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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Dec 03, 2023
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology (PhD)

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The Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University educates students to conduct research at the interface between biology, chemistry, and physics.  The disciplines of Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology aim to unravel and explain biological phenomena and processes in atomic and molecular detail.  Research carried out by program faculty covers a diverse range of topics in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology.  Areas of study focus on understanding fundamental principles involved in reactions and regulatory interactions in biological systems.  Our research projects attempt to answer key questions, such as:  How do proteins fold and can we prevent misfolding?  Can we design proteins with novel functions?  How does the coordinated interaction between proteins and nucleic acids lead to cellular differentiation and the formation of an organism?  How do macromolecules assemble into molecular machines and viruses? How do these assemblies operate? How do signals traverse membranes?

Contact Information

University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University
Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology Graduate Program 
Graduate Studies Office
3550 Terrace Street
M240 F Scaife Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261 

Fax: 412-648-1077 

Admission Requirements and Procedures

Students with at least a baccalaureate degree in physics, chemistry and mathematics or cellular and molecular biology are encouraged to apply.  Admissions are based upon the student’s academic record, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, previous research experience, written statement of interest, and a personal interview.  Applicants who are citizens of countries where English is not the official language (and the Province of Quebec in Canada) are required to submit evidence of English Language proficiency by submitting the official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum TOEFL score of 600 (paper) or 100 (iBT), or IELTS score of at least 7.00 is required for admission to the Program. We actively seek qualified applicants from underrepresented minorities and students with disability.

Additional information and a link to the online application can be a found at

Financial Assistance

All students receive complete financial support in the form of stipend, tuition, and health insurance.

Degree Requirements

All students enter the Program in the fall session and after performing three rotations identify an advisor and area of research. Areas of research focus include: Macromolecular recognition; Virus, lipid and protein structure and interactions; Principles of protein structure and dynamics; Membrane proteins; Gene regulation and signaling; Cellular biophysics; Chemical structure and dynamics. Methodologies employed comprise NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and computational molecular biology. Required coursework is completed during the first two years. Students are required to complete the Comprehensive Exam by August 31 of their second year in the graduate program.

A minimum of 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the PhD degree. The 72 credits are completed by taking required and elective course work as well as dissertation research credits upon being admitted to candidacy.

Advanced Elective Courses (6 Credits Total)

The courses taken here will be chosen on an individual basis based on the background and interests of the individual student.  During the first year, the choice will be made by the student in consultation with the First Year Advisor or Dissertation Advisor.  Upon proper approval, the elective courses can be taken either at the University of Pittsburgh (both the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Medicine) as well as Carnegie Mellon University.


Additional information on the core curriculum can be found at

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