Departmental Requirements: both tracks

Students should expect to complete their graduate studies in five years or less and can choose to follow a training program in the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Track or Biophysics Track. The first year in BBSP is devoted to coursework and laboratory rotations, with the student choosing a thesis advisor and laboratory in late Spring. During the second year, students will typically complete remaining course requirements, initiate thesis research, and complete the first phase of the qualifying exam. In the third year, students focus more intensively on thesis research and complete the second phase of the qualifying exam. The remaining years of study are largely devoted to thesis research, although students continue to attend seminars, journal clubs, tutorials, etc.

A First Year Group Committee (assigned by BBSP) assists beginning students with coursework selection and the choice of laboratory rotations.  Students then form a thesis advisory committee which they meet with on a regular basis in order for faculty to provide consistent guidance to the student and be kept apprised of the student's progress.

First-Year Laboratory-Rotations in BBSP

BBSP students must complete three ten-week lab rotations during the first year. You can choose from over 300 laboratories in any of the 12 participating PhD programs. At the end of the first year students typically choose their thesis lab from one of their lab rotations and matriculate into the Biochemistry and Biophysics program with which their thesis advisor is affiliated.


The Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics has set up a curriculum geared to challenge students in their pursuit for knowledge. Course work is designed to emphasize basic skills and principles, and yet be sufficiently flexible to allow students to focus on different research areas (sample course sequence).

  • Residency - be in residence at least 4 semesters
  • Course Load - carry at least 9 credits per semester for 2 years
  • Exams - successfully complete comprehensive qualifying exams (oral & written)
  • Defense - successfully defend thesis before an examining committee
  • Publication: complete original research that comprehensively addresses an important topic in the student’s area of research, and results in a publishable (see also LINK) first authored (or co-first authored) manuscript.
  • Teaching - serve one semester as a teaching assistant (recommend in 1st or 2nd yr). TA opportunities differ for Biochemistry and Biophysics tracks

COURSE REQUIREMENTS - (term, # of credit hours in parentheses)


  • BIOC 701 (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Track) OR BIOC 704 (Biophysics Track) (2 Credit hours)
  • BIOC 712 Scientific Writing (Spring, 3)
  • BIOC 715 Oral Scientific Presentation (Summer, 1)


Students must also complete course requirements for either Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Track or Biophysics Track


Students are required to pass three qualifying examinations to be admitted to candidacy for a PhD degree. Our Department has chosen to administer the exams in the following stages: 1) a written comprehensive exam is taken in the first or second year 2) an oral comprehensive exam of the initial thesis proposal is completed before the end of the second year, and 3) the final thesis defense is completed at the conclusion of the student's graduate work. For more information about these exams, please review the Comprehensive Exams section of our site as well as the guidelines in the Graduate School Handbook.