Program of Study

The majority of graduates in the Biophysics program have been undergraduate majors in physics or physical chemistry, although others have come from areas such as biology and electrical engineering. Consequently, the course requirements for admission are somewhat elastic, with a focus on more quantitative areas. Each student's program of graduate study is planned in consultation with the Chair of the Biophysics program, Dr. James M. Hogle, and later with the student's chosen thesis advisor. The degree program is designed to be completed in a maximum of six years. The program is highly flexible, and special effort has been devoted to minimizing formal requirements.

The first part of the program seeks to introduce the students directly to the faculty members and their research, enabling the student to make a considered choice of research advisor, and to involve the student in the diverse areas of biophysics through laboratory as well as course work. The first year's training in the Biophysics Program provides an introduction to five diverse areas of Biophysics:

  1. Structural Molecular Biology
  2. Cell and Membrane Biophysics
  3. Molecular Genetics
  4. Physical Biochemistry
  5. Neuroscience
Biophysics 300r, Introduction to Laboratory Research, brings professors from all over the University for one-hour seminars on their specific areas of research interest, allowing the students a period of time to familiarize themselves with research opportunities at Harvard before choosing their first laboratory rotation later in the first semester.

First Year:
Several rotations as well as course work are completed in the year to year-and-a-half of study. A year's work for a resident student normally consists of four courses (eight half-courses) of advanced grade.

Second Year:
Students continue with course work and laboratory rotations.
A semester of teaching is required in the second year.
Students chose their research advisor by the end of their second year.
Preliminary Qualifying examination must be completed by the end of the second year. Student must pass this exam before beginning thesis research.

Third Year and beyond:
Student meets at least annually with his or her Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC).
Student engages in a period of intensive research culminating in publications and the receiving of the Ph.D. degree.

Areas of concentration and suggested course work is as follows:

  • Structural Molecular Biology
    • Genomics and Computational Biology (Biophysics 101)
    • Structure and Function of Proteins and Nucleic Acids (MCB 112)
    • Structural Biology of the Flow of Information in the Cell (MCB 156)
    • Crystal Symmetry, Diffraction, and Structure Analysis (Chemistry154)
    • Chemical Biology (Chemistry 170)
    • Molecular Structure and Function (Chemistry 180)
    • Molecular Biology (BCMP 200)
    • Proteins: Structure, Function and Catalysis (BCMP 201)
    • Macromolecular NMR (BCMP 228)

  • Molecular Genetics
    • Molecular Genetics of Neural Development and Behavior (MCB 129)
    • Developmental Genetics and Genomics (MCB 150)
    • Molecular Mechanisms of Gene Control (MCB 155)
    • Principles of Genetics (Genetics 201)

  • Physical Biochemistry
    • Physical Chemistry (Chemistry 160)
    • Frontiers in Biophysics (Chemistry 163)
    • Molecular Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry (Biophysics/Chemistry 164r)
    • Topics in Biophysics (MCB 212)
    • Quantum Mechanics I (Chemistry 242)
    • Single-molecule Biophysics (Chemistry 245)

  • Cell and Membrane Biophysics
    • Molecular and Cellular Immunology (MCB 169)
    • Biochemistry of Membranes (MCB 176)
    • Molecular Biology of the Cell (Cell Biology 201)
    • Growth Factors and Signal Transduction (Cell Biology 211b)

  • Mathematical Biophysics
    • Methods of Analysis and Applications (Math 115)
    • Introduction to Systems Analysis with Physiological Applications (Eng. Sci.145)
    • Signals and Systems (Eng. Sci. 156)
    • Nonlinear Dynamical Systems (Applied Mathematics 147)
    • Population Genetics (OEB 152)
    • Population and Community Ecology (Biology 154)
    • Complex and Fourier Analysis (Applied Mathematics 105a)
    • Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations (Applied Mathematics 105b)
    • Mathematical Modeling (Applied Mathematics 115)
    • Physical Mathematics I, II (Applied Mathematics 201, 202)
    • Fundamentals of Computational Biology (Statistics 215)
    • Mathematics in Biology (MCB 211)

  • Neurosciences
    • Systems Neuroscience (MCB 105)
    • Cellular Basis of Neuronal Function (MCB 115)
    • Experimental Neuroscience (MCB 117)
    • Molecular and Developmental Neurobiology (MCB 141)
    • Neural Signal Processing (Eng. Sci. 148)
    • Introduction to Neurobiology (Neurobiology 200)
    • Neurophysiology of Central Circuits (Neurobiology 204)
    • Molecular Neurobiology (Neurobiology 221)

See Courses offered in Biophysics and Related Fields (Harvard Programs of Study), and the Computational Biology Program within Biophysics for more information. For more information, contact Michele Jakoulov.

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