Graduate Study

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New fall 2017 BBMB graduate studentsOverview

The BBMB departmental biochemistry and biophysics graduate programs are designed to provide students with focused study in the science and technology used to understand the mechanisms underlying biological processes at the molecular level, with an emphasis on the fundamental relationships among the chemical, physical, and biological sciences. We offer a Master’s (M.S.) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree with thesis in both Biochemistry and Biophysics and a Graduate Certificate (CRT) in Biochemistry.  The prerequisite to graduate study in all these programs is a sound undergraduate background in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics.

Learning Outcomes

The Master's and Ph.D. degrees with thesis are designed to train students in the ability to independently conceive and carry out original research in an area of interest. Advanced degree graduates become qualified to pursue or to continue basic and applied research careers in academia, government, and industry. 

The Graduate Certificate provide graduates a mechanism for formal recognition of focused graduate study in a specialized area that is less comprehensive than required for a Master's degree.

Each program is summarized below. Please see the BBMB Graduate Student Handbook for more information. To learn about current BBMB faculty research, visit the People web page.

Curriculum

Specific curriculum requirements are described under each program.  All advanced degree and certificate program students are required to take the following four two-credit modular core courses.  Biophysics graduate students have the option to substitute Biochemistry I (BBMB 404) and Biochemistry II (BBMB 405) for these core course requirements. See BBMB Graduate Course Offerings for course descriptions.

BBMB 504: Amino Acids and Proteins

BBMB 505: Bioenergetics and Metabolism

BBMB 506: Membrane Biochemistry

BBMB 507: Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids


Advanced Degree Programs

The Master's and Ph.D. degree programs in Biochemistry or Biophysics are designed to train students in the ability to perform original research in the modern biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology disciplines. Successful defense of an independent research dissertation is required and the programs also offer training in teaching of Biochemistry to undergraduate students. Financial support is available for students in the form of a research or teaching assistantship, which is renewable annually based on academic standing and satisfactory research performance.

Contact:
Director of Graduate Education (DOGE)
Graduate Program Coordinator: Connie Garnett  

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) Degree

The Ph.D. programs in biochemistry or biophysics are designed to train students in the ability to independently conceive and carry out original research in the general area of the chemistry or physics of the processes of life.  The programs require about 5-6 years on average to complete and the successful defense of an independent research dissertation.  The majority of the time required to earn the degree is spent doing research on the dissertation project in the laboratory under the close supervision of a faculty mentor.  Considerable time also is devoted to advanced coursework and professional seminars.

Degree requirements: 72 credits | Time-to-degree: 5-6 years

BBMB 504-507 series

BBMB 561. Molecular Biophysics

BBMB 561L. Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics

BBMB 681. Advanced Seminar. Enroll once a year, except in first and last year in the program

BBMB 682. Departmental Seminar. Enroll each fall and spring

BBMB 699. Research. Enroll each fall, spring and summer while doing graduate research

Plus 8 graduate level credits in three specialty areas: Bioorganic Mechanisms, Cell Biology, and Physical Biochemistry

GR ST 565. Responsible Conduct of Research in Science and Engineering

Teaching Requirement

Ph.D. Thesis

How to Apply

Submit the free BBMB online application, which is used as a screening tool. Students may enter the Biochemistry or Biophysics Ph.D. degree programs either as a rotation student in the fall semester or as a direct admit to a faculty research group at any time during the year.

Master's (M.S.) Degree in Biochemistry or Biophysics

The M.S. degree programs in biochemistry or biophysics are useful for students who prefer to undertake research training without the longer-term commitment required for the Ph.D. degree.  It is also useful for students interested more in the technical aspects of research rather than in careers as research directors.  The program requires about three years on average to complete and the successful defense of an independent research dissertation is required.  About half the time required to earn the degree is spent on advanced coursework and professional seminars, and the other half is devoted to research undertaken in the laboratory under the close supervision of a faculty mentor.

Degree requirements: 30 credits | Time-to-degree 2-3 years

BBMB 504-507 series

BBMB 561. Molecular Biophysics

BBMB 561L. Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics

Plus 1 additional approved course at the 500 or 600 level (Concurrent B.S./M.S. students exempt)

BBMB 681. Advanced Seminar. Enroll once (Concurrent B.S./M.S. students exempt)

BBMB 682. Departmental Seminar. Enroll each fall and spring (Concurrent B.S./M.S. students exempt)

BBMB 699. Research. Enroll each fall, spring and summer while doing graduate research

GR ST 565. Responsible Conduct of Research in Science and Engineering

Teaching Requirement

Master's Thesis

How to Apply

Submit the free BBMB online application, which is used as a screening tool.  NOTE: Students interested in a research career are encouraged to consider the Ph.D. track. There is no M.S. degree rotation program and students may enter as a direct admit to a faculty research group at any time during the year.

Concurrent B.S. / M.S. Degree in Biochemistry or Biophysics

The department offers a concurrent enrollment degree program in either biochemistry or biophysics that allows Iowa State undergraduates to obtain both the B.S. and M.S. degrees in about five years. The program is open to undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The concurrent degrees can be useful to students entering various career tracks. For those considering careers as research specialists, entry positions with higher-level responsibilities, and a higher-level salary, are made possible with the M.S. degree. For those considering careers as research directors, which require advanced study, the M.S. degree provides an advantage for admission into Ph.D. programs at the most competitive and prestigious graduate schools. Similarly, the M.S. degree can be a competitive advantage for admission in to medical, dental, law, veterinary medicine, or other professional schools.

