Expected Background

The PhD program derives its strength from participants with various interests and backgrounds. PMB students come from a range of undergraduate disciplines and, therefore, some may require additional courses or tutorials to round out their basic training. Individual needs can be interwoven into the required curriculum.

Optimal background includes general chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, two semesters of college-level physics, biochemistry or molecular biology, and calculus or a high-level math course.


The methods and tools of biophysics are drawn from physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer science. Our curriculum is correspondingly broad and rigorous. Five required one-semester courses form the core of the PMB curriculum.

Fall Year 1
  • Introduction to Computing (4 weeks)
  • Physical Chemistry of Biological Macromolecules
  • Proteins and Nucleic Acids
Spring Year 1
  • Methods in Molecular Biophysics
  • Computer Modeling of Biological Macromolecules
Fall Year 2
  • Organic Mechanisms in Biology
  • Elective I
Spring Year 2
  • Elective II

Students attend weekly biophysics seminars and present one of their own in their second year.

The elective courses chosen by students vary greatly depending on their interests. Together these courses provide a broad conceptual framework for understanding macromolecular energetics, dynamics, structure, and interactions, as well as practical training in computational analysis, exposure to the current scientific literature, and awareness of contemporary and future areas of research.

Proficiency in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology is evaluated formally with an oral examination at the end of the first year. Students who have never taken courses in these areas are welcome, but not required, to take such courses during their first year. Tutorials and self-directed study provide alternative avenues for preparing for this evaluation.