Graduate Curriculum



Coursework for the Biophysics Ph.D. program at Michigan is designed for students with diverse academic backgrounds. The main focus is to offer research training in the applications of physics-based techniques to biological systems ranging in complexity from single molecules to whole cells and tissues. The coursework is flexible and is designed to give students the opportunity to take exciting classes in the field of specialization, while providing the fundamental background knowledge necessary for putting this specialization in a broader context.

All incoming students are required to take two subject placement exams (physics/physical chemistry and biological chemistry/cell biology) during the first week of classes in the fall term to help determine what additional coursework they will need above and beyond the core requirements.

The following courses are required for Biophysics graduate students. Individual requirements may be waived based on prior coursework.

A. Biophysics Research Sequence

All students must complete at least 2 lab rotations prior to choosing a "home" lab.  Students must be enrolled in research credits every Fall and Winter term during the duration of their degree. Note: students wishing to defend during the spring/summer term must enroll for 8 credits of Biophysics 995.

  • Biophysics 890 (first-year students enroll in 890 to obtain credit for their lab rotations)
  • Biophysics 990 (pre-candidates who have chosen a lab enroll in 990 to obtain research credit)
  • Biophysics 995 (candidates enroll in 995 to obtain research credit)

B. Biophysics Core (four courses)

  • Biophysical Chemistry I (Biophysics 520)
  • Biophysical Chemistry II (Biophysics 521)
  • Introduction to the Biophysics Laboratory (Biophysics 550)
  • Professional Development in Biophysics (Biophysics 595)

C. Biochemistry/Cell Biology or the Physical Sciences (1-2 courses, if needed)


D. Electives (two courses)

Students without a strong foundation in the physical sciences should take appropriate advanced undergraduate courses in quantum mechanics or quantum chemistry and thermodynamics or statistical physics. 

Additional electives can be chosen from a wide range of courses offered throughout the University of Michigan.  The Biophysics student's advisor can help identify appropriate electives.  A sampling of some of the available courses is shown below.

A student with interests in Biological Physics might consider:

  • Dynamical Processes in Biophysics (Physics 417)
  • Physics of Complexity (Physics 413)
  • Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules (Chemistry 535)
  • Engineering Fundamentals in Biological Systems (Chem Eng 518)
  • Introduction to Non-linear Dynamics (Complexity 541)
  • Biophysical Principles of Microscopy (Biophys 608)

A student with interests in Structural Biology might consider:

  • Advanced X-ray crystallography (Biophysics 605)
  • Multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy (Biophysics 603)
  • Introduction to Probability and Statistics (Statistics 412)
  • Survey in Bioinformatics (Biochemistry 526)
  • Dynamical Processes in Biophysics (Physics 417)
  • Signal Transduction (Biochemistry 576)
  • Molecular Biology (Biology 427)

A student with interests in Computational Biophysics might consider:

  • Survey in Bioinformatics (Biochemistry 526)
  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (EECS 492)
  • Numerical Methods for Scientific Computing (Math 571)
  • Topics in Molecdlar Evolution (Biology 514)
  • Discrete State Stochastic Processes (Math 526)
  • Statistical Models and Numerical Methods in Human Genetics (Biostatistics 666)

NOTE: Non-Biophysics and supplemental courses can be used to fulfill Rackham's 4-credit hour cognate requirement. If it's a Biophysics course that is cross-listed with another department/program, then it can also count towards the cognate requirement.

E. Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) 

The Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship (RCRS) is part of the America Competes Act and requires that any student or postdoctoral fellow receive training on the responsible conduct of research and scholarship if they are funded on research, training grants or federally-funded fellowships.

Because of this Federal mandate, Rackham requires all graduate students to undergo RCRS training before advancing to candidacy (preferably during the first year of study). This training may be completed by taking the following courses:

  • PIBS 503
  • an appropriate section of UC 415

Complete and definitive information for the graduate program is found in the Biophysics Ph.D. Program Student Handbook on the Student Resources page.