Brandeis physicist wins award for biology textbook

Thirteen years ago, two physicists sat down to write a book about biology. On Thursday, that book, now in its second edition, was honored with a Society of Biology Book Award for outstanding life-sciences textbook for undergraduates.

Jane Kondev
Jané Kondev

Brandeis physics professor Jané Kondev co-authored the book with Rob Phillips of the California Institute of Technology, Julie Theriot of Stanford and Hernan Garcia of Princeton. 

“The book is an attempt to describe molecular and cell biology in the language of physics and mathematics,” Kondev says. “When Rob and I started this book project in 2000, we were both physics types who barely knew any biology. It is amusing to no end that 14 years later, we get this award.”

“Physical Biology of the Cell” was published in 2007 and its second edition in December 2012. 

Kondev links the book’s success to Brandeis’ tradition of interdisciplinary collaboration. 

“I learned practically all the biology I know from my colleagues in the biochemistry and biology departments,” Kondev says. “Only at Brandeis would an assistant professor of physics, who was just hired on the strength of his theoretical physics research, get support from his colleagues to undertake a risky book-writing project that focuses on biology.”

The Society of Biology gives book awards annually to the best biology, biosciences and life-sciences writing published the previous year. The award comes with a £500 cash prize. 

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