The Biophysics program has flexible course requirements that support the training and education of our interdisciplinary student body. The curriculum consist of:

  • The core curriculum (Biophysical Chemistry and Biophysical Spectroscopy), which provide a foundation of biophysical principles
  • The Biophysics seminar, a literature-based seminar on current Biophysics topics, required for students in their first to third year
  • Six more credit from Advanced Electives, chosen from six different specialty areas depending on the interests of the student
  • An Ethics course in the first year
  • Four additional Seminar courses in advanced topics to be taken after the third year
  • Optional Specialty courses that may be helpful to support the student’s thesis topic

Please find below the details that pertain to each component of our curriculum.

Core Curriculum

The goal of the Core Curriculum is to provide a foundation of biophysical principles and methods to our incoming class.

All students are required to take:

  • Chem 665, Biophysical Chemistry, covering equilibrium thermodynamics, chemical kinetics and transport properties, with emphasis on solution behavior and application to noncovalent interactions of biological macromolecules in solution. Offered every Fall and Spring semesters.
  • Chem 668, Biophysical Spectroscopy (for 3 credits). Focuses on the underlying principles and applications of spectroscopic and microscopy methods employed to solve biological problems at the atomic and molecular level. Currently offered typically every Fall semester (otherwise offered every other year).

Advanced Electives

The Advanced Elective provide an opportunity for our student to develop a foundation in topics that are related to their chosen research area.

Students must take at least 6 credits total of advanced elective courses. All elective courses must be at least 2 credits. That means that students can, for example, take two 3-credit courses, three 2-credit courses, or one 2-credit and one 4-credit course to satisfy this requirement. The following list of courses have all been approved as elective courses by the Biophysics Curriculum and Steering Committee.

Pre-approved Elective Courses


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Advanced Elective Course Request Process

The program recognizes that it is important that advanced elective courses are tailored for the specific research topic of each student. Students who are interested in different courses, could petition to have them count as an elective course towards their Biophysics graduate degree. The course needs to be approved by the Biophysics Curriculum Committee.

To request a course approval, please use the Advanced Elective Approval Form. The committee has created a set of guidelines to determine whether or not a course meets the desired rigor to count as an advanced elective. Please read through these guidelines before submitting a course approval request.

CHEM 872 The Biophysics Seminar

This seminar course is a requirement for first-, second- and third-year Biophysics students. The Biophysics Seminar covers current topics of interest in the field of molecular biophysics. In addition, the course provides an opportunity for developing our community, connecting students and faculty in the program.

Information can be found in the course page.

Additional Seminar Courses

Starting from their fourth year, students are required to attend four more seminar classes in total before their graduation.  These are typically a 900-level one-credit course based on presentation and discussion of journal article or individual research.

These seminar courses provide continued education in current topics in the chosen research area of each student or opportunities for breath development for topics outside the students’ research areas.

Biochem 729 Responsible Conduct of Research

All students are required to take an ethics course in their first year, typically Biochem 729 in the Fall or Spring semester.

Annual Ethics Refresher

In addition, students are required to take a two-hour ethics refresher seminar every year to until graduation. The refresher typically occurs in the early Fall semester, and is led by a Biophysics Trainer on a topic of broad interest.


Specialty Courses

Students can take additional courses if they are important for their research work and professional development. Students should consult with their Thesis Advisor and thesis committee members about appropriate specialty courses to take pertaining to individual training goals.

990 Research Credits

These are the courses in which students will be conducting their independent research. First semester students will register for 990 research credits in the department of the Biophysics Program Chair, Alessandro Senes. Once a thesis lab is selected, these credits will be conducted in the Thesis Advisor’s home department.

Credit requirements

The Graduate School requires PhD students to complete a minimum of 51 graduate-level credits in order to obtain a PhD Degree. These 51 credits are fulfilled via the combination of core curriculum, ethics course, seminar, specialty courses and 990 research credits. Please keep in mind that all major course requirements must be completed before a student undergoes their oral preliminary examination.

Grade requirements

The Graduate School requires that the overall grade point average (GPA) of non-research courses be 3.0 (B average) or better. In addition, the Biophysics Program requires a cumulative Biophysics GPA of 3.0 or better in the core, ethics, and specialty courses. Research and seminar course grades are not included in the Biophysics GPA.

Credits are not counted from courses in which a grade of BC or below is obtained for either of the Biophysics core courses. In the event of an unsatisfactory grade, the student must repeat the course and obtain a grade of B or better in order to graduate.

The Biophysics Graduate Degree Program Coordinator will monitor course enrollment and completion. Any deficiencies will be discussed with the Biophysics Steering Committee and could lead to academic probation.