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)

  • Theory & Methods of Biophysical Chemistry (Biophysics 520)
  • Techniques in Biophysical Chemistry (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)

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. Conversely, students without a strong foundation in biological chemistry or cell biology should take the appropriate advanced undergraduate (or graduate) coursework.

D. Electives & Cognate (two courses)

The Biophysics student's advisor can help identify appropriate electives.

Cognate: 4 credit hours of cognate coursework is required. These courses are generally non-biophysics; however, if cross-listed with another department or program, a biophysics course can be counted towards the cognate requirement. Electives can also count as cognates.

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)

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, we require 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 LSA's UC 415

Any questions regarding coursework for the Biophysics graduate curriculum can be directed to Sara Grosky in the Biophyiscs Program student services office, 4028 Chemistry.