Ph.D. Degree

Specific Fields of Emphasis and Plans

The program offers a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in biophysics.

Time to Degree

It is expected that students should complete their thesis research and all degree requirements within 5 years from the time of entrance into the program.

Biophysics Laboratory

This is a two-quarter sequence involving laboratory rotations. All students will be expected to participate in four 5-week laboratory assignments designed to acquaint them with a variety of current research techniques. Estimated total units: 12.

Lecture Courses (16 units minimum)

  • Students will first make up deficiencies in the list of prerequisite courses required for admission to the program.
  • All students will take two lecture courses (Biophysics 200 A and B) examining the theory behind current laboratory techniques in biophysics. Lectures on specific techniques will be given by faculty members who use those methods in their own research.
  • The program assumes that students have one of three general backgrounds: physics, chemistry or biological science. Students will be expected to complete the complementary part of their education as outlined in the course requirements. The completion of these courses will normally take from one to two years, depending on the student's ability.
  • The student and graduate adviser will develop a course list in the fall quarter of the first year, which will be then submitted to the CEP for approval. CEP will consider any subsequent change in the course list, submitted by the adviser. The adviser and the CEP Committee shall evaluate the yearly performance of the student.

Research Adviser

During the fourth 5-week laboratory rotation, each student is expected to select a research adviser (also known as major professor), normally (but not necessarily) from one of his/her rotation advisers. Occasionally, a student may be asked to give a second choice. The group chair will consult with the selected faculty member(s) and student in making this arrangement to assure research and funding compatibility. The student will begin research in his/her research adviser's laboratory during the first week of the following quarter and funding will be arranged by the research adviser.

Mentoring Guidelines

Mentoring by faculty of graduate students is an integral part of the graduate student experience.

Download Mentoring Guidelines PDF

TA Requirement

One quarter of teaching experience is required in either a physical or biological sciences course.

Qualifying Examination

A qualifying examination will be given during or before the seventh quarter in residence according to the regulations of the office of Graduate Studies.

The procedure will ensure the constitution of an appropriate QE committee to examine fairly the candidate's breadth and depth of knowledge in biophysical principles, especially in the area of research specialization. All members of the Biophysics Graduate Group will participate as members of QE committees. The procedure is as follows:

1. At the beginning second year of study (Fall quarter), a student planning to take the QE will suggest to the CEP up to 8 BPH faculty as members of the QE committee, will indicate in writing the reason for excluding any faculty member, and will identify three areas of research specialization. The candidate should consult with the major professor and academic adviser to formulate these lists.

2. CEP will then constitute the committee by assigning the chair and members, guided by the candidate's lists. Except in special cases, if the student has selected a faculty member to guide his/her research, that faculty member will not be recommended to serve on the qualifying examination committee.

3. The BPH program assistant will contact the assigned faculty to confirm their willingness and availability to serve on the committee. The faculty will have two weeks to respond. CEP will find replacements, as needed.

4. The BPH program assistant will then prepare the Application for Qualifying Examination form, send it to the graduate advisor, who will verify the candidate's eligibility to take the QE, and then forward it to Graduate Studies. The examination must be scheduled only after the student has completed all courses and other program degree requirements, including the TA requirement. However, the QE may be scheduled during a quarter in which the student is taking the final 1 or 2 courses in his or her program of study. If that is the case, the Graduate Adviser must not sign the Advancement to Candidacy form until it can be verified that the student has passed the courses and thereby satisfied all program requirements.

5. A student must pass the qualifying exam in order to advance to candidacy for the PhD. degree. The qualifying exam has two components, a written research proposal similar to an NIH grant proposal that describes the dissertation work to be undertaken (typically 10-15 double-spaced pages completely referenced) and a three-hour oral exam with five faculty members present. The student typically begins the exam with a brief summary of the research proposal and the committee then questions him or her on the details. Then the questioning is opened up to the three previously agreed upon areas of specialization within biophysics that have been approved by the CEP.

All Qualifying Examination forms can be found on the Graduate Studies Website​.

Students thesis committee needs to be formed, and the necessary form signed by the Graduate Program Advisor. In addition the advancement to candidacy fee needs to be paid at the Registrars Office and the form stamped proving the fee has been paid before submitting to graduate studies.


After passing the qualifying exam and being advanced to candidacy, the student must complete a Ph.D. dissertation. As a guide this should be composed of a body of work approximately equivalent to three research papers.

Dissertation Seminar

All students must present a Ph.D. dissertation research seminar before they file the dissertation with Graduate Studies.