Application to the program is made near the end of the junior undergraduate (third) year.  Concurrent B.S/M.S. degree students begin research for the M.S. thesis during the summer semester after their junior year and are eligible for research assistantships, which are renewable based on academic standing and satisfactory research performance. The M.S. thesis requires intensive experience in original, independent laboratory research under the close supervision of a faculty mentor.

How to Apply

Students interested in the concurrent enrollment program should submit a complete application that includes: the Application for an ISU Undergraduate Student Wishing to Pursue a Concurrent Graduate Certificate or Graduate Degree form found on the Graduate College Student Forms webpage, the BS MS Program Course Plan Worksheet signed by both the student and proposed mentor, their most recent unofficial ISU transcript, a resume, and three letters of recommendation to Connie Garnett (515-294-3317), the Graduate Program Coordinator, for processing.  Please note, concurrently enrolled students admitted to the Graduate College pay graduate tuition.


Graduate Certificate Programs

The graduate certificate programs are designed for students who wish to continue or expand their knowledge and earn certification in biochemistry at the graduate level, without the time commitment or lab experience required for a formal Master’s or Ph.D. program.  It is designed for current undergraduate and graduate students of Iowa State University whose major is not biochemistry to provide a comprehensive approach to graduate education.  It is also an attractive option for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry or a related field, are working in the sciences or industry, and wish to advance their knowledge by taking additional coursework at the graduate level to broaden their expertise.

We offer two graduate certificate programs, a Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry and a Concurrent B.S./Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry.  The standards of admission and the course standards to which a certificate student are held are equivalent to those expected of a Master's degree student. Each graduate certificate requires at least 12 graduate credits, all of which are available either on campus or on line. Current graduate degree students may double count approved graduate course credits towards the graduate certificate.

The 12 credits earned in the certificate program may be applied to meet the course requirements of a M.S. or Ph.D. with thesis program in Biochemistry or Biophysics, if the student is accepted into one of these programs. 

A graduate supervisor will be appointed to oversee the certification for each student accepted into the graduate certificate program.

Contact:
Director of Certificate (DOC): Dr. Jack Girton
Graduate Program Coordinator: Connie Garnett

Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry

Certificate requirements: 12 credits | Time-to-certificate: 2-3 semesters

BBMB 504-507 series, plus 4 additional credits of approved courses at the 500 level

Approved Graduate Certificate Courses

How to apply

Students who have earned a bachelor's degree and are not already a current graduate student of Iowa State University can apply by submitting the Iowa State University online application for a Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry.  Current graduate degree students can apply by submitting the online Request to Pursue a Certificate in Addition to a Graduate Degree found on the Graduate College Student Forms webpage.  See also: Instructions for Current Graduate Students

Concurrent B.S./Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry

Certificate requirements: 12 credits | Time-to-certificate: 2-3 semesters

BBMB 504-507 series

BBMB 561. Molecular Biophysics

BBMB 561L. Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics

A B.S. degree in Biochemistry requires 121 undergraduate credits, of which 6 can be graduate level course credit.  Graduate courses taken for the B.S. degree cannot be used towards the Graduate Certificate. Graduate certificate credits may count towards the graduate degree if the student switches over to a M.S. or Ph.D. program, which requires program approval.

This B.S./Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry program is intended for exceptional ISU undergraduate students majoring in Biochemistry or a related major. In this program, the student completes all of the requirements for the B.S. degree and the graduate certificate in a four-year period by combining the requirements of the two programs. The student enters the Graduate College after he/she achieves junior status and develops a plan of coursework (graduate and undergraduate) subject to the approval of the Director of Certificate (DOC).  Concurrent students admitted to the Graduate College pay graduate tuition. Concurrent B.S./Graduate Certificate Sample 4-year Plan

How to Apply

To apply for the Concurrent B.S./Graduate Certificate in Biochemistry, submit the Application for an ISU Undergraduate Student Wishing to Pursue a Concurrent Graduate Certificate or Graduate Degree form found on the Graduate College Student Forms webpage.


Graduate Minor

Degree requirements: 12 credits | Time-to-degree: 1 year

Graduate students in other M.S. and/or Ph.D. programs at Iowa State University can earn a graduate minor in Biochemistry by completing the following requirements with a grade point average of 3.0 or above:

  1. At least 6 credits from  BBMB 504, 505, 506 and 507.
  2. At least 6 credits of other  BBMB 500- and 600-level courses.

A student wishing to declare a minor in biochemistry should arrange for a member of the graduate faculty in biochemistry to serve on the POS Committee and submit the required form found on the Graduate College Student Forms webpage.


Interdepartmental Graduate Programs

Each of the following interdepartmental graduate programs can be pursued in the Department of BBMB. Application is made directly to the Interdepartmental graduate program, not to BBMB. After beginning the program at ISU, a student may identify a BBMB professor in whose laboratory they choose to pursue their dissertation research. At that point, with the approval of the BBMB professor, the student formally designates BBMB as the home department. Curricular requirements are set by the interdepartmental graduate program, not by BBMB, with the exception of participation in the BBMB research seminar series.

The following links to the home pages of the interdepartmental graduate programs lead to detailed instructions about how to apply for admission, and also provide details of the curricular requirements for each of the degrees.