Program Overview

Students should expect to complete their graduate studies in five years or less and can choose to follow a training program in the Biochemistry 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.

Students satisfy the requirements for the Ph.D. by completing original research that is accepted as first-authored publications in high quality, peer-reviewed journals prior to the final oral dissertation examination. Since the Department’s emphasis is on the completion and publication of original research to enhance prospects for the most competitive positions after graduation, students are provided with training and support to achieve this goal.

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).


Our Department believes that teaching is an invaluable part of graduate education, as well as a benefit to the University. Hence, Ph.D. students are required to serve as teaching assistants during one semester.  We encourage students to satisfy this teaching requirement during their first year of study; however, students may also satisfy this requirement in year two.  For more information about our teaching requirement, please visit the Degree Requirements section of our site.


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) an oral comprehensive exam of the initial thesis proposal is completed before the end of the second year, 2) a written comprehensive exam is taken in the second or third 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.