Philip Nelson

Testimonials


"There is growing interest in quantitative biology and biological physics, driven in part by the rising popularity of synthetic biology and systems biology. However, the development of educational materials has not kept pace with this emerging interest. Phil Nelson’s marvelous new book nicely fills this gap and will serve as a fantastic resource for the field.... The writing style is clear and accessible, and the examples and homework problems have been carefully designed and presented to enable students to become proficient in key concepts and principles at the interface of physics and molecular biology.... Students and professors alike will love this book."
James J. Collins, Biological Engineering, MIT

"The strong thematic unity of the proposed book is a major strength. What students are most stunned and amazed by is how a handful of basic mathematical concepts (e.g., Poisson statistics, Bayes rules) can be used to understand myriad problems at many levels. Nelson’s book communicates these key concepts in a very engaging way. Choice of topic, strong thematic unity, and lucidness are its major strengths.”
—  Aravinthan Samuel, Harvard University

". . . . I love the combination of real data along with the simplified mathematical modeling. This is exactly the kind of thoughtful back-and-forth between the real world and the modeling world that I try to inculcate in my own students."
Ned Wingreen, Princeton University

"This text is beautifully written. It succeeds by presenting a clear and coherent point of view: It is essential to develop quantitative, testable models of biological phenomena and these models are based on the basic physical foundations of nature which are essential for understanding living systems and for developing the modern tools used to investigate their structure and dynamics."
Alex Levine, University of California, Los Angeles

"Excellent conversational tone that Nelson has perfected over time . . . . Excellent mixtures of physical and biological examples, with enough technical content that students can appreciate and understand the biology, but without the jargon and details that often prevent abstract concepts from being easily understood - Illustrations and problems for students are great."
Megan Valentine, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is just the book that one needs to explain to students that mathematical modeling is useful in biology and that just a few mathematical concepts are behind the explosive growth of the biological understanding of the recent years. The interplay between models and experimental data throughout the book is great, and the emphasis on computational solutions with Matlab, with progressing difficulty, allow one to take a complete computer novice into the class."
Ilya Nemenman, Physics, Emory University
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Philip Nelson's excellent text, Biological Physics, provides material for the types of course we should now be offering to all our students."
excerpt from review in Nature
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"Nelson says that his book is for 'life science students who are willing to use calculus' and for 'physical science and engineering students who are willing to think about cells'. And indeed, his book should educate and intrigue both groups. Particularly impressive is the subtle way that topics that often cause the eyes of even the most diligent student to glaze over are made to seem not just interesting to read about but compelling to learn.... Moreover, although much emphasis is placed on understanding ideas, the text does not allow anyone to forget that some real equations need to be mastered if such an understanding is to be satisfying and widely applicable.
           Another good aspect of this book is that it is right up to date in the topics and examples that it covers. Many relatively recent ideas, such as the use of free-energy surfaces for understanding protein folding and of optical tweezers for probing muscle action, are covered in depth, with at least some references to the original literature. There are frequent comments about the way that modern ideas and techniques have emerged. As Nelson cleverly shows, many of the most important scientific breakthroughs have come about unexpectedly through just the type of interdisciplinary studies that this book promotes.
Nature 432, 444-445 (25 November 2004)
 

"This creative and insightful textbook brings definition to the field....
These days physical scientists need to understand more biology, just as biological scientists need to understand more physics. Nelson's engaging and satisfying book opens the doors in both directions. It will intrigue both the student and the professor."
—excerpt from the review in American Journal of Physics
 
"Phil Nelson has crafted a marvelous text on biological physics. Not only is it authoritative and up to date; it's that rarity of rarities, a textbook that is actually fun to read. I've already learned a lot from it and can't wait to read more." -- Steven Strogatz, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Cornell University, and author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos
 
"The proposed book by Nelson will fill a clear need.  Discussion revolves around central ideas, and the ideas are developed clearly.  Moreover, Nelson has a very engaging style, with effective use of humor and example.  We are fortunate that a person with his deep knowledge of the workings of nature and appreciation for her beauty has devoted so much time toward the development of his course on biophysics." --William Parke, Physics Dept., George Washington University
 
"I have found it difficult to teach my class to both graduate and undergraduate students at the same time.  The use of [Nelson's] Track 2 option is perfect for my students.  This way I can use one text that will be readable by my undergraduate students while it's still challenging to my graduate students.  Dr. Nelson succeeds in explaining difficult concepts in words and then presents the mathematics in a clear way." -- Daniel Kim-Shapiro, Physics Dept., Wake Forest University
 
