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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB)

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PAUL BABITZKE, Co-Director of Graduate Studies
203 Althouse Laboratory

DAVID GILMOUR, Co-Director of Graduate Studies
465A North Frear Building


Degrees Conferred:

Ph.D., M.S.


The Graduate Faculty


The Program

The major goal of the program in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology is to train students for independent research and teaching in the principal areas of those scientific disciplines. Students may enter the program from a variety of backgrounds such as biochemistry, biology, biophysics, cell biology, chemistry, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, physics, and other related disciplines. The student's research may begin during the first year. Research areas of faculty include bacterial growth regulation and differentiation, biophysics and biochemistry and molecular biology of photosynthesis, calcium metabolism in skeletal tissues, cell cycle regulation, chromosome organization and structure, control of gene expression, DNA-binding proteins, electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, enzyme kinetics and mechanisms of DNA-acting enzymes, functional genomics, membrane structure and function, metallobiochemistry of iron-sulfur proteins, mobile genetic elements, molecular biology of development, molecular biology of xenobiotic metabolism, prokaryotic sensory transduction, regulation of amino acid metabolism, RNA-binding proteins, RNA structure, self-incompatibility in plants, spermatogenesis and spermatozoan maturation, structure and function of enzymes, virology, and X-ray crystallography.

Admission Requirements

Scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Aptitude Test (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) are normally required for admission. Only under exceptional circumstances will an applicant be considered without those scores. It is also recommended that applicants take the Subject Test in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, or Chemistry or Biology. Entering students should have taken courses in biology, organic chemistry, calculus, general physics, genetics, microbiology, and preferably physical chemistry. Any deficiencies may be made up concurrently with graduate studies. Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate School requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION of the Graduate Bulletin.

Admission to the program is based on prior course records and grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation and interviews. Virtually all students are admitted with the intent of obtaining a Ph.D. degree although a master's degree is obtained in some cases on the way to the Ph.D., or as a final degree.

Master's Degree Requirements

Students must meet the M.S. degree requirements specified by the Graduate School in the Graduate Bulletin. In addition, a research thesis must be submitted and defended before a committee of the faculty. In general, the master's program is expected to take about two years beyond a bachelor's degree.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Admission to Ph.D. candidacy is decided on the basis of the student's performance in courses, research and teaching. In addition, an oral candidacy examination is taken during the fall semester of the second year. This examination tests the student's ability to utilize what s/he has learned in solving problems based on the scientific method. A comprehensive oral examination is taken before the student's Ph.D. thesis committee within approximately three semesters after the student has been admitted to candidacy. The student is expected to present a written proposal concerning his or her research problem in terms of the relevant current literature, the data that has been gathered and the future directions of the experimentation. Questioning may involve, but is not limited to, that research proposal.

The faculty requires that each student demonstrate the ability to collect, organize and present the results of their research in a professional manner before graduation. This is accomplished by preparing a manuscript based on the Ph.D. thesis research. The manuscript must be written primarily by the student and submitted for publication in a refereed journal. The final Ph.D. thesis defense is taken before the student's thesis committee at the end of the program. The student must also present a public seminar on the thesis research within the two-week period preceding the thesis defense. Generally the Ph.D. degree takes about five years beyond a bachelor's degree.

Biogeochemistry Dual-Title Degree Program

Graduate students with research and educational interests in biogeochemistry may apply to the Biogeochemistry Dual-Title Degree Program. Students in the Biogeochemistry Dual Title program are required to have two advisers from separate disciplines: one individual serving as a primary adviser in their major degree program and a secondary adviser in an area within a field covered by the dual-title program and a member of the Biogeochemistry faculty. Additional coursework from an approved list of courses is required. All students must pass a candidacy examination that includes an assessment of their potential in the field of biogeochemistry. A single candidacy examination that includes biogeochemistry will be administered for admission into the student's Ph.D. program, as well as the biogeochemistry dual-title. The structure and timing of this exam will be determined jointly by the dual-title and major program. The student's doctoral committee should include faculty from the major program of study and also faculty with expertise in biogeochemistry. The field of biogeochemistry should be integrated into the comprehensive examination. A Ph.D. dissertation that contributes fundamentally to the field of biogeochemistry is required.

Other Relevant Information

The director of graduate studies is in charge of advising students about academic and related matters until they have chosen a thesis adviser. Beginning students carry out a series of rotation projects in at least three different faculty laboratories before deciding on a research area. Students generally decide on their thesis research adviser at the end of their first fall semester. Each student must take a total of 18 credits in 400- and 500-level courses, required and elective, from a list approved by the program faculty.

Further course work and research are individually planned by the student and the research adviser in consultation with the Ph.D. thesis committee. The thesis committee is established according to the rules of the Graduate School once Ph.D. candidacy has been attained.

All students are required to participate as teaching assistants in undergraduate laboratory courses as part of their training. Students are required to register for BMMB 602 (Supervised Experience in College Teaching) for two semesters.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the STUDENT AID section of the Graduate Bulletin. Under normal circumstances, all students admitted and continuing in good standing are provided with graduate assistantship support from University sources and research grants.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.






Last Revised by the Department: Fall Semester 2008

Blue Sheet Item #: 36-06-184A

Review Date: 4/15/08

Faculty linked: 6/5/14


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