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Harvard University

Committee on Biophysics

Cambridge, MA


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Harvard University's Renowned Interdisciplinary Biophysics Ph.D. Program

The Harvard University Biophysics Graduate Program offers a rigorous interdisciplinary graduate program that leads to the Ph.D. degree through the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The committee consists of faculty members from the departments of chemistry and chemical biology, physics, molecular and cellular biology, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and the Division of Medical Sciences. Students receive sufficient training in physics, biology, and chemistry to enable them to apply the concepts and methods of the physical sciences to the solution of biological problems.

The main goal of the biophysics program is to provide an introduction through courses and seminars to several of the diverse areas of biophysics and physical sciences, such as structural molecular biology, cell and membrane biophysics, neurobiology, molecular genetics, physical biochemistry, and theoretical biophysics.

The program is flexible and reflects a special effort to minimize course work and other academic formalities and to emphasize research opportunities. The qualifying examination is taken at the end of the second year to determine admission to candidacy. Students choose their dissertation subject from many different fields and begin dissertation research as early as possible in their chosen field.

The first year's training in the biophysics program provides an introduction to five diverse areas of biophysics: structural molecular biology, cell and membrane biophysics, molecular genetics, physical biochemistry, and neurosciences. The curriculum includes learning experiences in a laboratory environment as well as coursework.

Ph.D. in Biophysics Curriculum

The coursework in structural molecular biology includes such definitive courses as Macromolecular NMR, Chemical Biology, Molecular Biology, Proteins: Structure, Function and Catalysis, and Structural Biology of the Flow of Information in the Cell.

The cell and membrane biophysics coursework includes such wide-ranging courses as Molecular and Cellular Immunology, Biochemistry of Membranes, and Growth Factors and Signal Transduction.

Coursework in molecular genetics includes Molecular Genetics of Neural Development and Behavior, Computational and Functional Genomics, Bioregulatory Mechanisms, and Principles of Genetics.

Physical biochemistry courses include Frontiers in Biophysics, Quantum Mechanics for Physical Chemistry, and Statistical Thermodynamics.

In the area of neurosciences, courses include Cellular Basis of Neuronal Function, Neural Signal Processing, Neurophysiology of Central Circuits, Molecular Neurobiology, and Systems Neuroscience.

Research Interests of the Distinguished Faculty of Harvard's Biophysics Doctoral Program

More than 80 faculty members from the various biophysics fields teach the doctoral graduate courses and supervise students in their own research laboratories. Research interests focus on cutting-edge biophysics such as: structure and function of viruses and virus related proteins, x-ray crystallography, mechanisms of visual processing in the visual cortex of awake behaving monkeys, molecular biology of bacterial pathogenesis in plants and animals, and multiphoton microscopy in imaging Alzheimer's disease.

Other faculty research interests include: motile behavior of bacteria, theoretical population and community biology, models of parasitic disease processes, functional and computational genomics studies of transcription factors and Cis regulatory elements, small molecule signaling, biosynthesis, and drug discovery.

Research Rotations Introduce Graduate Students to Different Laboratories

Graduate students engage in several research rotations during their first two years. In the first ten weeks of the fall term, faculty members associated with the biophysics program give seminars describing the current research interests of their own laboratories.

Following the seminars, a student spends roughly six-week periods in three different laboratories; each is selected from a different biophysics field such as structural molecular biology, cell and membrane biophysics, molecular genetics, physical biochemistry, and neurosciences. Via the lab rotations, students gain familiarity with several fields of biophysics. It is also possible to work on a suitable problem in mathematical biophysics in place of one of the three laboratory rotations.

The qualifying examination is taken at the end of the second year to determine admission to candidacy. Students undertake dissertation research as early as possible in the field and subject of their choice; opportunities for dissertation research are available in a number of special fields.

The Ph.D. requires not less than three years devoted to advanced studies, including dissertation research and the dissertation. The Committee on Higher Degrees in Biophysics anticipates that it takes an average of five years, with a maximum of six years, to complete Harvard's biophysics doctoral program.

America's First University

Founded in 1636, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers academic opportunities that are virtually unsurpassed at American universities. Courses taught by world-class scholars and Nobel Laureates are available on topics that span the globe, cover the latest scientific discoveries, and delve deeply into the realms of art and culture and into the past.

Graduate students in Harvard University's doctoral biophysics program pursue knowledge both broadly and deeply and receive the high-caliber training and preparation necessary to become the future leading thinkers of their field.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Doctoral Degrees 8

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? No
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? No

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Doctoral Degrees Entrance Exam GRE General Test, GRE Subject Test (recommended)
Thesis Required
Exam, qualifying paper


Acceptance Rate



Application Fee - Domestic
applications accepted?

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline December 15th Not reported No

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Doctoral Degree Exam GRE General Test, GRE Subject Test (recommended)

International Students

Exam Details
TOEFL: Required

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Application deadlines for financial awards December 30
Types of financial support available Institutionally-sponsored Loans

Student Body

Total Graduate Students
Not Reported
International Breakout (representing other countries)


Male (100%)
Female (0%)


Focus of faculty research: Structural molecular biology, cell and membrane biophysics, molecular genetics, physical biochemistry, mathematical biophysics
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year: 0

Location & Contact

Address Cambridge, MA  02138
United States
Contact Michele Jakoulov
Phone: 617-495-1000

Harvard University