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Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics

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Graduate Program

For general information on the graduate program at Caltech, including application forms, go to the Caltech Graduate Office.

Aims and Scope of Graduate Study in Biochemistry
An integrated approach to graduate study in Biochemistry has been organized primarily by the Division of Biology and the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. The curriculum is designed to provide a broad background in protein biochemistry, structural biology, and molecular genetics, in addition to an appropriate depth of knowledge in the field selected for the Ph. D. thesis research.

Admission
The option in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics is open to students with undergraduate degrees in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, biophysics and related areas. All applicants for admission, including those from foreign countries, are required to submit the verbal, quantitative and analytical scores for the Graduate Record Examination and are also strongly urged to submit the results of an advanced test in a scientific field. Applicants whose native language is not English are also required to submit results of the TOEFL exam, and after admission, are required to satisfy the English language requirements of the Institute.

Master's Degree in Biochemistry
Students are not normally admitted to work toward the M.S. degree. In special circumstances, the M.S. degree may be awarded, provided Institute requirements are met. In general, the degree is not conferred until the end of the second year of residence.

Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry
The Option Graduate Study Committee will counsel and oversee the student's progress upon admission to the graduate program. In the first year of graduate study, the course requirement consists of a sequence of three core courses covering the biochemistry and biophysics of macromolecules and molecular assemblies (BMB 170 abc). These courses will expose the student to contemporary issues in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and to the tools and methods that are essential for research in this area. Research advisers are normally selected at the end of the first year. In consultation with their adviser, students are expected to take three additional advanced courses of 9 or more units in the first and second years that are appropriate for their particular research interests.

Laboratory Rotations
In consultation with the Option Graduate Study Committee and individual professors, students will choose three laboratories in which to do short research projects during their first year of residence. These laboratory rotations are designed to provide the student with an introduction to different areas of biochemistry. It is possible to waive some or all of the rotations by petitioning the Option Graduate Study Committee.

Admission to Candidacy
By the end of the sixth term of residency (spring term of the second year), the student will take an oral examination to assess mastery of the field of biochemistry and to evaluate research progress. As part of this examination, each student will submit a written research report summarizing the progress in their research, and an original research proposition in a field outside the student's chosen field of research. A candidacy examination committee will be assembled by the student in consultation with his/her thesis advisor (the student is responsible for finding a date, time and location for the exam). The committee should consist of the student's thesis advisor and three or four BMB faculty members (faculty outside of the BMB option may also be members of the committee), and is chaired by a faculty member other than the student's advisor. Prior to the exam, the student should get a candidacy exam form from the BMB option secretary and bring it to the exam for signatures by the faculty. When the student advances to candidacy upon successful completion of the exam, the exam committee will become the thesis advisory committee and will meet with the student once a year to evaluate research progress. This committee will also serve as the PhD thesis examination committee.

Thesis and Final Examination
Thesis research will be carried out under the direction of one or more faculty members in the Biochemistry option. The thesis defense will consist of a thesis seminar, followed by an examination by the PhD thesis committee.

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