Graduate Study

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 assistantship.


M.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. 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 graduate assistantships. NOTE: Students are encouraged to consider the Ph.D. track.


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

The department offers a B.S./M.S. program in biochemistry that allows students to obtain both the B.S. and M.S. degrees in five years. The program is open to students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Students interested in this program should contact Connie Garnett (cgarnett@iastate.edu), Graduate Program Coordinator, in the department office for details.  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. 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.


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.