Biophysics is an interdisciplinary field which incorporates physics, mathematics, biology, and chemistry in order to quantitatively examine complex research problems in the field of biology. Those who pursue a degree at the master's level in biophysics may choose research-related roles or will be well-prepared for doctoral study or for further education in the health professions. Read on to learn more about program options, and some common courses that graduate students in biophysics may encounter.
Master of Science in Physics
One degree option may be to pursue the Master of Science (M.S.) in Physics or Applied Physics which allows students to complete a series of core courses combined with electives in the specific area of interest. A research report or thesis may also be required, however, coursework-only options may be available. Before acceptance, students must have taken undergraduate coursework in physics. Candidates should expect to provide transcripts, a statement of intent, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.
Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Biophysics
Another option to a master's program focusing on biophysics is to earn an M.S. in Molecular Biology and Biophysics degree which requires students to complete a set of core courses in molecular biology and biochemistry, followed by elective courses. A thesis or other research project and a final oral exam may be required for graduation. To apply, students should submit recommendations, a goal statement, transcripts, and GRE scores. Undergraduate preparation in calculus, chemistry, and biology is typically preferred and research experience may also be expected.
Master of Science in Physiology and Biophysics
Students can also choose to pursue an M.S. in Physiology and Biophysics. Program completion will require core courses in biochemistry and physiology, followed by specialization in biophysics. Research rotations or a thesis may be required as well. To apply, students should submit a personal statement, GRE scores, transcripts, and recommendations.
Since biophysics is an interdisciplinary field, completion of the degree may require courses in several scientific areas. Read on to learn more about some common courses students may be required to complete.
Researchers need a thorough understanding of statistics in their field of investigation. A biostatistics course may review basic statistical concepts, such as ANOVA, logistic regression, and chi-squares; and demonstrate their application to biological research. Guidelines for statistics within health science research, including specific CDC and NIH guidelines, may be reviewed. Students may be exposed to various types of statistical software.
The use of microscopy and other scanning techniques is important in the biophysics field. This course may emphasize the types of light and how light interacts with matter, such as those utilized in absorption spectroscopy and UV. Other techniques, such as fluorescence, atomic force, and dynamic light scattering could be a topic of consideration as well. Students may have the opportunity to directly apply these techniques to their research.
Modeling in Biology
A course in biological modeling will introduce students to the quantitative techniques used for the modeling and simulation of biological systems. Specific topics may include oscillations and chaotic biological dynamics. Students may obtain hands-on experience with computer simulation techniques and laboratory experiments.
An understanding of biochemistry is important to the interdisciplinary field of biophysics. A graduate-level biochemistry course may consider the dynamic properties of proteins, enzymology of metabolic regulation, and protein folding. The relationship of biochemistry to human diseases could be reviewed.
Biophysicists require knowledge of the thermodynamics and kinetics within biological molecules. This course may examine a range of theories related to these physical concepts, including ligand binding and amino acid sequence. Students may complete problem sets, take exams, and create projects around these topics.
Earning a Master of Science degree in several different cognate disciplines can prepare students for a career in biophysics. The coursework incorporated within these degrees may vary slightly, however, all of the degrees will provide the scientific framework necessary for the field.