Study & Training

Graduate Studies In Biochemistry And Molecular Biophysics

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics offers specialized graduate training in "Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics", which is one of five programs within the Programs in Basic Cell and Molecular Biology. This program is part of the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in the Biomedical Sciences.

REQUIRED COURSES AND EXAMS FOR Ph.D. CANDIDATES in the "Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics" track:

Most of the coursework and qualifying exams are completed within the first two years of graduate study in this track. The emphasis during the first year is on coursework and careful consideration of different research laboratories. During this year, students complete a series of required and elective courses while performing rotations in three laboratories. These three laboratories can be chosen from among the faculty in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, but are not limited to this Department. At the end of the third rotation, students chose the lab in which they will complete their thesis and begin work in that lab at the start of the fall semester of their second year.


                                          Course Requirements

   First Year Fall Semester:                       First Year Spring Semester:

   Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I          Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology II         

   Molecular Biophysics                                  Science elective*

   Molecular Genetics


   During Second year:                               Other Requirements:

   Biostatistics**                                           Scientific Writing (Part I and Part II)

   Science elective                                     Responsible Conduct of Research and Related Policy Issues**


* One of your two science electives must be chosen from the following list: Diffraction Analysis, NMR Spectroscopy of Macromolecules, Structure and Function of Nucleic Acids, Membrane Receptors and Transport Proteins, or an Advanced Biophysics course. The other elective may be any graduate level science course at Columbia.

** Course is required to be taken by all students. If you have taken a course similar to the Biostatistics course the course may be waived. Please consult with the Graduate Advisor, Dr. Arthur Palmer

Qualifying Exam I and II

Exam I (June of First Year): Two-part written exam (open and closed book portions) testing general knowledge studied during first year coursework and seminars


Exam II (End of Second Year): Oral presentation of your research proposal

Research is the central focus of subsequent years of graduate study. After the qualifying exam is completed, students begin conducting research in the laboratory of their choice. The second year is concluded with a presentation of the thesis project to a panel of professors who serve as advisors to the student for the duration of graduate study. Students typically complete their thesis project and obtain a Ph.D. within 5-7 years after beginning the program, which conforms to the national average. Because the major activity of graduate students is research, the Department fosters a remarkable degree of collaboration and interaction between research groups. Students learn not only from members of their own groups, but from individuals in other laboratories. The faculty share many research interests, and because of the broad range of specializations, they share expertise necessary to tackle the most difficult problems. The collegial atmosphere of the Columbia community, the abundance of resources, and the quality of the faculty and students are the major reasons to conduct graduate research in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics.


Aside from research and coursework, several regular events are also important to the educational development of Departmental graduate students affiliated with the "Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics" track. Each week, the Department hosts two seminars that students are strongly encouraged to attend. The Departmental Seminar is held on Thursdays at 4:00 pm (See Seminars and Special Events) and the Biophysics Seminar takes place on Fridays at noon. Seminars are presented by outstanding researchers in a wide variety of fields, and together with excellent seminars sponsored by other departments such as Microbiology, Pharmacology and Genetics, these are an excellent opportunity to learn about contemporary issues in the biosciences and biomedical research.

The Departmental Retreat is held in the Fall of alternate years. Research seminars and posters from each laboratory are presented. In addition, the location allows a variety of other activities, including hiking and sports.

Journal clubs and seminars given by students in a variety of programs provide an additional means for learning and gaining experience in public research presentation.