ME 530.485: Physics and Feedback in Living Systems

Course Description / Syllabus

The complex mechanisms of living systems cannot be reduced to a set of base pairs: genes are only one part of mystery of life. Rather, organisms must develop, move, interact, and function in their natural environment, and thus are constrained by the laws of physics. For example, during locomotion an animal must accelerate according to Newton’s laws by applying forces between itself and the environment. Beyond physical principles alone, biological systems extensively use feedback to enhance stability and facilitate adaptation in the presence of a changing world. This course examines the critical roles that physical principles and feedback mechanisms play in life, with special emphasis on animal locomotion and its control. Juniors and Seniors only.

Syllabus can be found here: Syllabus for ME 530.485, Fall 2015

Meeting time and room

  • Meeting time: MW 3:00-4:15
  • Shaffer 304

Teaching Assistants

Mert Ankarali, mertankarali [ at ]
Office hours: Monday, 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM, in Latrobe 320



Course Calendar

Problem Sets

Laboratory Exercise

  • To be posted here


The strength of the university depends on academic and personal integrity. In this course, you must be honest and truthful. Ethical violations include cheating on exams, plagiarism, reuse of assignments, improper use of the Internet and electronic devices, unauthorized collaboration, alteration of graded assignments, forgery and falsification, lying, facilitating academic dishonesty, and unfair competition.

In addition, the specific ethics guidelines for this course are:

  1. Working together on homework problems is encouraged, but it must be at the conceptual level and your collaoborator(s) must be acknowledged on your problem set. DO NOT COPY. Your problem set writeup should come from your brain not your friend’s paper.
  2. Computational assignemnts (matlab, etc): All coding for homeworks MUST be done by each indi- vidual (except when sharing is explicitly allowed, such as for team projects). Do not email code, share via thumb-drive, etc, at any time! You can explain coding concepts, give pointers, etc, is OK—but this must be acknolwedged in the comment portion of your code, much as described above for problem sets in general).
  3. Your final writeups for computational pre-lab exercises and lab assignments must be done independently without reference to any notes from group sessions, the work of others, or other sources such as the internet. While working on your final writeups for assignments, you may refer to your own class notes, your own laboratory notes, the text. internet, etc.
  4. Disclosure of Outside Sources: If you use outside sources other than your class notes and your text to solve problems in the pre-lab and lab assignments (i.e. if you have used sources such as your roommate, study partner, the Internet, another textbook, a file from your office-mate’s files) then you must disclose the outside source and what you took from the source in your writeup. THIS IS GENERALLY OK – just disclose your sources. While most problem sets are unique, some problems will inevitably be re-used from previous years. If you discover solutions online, please let me know.

Report any violations you witness to the instructor.

You can find more information about university misconduct policies on the web at these sites:

  • Undergraduates:
  • Graduate students:

Students with Disabilities

Any student with a disability who may need accommodations in this class must obtain an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services, 385 Garland, (410) 516–4720, studentdisabilityservices@