Mechanics of the Cell (2nd edition)

Mechanics of the Cell

Aimed at senior undergraduates and graduate students in science and biomedical engineering, this text explores the architecture of the cell's envelope and internal scaffolding. The analysis is performed within a consistent theoretical framework, although the reader can navigate from the introductory material to the results and biological applications without working through the intervening mathematics. The second edition was published in January 2012; it is 50% longer than the first edition and in full color. The book can be used as a primary source in a one-semester course on cell mechanics, or as part of a more general course on biophysics (see PHYS 4xx). Click here to access the website for the first edition (2002, out of print).

Published by Cambridge University Press .
624 pages, including index and glossary
282 colour diagrams
283 "end of chapter" problems, grouped into biological applications and formal extensions.

Links to the Cambridge website for the book are:
Hardback (ISBN 9780521113762).
Paperback (ISBN 9780521130691).

Table of contents for Mechanics of the Cell (2nd edition)

Chapter 1 Introduction to the cell
Chapter 2 Soft materials and fluids
Part I Rods and ropes
Chapter 3 Polymers
Chapter 4 Complex filaments
Chapter 5 Two-dimensional networks
Chapter 6 Three-dimensional networks
Part II Membranes
Chapter 7 Biomembranes
Chapter 8 Membrane undulations
Chapter 9 Intermembrane and electrostatic forces
Part III The whole cell
Chapter 10 Structure of the simplest cells
Chapter 11 Dynamic filaments
Chapter 12 Growth and division
Chapter 13 Control and organization
Appendix A Animal cells and tissues
Appendix B The cell's molecular building blocks
Appendix C Elementary statistical mechanics
Appendix D Elasticity

Sample material

The following links provide samples of the first three chapters of Mechanics of the Cell stored as PDF files. Chap. 1 informally reviews the mechanical design of the cell. Chap. 2 presents the conceptual framework for the text's treatment of cell mechanics. Chap. 3 introduces biopolymers and illustrates the mathematical level used in the text
Chapter 1 - Introduction to the cell
Chapter 2 - Soft materials and fluids
Chapter 3 - Polymers

Solution sets

Complete solutions to end-of-chapter problems (odd numbers only) are available to qualified instructors at a password-protected part of Cambridge University Press's website. Please go to and visit the Ancillary Materials or Resources section of the page.

Lecture notes

My own version of a one-semester course based on the text can be found here. This course was open to both graduate and undergraduate students, with separate assignments and examinations prepared for each group to recognize their different level of academic preparation, particularly in statistical mechanics.

Supplements to appendices

The appendices in the text are necessarily brief and may not provide adequate background material for students, depending on their undergraduate studies. What follows are extensions of the text material; the topics are organized according to the appendix they most closely resemble.

Appendix B - The cell's molecular building blocks
Chemical bonds and geometry

Appendix C - Elementary statistical mechanics
These notes provide an introduction to the concepts of statistical mechanics and the ensembles most commonly encountered in biophysics. Students with only freshman physics should find the material accessible, as the first 12 pages of notes are largely conceptual. A more thorough treatment of statistical mechanics can be found in PHYS 445, which is based on Reif's Statistical and Thermal Physics
Concepts of statistical physics
Interacting systems
Partition function
Grand canonical ensemble

Appendix D - Elasticity
Physical properties of matter
Elasticity in two dimensions

Original figures

Please feel free to use the original diagrams, with attribution for the complex ones. The figures are stored as tiffs individually (click here for the links). Artwork that is based on other sources, or photographs from other sources, cannot be included for copyright reasons.


Hopefully there won't be too many typos. The list will be updated as I notice or receive pointers to typos not caught in the proofing stages of the book.