Graduate programs in structural biology focus on molecules in biological systems and how they impact cell function. As an academic area, structural biology incorporates perspectives from disciplines including biochemistry, medicine, cell biology, and physiology. These programs usually lead to a Ph.D. degree and prepare students for research-focused careers.
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Structural Biology Graduate Program Information
Graduate students in structural biology usually begin their studies with core classes in biochemistry, biophysics, and biology before moving on to elective classes and developing a particular research interest. In addition to courses like those listed below, structural biology Ph.D. students can expect to gain teaching experience and complete comprehensive examinations and a dissertation.
Focusing on chemical processes, biochemistry classes examine cellular components of plants, animals, and other biological entities and how the components function. Students learn about the structure and metabolic operations of cellular components and the evolutionary impact of chemical processes. Specific topics usually covered include protein structure, enzyme regulation, and protein analysis.
Graduate classes in cell biology examine biological structures at the cellular level. Students receive advanced instruction in cell organization and regulation, chromosomal structure, protein translocation, mitosis, and biosynthesis. These classes may include discussions of organ systems and medical issues related to cell biology. In addition to lectures, cell biology classes sometimes include a clinical or laboratory component.
Advanced Structural Biology
Students in advanced structural biology classes examine research methods in the field, and these classes usually include an intensive focus on laboratory research. Topics may include protein structures and methods such as X-ray crystallography. In some programs, structural biology classes focus on pharmacology and how structural biology can be applied to drug development; topics in this area include proteases and membrane-bound enzymes.
Structural Biology & Biochemistry Seminar
Doctoral programs in this field usually incorporate small-size seminars on topics of interest within structural biology and biochemistry. Classes may focus on new research or current issues or problems. For example, a seminar focused on biochemistry might include a discussion of chromosome silencing, RNA functions, and technology related to RNA. These classes often use a discussion format and may incorporate presentations from scientists outside the department.
Courses in this area cover molecular issues as they relate to cell biology. Students examine processes including cell regulation, organization, and function at the molecular level. Topics related to genetics may also be covered, including gene mapping, prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms, and DNA transfer. These classes may involve intensive reviews of existing research in the field.
Structural Biology Graduate Program Admissions
Applicants to doctoral programs in structural biology need to have an undergraduate degree reflecting significant coursework in disciplines including biology, physics, and math until at least calculus. Programs generally emphasize the need for preparation in chemistry through lab experience and courses including general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Depending on specific program requirements, applicants may need to have a minimum undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Prospective students should also submit GRE scores; some programs may accept MCAT scores in lieu of the GRE. Additional requirements may include a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation.
Graduate programs in structural biology usually lead to a Ph.D. Students gain intensive experience in the field through coursework in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology along with independent research.