Graduate Study

Photos from picnic held for new 2017 graduate students on August 30, 2017

The Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology (BBMB) offers programs for both a Master's and Ph.D. degree in biochemistry or biophysics that is summarized below. For complete program and course requirements and the time to degree for each degree, please see the BBMB Graduate Student Handbook. To learn about current research being done by BBMB faculty, visit the Faculty Research Interests web page.

Ph.D. Degree Overview

The Ph.D. program in biochemistry and biophysics is designed to train students in the ability to independently conceive and carry out original research in the general area of the chemistry of life functions. Successful defense of an independent research dissertation is required for the Ph.D. degree. The program requires about 5 years on average of graduate level study to complete. The majority of a student’s time is spent doing research on his or her dissertation project, although considerable time also is devoted to advanced coursework and professional seminars. The dissertation research project is undertaken in the laboratory of a faculty mentor, under her or his close supervision. The program also offers training in the teaching of biochemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Almost all students receive financial support in the form of a research or teaching assistantship, which is renewable annually based on academic standing and satisfactory research performance.

Students may enter the biochemistry or biophysics Ph.D. degree program 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 Degree Overview

The M.S. degree programs in biochemistry and biophysics are designed to train students in the ability to perform original research in the modern biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology disciplines. The program is useful for students who prefer to undertake research training without the longer-term commitment required for the Ph.D. degree. M.S. degree programs also are useful for students who are interested more in technical aspects of research than in careers as research directors. Successful defense of an independent research dissertation is required for the M.S. degree. The program requires about 3 years on average of graduate level study to complete. About one-half of the total time is devoted to research, and one-half to advanced coursework and professional seminars. The dissertation research project is undertaken in the laboratory of a faculty mentor, under her or his close supervision. The program also offers training in teaching of biochemistry to undergraduate students. Financial support is available to M.S. students, in the form of a research or teaching assistantship, which is renewable annually based on academic standing and satisfactory research performance.

NOTE: Students are encouraged to consider the Ph.D. track. Students may enter the biochemistry or biophysics M.S. degree program as a direct admit to a faculty research group at any time during the year.

Concurrent B.S. and M.S. Degree Overview

The department offers a concurrent enrollment degree program in either biochemistry and biophysics that allows ISU undergraduate students 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. Application for admission to the Graduate College should be made near the end of the junior undergraduate (third) year.  Students would 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 concurrent degrees can be useful to students entering various career tracks. For those considering careers as research specialists, entry positions with higher-level responsiblities, 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 prestigous 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. The M.S. thesis requires intensive experience in original, independent laboratory research, which is a significant benefit in any of these career tracks.

Students interested in the concurrent enrollment program should submit a complete application that includes a concurrent enrollment form found on the Graduate College forms page, the signed BS MS Program Course Plan Worksheet, 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.

Minor in Biochemistry

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 forms page.


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.