"I applaud the author for undertaking the task to develop this course and, even more so, to write this book.  There are few as capable as Nelson of carrying this out successfully.  He is an excellent writer, being both entertaining and clear.  In short, I think you have a future gem on your hands." -- Fred MacKintosh, Dept. of Physics, Princeton University
 
"Dr. Nelson has done a splendid job conveying how principles of physics apply to biological systems.  The book is exceptionally multifaceted, allowing the instructor to gear it toward students from a variety of backgrounds.  I think Biological Physics will be a winner!" -- Donald Jacobs, Cal State-Northridge
 
"Overall I found the choice of topics to be quite interesting and appropriate, and the presentation of the material attractive.  The author writes well, and he employs an appealing physical style of presentation, in the conversational Feynman Lectures tradition, rather than a very mathematical style or the fact-heavy style of a university biology textbook.  He places emphasis on simple arguments, dimensional analysis and tabletop demonstrations of everyday experience.  He chooses good examples.  This is the kind of thing that I believe a biological phyiscs course should aim to teach." -- Steve Hagen, University of Florida
 
"The simplicity of physics is stressed and the utility of making quantitative predictions...  The big picture is explained and put in focus...  An elegant presentation that is physically very insightful.
   Nelson has done a splendid job conveying how principles of physics apply to biological systems.  The intended book develops a logical thread of thought from one idea into another that weaves a big picture for the reader...  The book is exceptionally multifaceted, allowing the instructor to gear it
toward students from a variety of backgrounds."  -- DONALD JACOBS, Department of Physics and Astronomy, California State University, Northridge
 
"The author writes well, and he employs an appealing physical style of presentation, in the conversational Feynman Lectures tradition, rather than a very mathematical style, or the fact-heavy style of a university biology text.  He places emphasis on simple arguments, dimensional analysis, and
tabletop demonstrations or everyday experience.  He chooses good examples of biological systems where simple physical arguments can provide insight into the mechanisms or constraints under which these systems operate.  Thisis the kind of thing that I believe a biological physics course should aim
to teach."  -- STEVE HAGEN, Physics Department, University of Florida
 
"I applaud the author for undertaking the task to develop this course and, even more so, to write this book.  There are few as capable as Nelson of carrying this out successfully.  He is an excellent writer, both entertaining and clear."  -- FRED MACKINTOSH, Division of Physics and Astronomy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; Adjunct Associate Editor for Biological Physics, Physical Review Letters
 
"I have found it difficult to teach my class to both graduate and undergraduate students at the same time.  The use of [Nelson's] Track 2 option is perfect for my students.  This way I can use one text that will be readable by my undergraduate students while it's still challenging to my graduate students.  Dr.  Nelson succeeds in explaining difficult concepts in words and then presents the mathematics in a clear way."  -- DANIEL KIM-SHAPIRO, Physics Dept., Wake Forest University
 
 
"The book by Nelson will fill a clear need.  Discussion revolves around central ideas, and the ideas are developed clearly.  Moreover, Nelson has a very engaging style, with effective use of humor and example.  We are fortunate that a person with his deep knowledge of the workings of Nature and appreciation for her beauty has devoted so much time toward the development of his course on biophysics."  --WILLIAM PARKE, Physics Dept., George Washington University
 
"Phil Nelson's book is simultaneously interesting, humorous and full of deep insights into the coupling between physics and biology.  It was a pleasureto read every page and rederive each equation in his book and then use it in several courses.   It  is full of ideas of interest to physics and biology students alike.   It is especially satisfying to see how the use of single molecule techniques (and associated modeling) complements advances from structural biology and solution biochemistry.  I think it is a great addition to the field."  -ROB PHILLIPS, California Institute of Technology
 
"Understanding the mechanisms behind cellular level transport, thermodynamics, macromolecular interactions, and nerve conduction is a staggering challenge to aged experts and novice students.  Biological Physics synthesizes these concepts elegantly in a way that is accessible and interesting to experts and students alike.  Nelson's book provides a foundation that is crucial to the future of physics, mathematics, and biomedical engineering.  And what makes the text truly special is its ability to stimulate the reader's curiosity."  - ERIC NAUMAN, Tulane University
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Philip Nelson

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