Biophysics Graduate Programs & Requirements

Feb 20, 2018

A graduate degree in biophysics requires students to study in areas such as computation, quantitative analysis, and statistics, which prepares them to perform their own independent research after graduation.

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Graduate programs in biophysics prepare students to become researchers capable of performing advanced statistical modeling of macromolecules. As such, students must often have a strong grasp of mathematics and computers to succeed in these programs.

Biophysics Required Coursework

Graduate biophysics programs typically welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as chemistry and computer science. Schools typically award PhDs in this field, and studies focus on the use of quantitative methods common to the physical sciences, such as chemistry and physics, to study biological processes that take place at the cellular level. The following are only a few of the courses you can expect to take.

Biological Research Lab

This is a lab course students take during their first year in a biophysics program. They might learn methods for preparing lab samples alongside the procedures involved in x-ray diffraction, mass spectrometry, and other imaging methods. Some schools offer this lab as a two-part series that allows students to study more advanced techniques in section that takes place the following semester.


Computation coursework can touch on a number of topics. However, these programs often begin with an introduction to computer environments, such as Python programming and UNIX. Courses in computation can also guide students in how to extract data from data sets and create both simulations and models from that data. Depending on the program, this course might focus on computational approaches for biology or chemistry.


Conduct courses revolve around the ethics involved in the scientific process. The behavior of a school's students reflects on the school and its staff. Schools with ethics courses attempt to instruct students in how to conduct research ethically and responsibly. Ethics courses are often required for both new and continuing students as a means of communicating the conduct expectations of the school.

Biophysical Chemistry

The core of biophysical chemistry studies involves taking coursework that covers topics such as proteins, nucleic acids, and macromolecules. Students taking coursework in this area also learn about theories of thermodynamics and kinetics as they relate to chemical and biological processes. Courses in this area are designed to help students learn more about the foundations of biophysics.

Cell Biology

The study of the cell is one of the core features of a biophysics program. Students can expect to learn about the biology of the cell and read deeply on current literature regarding research in this area. Cell protein trafficking, signal transduction, and cell cycle control are only a few of the cellular processes students can expect to learn about.

Graduate Biophysics Program Admission

Admission requirements for a graduate program can vary between schools, but there are some common criteria that students must meet. Students must submit transcripts from their bachelor's or master's degree program and their GRE scores as part of the process, though schools rarely publish any minimum GRE score that students must achieve. It's also typical for students to submit a personal statement defending why they belong in the program. Finally, schools typically request up to three letters of recommendation as part of the process.

The coursework that students take as part of a biophysics doctoral program is often heavily math oriented and revolves around computational and statistical processes. However, other coursework focuses more closely on fundamental principles in biophysics.

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