The Doctor of Philosophy in biochemistry requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit (34 s.h. of coursework and 38 s.h. of research). Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00 to earn the degree. Qualified students interested in earning the Doctor of Medicine along with the Ph.D. may apply to the Medical Scientist Training Program, which offers a combined M.D./Ph.D. program.

Students have the opportunity to tailor their curriculum with courses that enhance their educational goals. They take a combination of graduate-level courses that include a first-year laboratory research rotation course, and seminar courses.

The Ph.D. with a major in biochemistry requires the following coursework.

Core Curriculum

BIOC:5261Research Techniques (first-year laboratory rotation)1-6
BMED:7270Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I0
BMED:7271Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II0
Biophysical chemistry coursework (typically students take 6 s.h.)3-6
Four molecular medicine courses6-8
Additional courses offered by the Department of Biochemistry and other departments, as appropriate for each student

Typical Curriculum

First Year, Fall

BIOC:5241Biophysical Chemistry I3
BIOC:5261Research Techniques4
BIOC:5282Seminar (discussion section 1)2
BMED:5207Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology3

First Year, Spring

BIOC:5242Biophysical Chemistry II3
BIOC:5261Research Techniques4
BIOC:5282Seminar (discussion section 1)2
MMED:6215Transcription and Multifunctional Regulation by RNA1
MMED:6226/ACB:6226/MPB:6226Cell Cycle Control1
MMED:6227/ACB:6227/MPB:6227Cell Fate Decisions1

Second Year, Fall

BIOC:5282Seminar (discussion section 2)1
BIOC:7292Research Biochemistryarr.
BMED:7270Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research I0

Second Year, Spring

BIOC:7292Research Biochemistryarr.
BMED:7271Scholarly Integrity/Responsible Conduct of Research II0

Examples of Elective Coursework 

BME:4310/BIOC:4310Computational Biochemistry3
BMED:5207Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology3
MMED:6215Transcription and Multifunctional Regulation by RNA1
MMED:6220/ACB:6220/MPB:6220Mechanisms of Cellular Organization3
MMED:6225/ACB:6225/MPB:6225Growth Factor Receptor Signaling1
PCOL:5204Basic Biostatistics and Experimental Design1
PCOL:6210Receptors and Cell Signaling3

Additional Requirements

Laboratory Rotations

Students rotate through at least three different laboratories during their first academic year; they enroll in BIOC:5261 Research Techniques. The laboratory rotations are approximately ten weeks each. At the conclusion of each rotation, a student meets with an advisory committee of three faculty members. A student is required to present the research and training completed during that rotation. The advisory committee writes a short evaluation of the student's performance and assigns a grade for the laboratory work. The evaluation and grade becomes part of the student's departmental record.


Students participate in the formal teaching programs of the department for at least one semester. First-year students as well as students who are within a year of receiving their Ph.D. degree are usually not asked to teach. Teaching may take a variety of forms, including tutoring, leading discussions and laboratory groups, correcting examinations, preparing teaching materials, and lecturing. 

Thesis Research Proposal

During the fall semester of the second year, a student in collaboration with the thesis advisor prepares a detailed thesis proposal that describes the proposed research to be conducted for the dissertation as part of BIOC:5282 Seminar.

The Fifth Semester Seminar

In the fall semester of the third year (the fifth semester), a student updates and revises the written Ph.D. thesis proposal prepared during the fall semester of the second year (prior to the comprehensive examination), and presents a seminar on the thesis research to the department at one of the weekly biochemistry workshops.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination must be taken before June 30 of the second year.

Written Examination

Students receive their topic by March 1 and their written examination is submitted to their committee by April 22. The written proposal should have a cover page followed by no more than 20 pages. For more information, a detailed guide is located in the Department of Biochemistry Graduate Student Manual.

Oral Examination

Questions during the oral examination may come from the examination proposal, the Ph.D. thesis proposal, or other general areas of biochemistry. To pass the oral comprehensive examination, a student must perform satisfactorily both in defense of the examination proposal and in answering general biochemistry questions that are germane to the proposal or that are important for a full understanding of the proposed experiments and their interpretation.

Final Examination

The five-member Ph.D. thesis committee serves as an advisory body for preparation of the thesis. This committee meets with the student to review the material that is expected to be incorporated in the thesis. Although meetings of the candidate with the committee should be yearly, the candidate, thesis advisor, or the committee can request a meeting at any time. A final draft of the thesis much be given to all members of the committee two weeks before the final examination. The final examination takes the form of a seminar presented to the department. This presentation is announced according to the Graduate College policy. Questions, comments, and discussion will follow. After the seminar, the candidate meets with the committee for the final thesis defense. The Ph.D. degree is not awarded until the thesis is signed. In some cases revisions maybe required.


Students may work toward the Doctor of Medicine degree and a Ph.D. in biochemistry in a combined degree program offered by the Department Biochemistry and the Carver College of Medicine. Applicants must be admitted to both programs before they may be admitted to the combined degree program. See the Medical Scientist Training Program (Carver College of Medicine) in the Catalog.

Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university, or an equivalent degree from another country as determined by the Office of Admissions. Those who apply also must have an undergraduate g.p.a. of at least 3.00. Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website.

Appropriate preparation includes one-year, college-level courses in organic and physical chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics through calculus. Students are expected to have had one or more introductory courses in biochemistry.

Students admitted to the Ph.D. program in biochemistry routinely receive a stipend and tuition support.

Graduates have secured a variety of career positions, including in academic institutions and the government, and as scientists, physicians, lecturers, and science educators. Some go on to pursue postdoctoral or additional training, and others land jobs in business and industry.