and function. This part is taught through a series of on-line lectures and tutorials. These courses are recorded so that students who were unable to be present can watch the presentations, and to allow students to review and revise the courses.

Then, during a summer school organized in Marseille in June, the students will get the opportunity to use many of the presented techniques to study a particular molecular system (the structure and function of a molecular chaperone) and gain experience in data acquisition, analysis, interpretation and presentation.

Main topics addressed

  • Overview of molecular scale biophysics and accessibility
  • Advances spectroscopies: vibrational spectroscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance and rapid kinetics
  • Hydrodynamic methods: dynamic light scattering and analytical ultracentrifugation
  • Thermodynamic methods: calorimetry and differential scanning fluorimetry
  • Single molecule methods: atomic force microscopy
  • Data analysis and presentation

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge of multiple cutting edge techniques and their applicability
  • Hands on experience in using several advanced methods
  • Communication skills
  • Network building
  • Scientific thinking and discovery


Dates: 12 February - 14 June 2024 Total workload: 170 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 6*
Location: Marseille, France Language: English (B2)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

During the physical mobility segment, the students will come to Marseille and work on an active research project of one of the research groups in the department. Using the state-of the art biophysical techniques available on-site, they will perform experiments on the experimental system studied by this group - the structure function relationships of a molecular chaperone. How the chaperone works is what they need to discover.

The students will thus have both the opportunity to participate in an active research project including obtaining and interpreting new results, but also the opportunity to use the different methods and discover how to analyze and interpret their results.

Virtual part

The virtual part will take place via Zoom between 12 February - 18 April, every Monday and Thursday evening (between 18:00-19:30 CET). The sessions will be either pre-recorded or live, as courses or tutorials. Live sessions will be recorded, so that students who are not available at the particular time can follow the course.

The virtual part is evaluated through a series of graded homework assignments on the different subjects and methods treated. Students typically have 2-3 weeks to complete these assignments.


This course is open to Master's and PhD's students at CIVIS member universities with a high interest in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Structural Biology - either through their previous studies or current projects.

Participants should have a good level of written and spoken English (B2), critical thinking, data analysis and presentation skills, sample handling skills and problem solving orientation.

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Students from CIVIS’ strategic partner universities in Africa cannot apply for participation in this course.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023, including:

  • CV
  • Motivation letter

Applications will be evaluated based on the academic quality of the student, pertinence of the course for the students professional project and diversity of the student cohort. 

Apply now


The virtual part is evaluated based on a series of graded homework assignments, while the physical part is evaluated based on:

  • a report of the experiments performed and results achieved;
  • a brief presentation by students of their interests and projects;
  • active participation during the summer school.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

GDPR Consent

The CIVIS alliance and its member universities will treat the information you provide with respect. Please refer to our privacy policy for more information on our privacy practices. By applying to this course you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

  • prof. James Sturgis (Aix-Marseille Université) has expertise in electronic and vibrational spectroscopy, thermodynamics and various microscopy techniques
  • prof. Andreas Barth (Stockholm University) is an expert in biological infrared spectroscopy to study molecular structure and interactions
  • prof. Francesco Malatesta (Sapienza Università di Roma) is an expert in the use of rapid kinetic methods to understand enzyme mechanism
  • prof. Stephane Grimaldi (Aix-Marseille Université) uses electron paramagnetic resonance to study molecular strucutre and function particularly in the study of metalloenzymes
  • prof. Elsa Garcin (Aix-Marseille Université) is a structural biologist intrested in structure-based drug design, protein-nucleic acids interactions