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Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics PhD


The Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics PhD Program ranks in the top 10 nationally and represents a traditional strength in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at UCSD. The goal of the program is to prepare students for careers in the biochemical sciences as researchers and educators by expanding their knowledge of structural biology, protein, RNA, and lipid biochemistry, experimental and computational biophysics, and systems biology while developing their ability for critical analysis, creativity, and independent study. A high graduation rate in an average of just over five years can be attributed to the quality of applicants admitted, the flexibility of our program of study, the opportunity for students to begin research in the first year, and the affordability of education made possible by our generous financial support policies.

Program Overview

Programs of study are tailored to the needs of individual students, based on their prior training and research interests. However, progress to degree is generally similar for all students. During the first year, students take courses, begin their teaching apprenticeships, choose research advisors, and embark on their thesis research; students whose native language is not English must pass an English proficiency examination. Beginning the first summer, the emphasis is on research, although courses of special interest may be taken throughout a student's residency. At the end of their first year, students choose the departmental members of their thesis committee and begin to prepare a written research proposal. During their second year, they complete their research proposal and defend it orally. In the third year, students advance to candidacy for the doctorate by defending the topic, preliminary findings, and future research plans for their dissertation. Subsequent years focus on thesis research and writing the dissertation. Most students graduate during their fifth year.

Research Opportunities

Research opportunities for graduate students are comprehensive and interdisciplinary, spanning biochemistry; biophysics; structural biology, protein, RNA, and lipid biochemistry, experimental and computational biophysics, and systems biology. Please refer to the faculty pages for full descriptions of the on-going research of faculty in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics PhD Program. State-of-the-art facilities and laboratories support these research programs.

UCSD is a thriving community that stretches across campus with opportunities for research and collaborations among a large number of faculty in the Division of Biology, the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the School of Medicine, the La Jolla Institute of Immunology, the Salk Institute, and many others.

Special Training Programs

Interdisciplinary research and collaboration at UCSD is enhanced through a variety of training grants. These programs provide financial support for exceptional graduate and postdoctoral scholars and also unite researchers from across campus and throughout the La Jolla research community in special seminars, retreats, and courses. Doctoral students usually apply for training grants in their second year.


Teaching apprenticeships are a vital and integral part of graduate student training, and four quarters of teaching are normally required. See the Teaching Assistants page to apply. Students can gain experience teaching both discussion and laboratory sections. Excellence in teaching is stressed, and the department provides a thorough training program covering both fundamentals and special techniques for effective instruction. Further training is provided by the Teaching and Learning Commons on campus. Performance is evaluated every quarter, and awards are bestowed quarterly for outstanding teaching performance.

Financial Support

Students in good academic standing receive a 12-month stipend; fees and tuition are also provided. Support packages come from a variety of sources, including teaching and research assistantships, training grants, fellowships, and awards. Special fellowships are awarded to outstanding students based on their admission files. See Ph.D. Program Support Policy for more information.

Health and Dental Plan

A primary health care program, major medical plan, and dental plan are among the benefits provided by the University's registration fee (see Graduate Student Health Insurance Program, GSHIP). Minor illnesses and injuries can usually be treated at the Student Health Center. Counseling is provided free of charge through Counseling and Psychological Services.


Creative, bright, and motivated students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. We admit for Fall quarter entrance only. The application will open around late September. The application deadline is in either November or December. The Admissions Committee reviews files individually and in comparison to others, and invitations to interview are made around January. For those invited, in-person interviews will be on campus in either February or March. Those who receive the official admissions offer from the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) have until April 15th to make a decision.

PostGraduate Placement

Graduates typically obtain jobs in academia or in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry. La Jolla is home to the third largest Biotech/Pharmaceutical industry mecca. Many of our alumni stay in San Diego and obtain positions in one of the over 300 companies that are located near UCSD. During their PhD, students can take advantage of the many internships that are available at these companies. A large proportion of our graduates attain postdoctoral research positions in leading academic institutions. The Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Program provides career advising throughout the PhD. UCSD's Career Services Center and the Physical Sciences Student Success Center provides many resources for students, including the chance to videotape yourself in a mock interview!