Home < Degrees < Biophysics


Administrative Unit:Institute for Molecular Virology
College/School: Graduate School
Admitting Plans:Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Meyer Jackson (chair), Brunold (Chemistry), Burstyn (Chemistry), Butcher (Biochemistry), Cavangerno (Chemistry), Chapman (Neuroscience), Cui (Chemistry), Czajkowski (Neuroscience), Fettiplace (Neuroscience), Forest (Bacteriology), Fox (Biochemistry), Gellman (Chemistry), Gilbert (Physics), Hardin (Zoology), Holden (Biochemistry), Keck (Biomolecular Chemistry), Kiessling (Chemistry), Kung (Genetics), Landick (Biochemistry), Markley (Biochemistry), Murphy (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Raines (Biochemistry), Rayment (Biochemistry), Record (Biochemistry), Robertson (Neuroscience), Schwartz (Chemistry), Smith (Chemistry), van der Weide (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Weisshaar (Chemistry), Yethiraj (Chemistry), Yin (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Zanni (Chemistry); Associate Professors Craciun (Mathematics), Jones (Neuroscience), Mitchell (Mathematics); Assistant Professors Chanda (Neuroscience), Goldsmith (Chemistry), Hoskins (Biochemistry), Lou (Neuroscience), Murrell (Biomedical Engineering), Senes (Biochemistry), Yongna Xing (Oncology)


The doctor of philosophy degree with a major in biophysics is an interdepartmental offering under the supervision of the biophysics program committee. The biophysics degree is intended for those who wish to emphasize physical principles and methods in solving biological problems. By necessity, the interdisciplinary nature of biophysics generates interaction among, and expands the boundaries of, traditional areas of science. Persons with strong training in biophysics can be expected to be major innovators and contributors in research and applied technology. Biophysics graduates pursue careers in academic, industrial, and government research, and in teaching and administration.

The biophysics program consists of 42 faculty members from 14 departments that span four colleges within the university. State-of-the-art facilities are available within the biophysics program for research in x-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic-resonance spectroscopy, electron resonance spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, microscopy and imaging, and computational chemistry. Graduate students in biophysics can choose from an expansive range of research topics including, but not limited to, biomolecular structure and function interactions, protein engineering and biotechnology, virus structure and function, enzyme catalysis and kinetics, membranes, neurochemistry, and electrophysiology.

The program is flexible in its formal course requirements and emphasizes excellence in research. The candidate is encouraged to begin research as quickly as possible, since it is research experience that brings focus and meaning to classroom studies, and research progress that empowers critical judgment and self-confidence for independent work. To enhance self-confidence, students are expected to participate in weekly seminars and to present a seminar.

Financial assistance is available to support qualified graduate students throughout their graduate studies. Types of graduate appointments that may be awarded include research assistantships, fellowships, and traineeships. The stipends awarded provide financial support to students during their graduate work, permitting them to devote their efforts to course work and research. In recognition of the leadership provided by scientists and researchers at University of Wisconsin–Madison, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have funded a predoctoral training grant in molecular biophysics for the past consecutive 20 years.

A master's degree is offered officially; however, students are not admitted into the program for a terminal master's degree. For more information, see the Biophysics Handbook.


Undergraduate preparation for the biophysics program can vary widely and will be evaluated by the admissions committee on an individual basis. Most applicants have taken courses in general, organic, and physical chemistry; introductory physics; cell and/or molecular biology; calculus through differential equations; and computer sciences. Students can generally make up any deficiencies in their undergraduate background within the first year of graduate study through a broad and flexible course curriculum. The normal undergraduate course prerequisites are:

  • two semesters of physics with calculus
  • two semesters of calculus
  • two semesters of organic chemistry
  • one semester of physical chemistry
  • one semester of computer sciences
  • one semester of statistics
  • introduction to biology

Exceptions to these requirements may be granted for incoming biophysics graduate students who otherwise have strong undergraduate training in physics, mathematics, computer sciences, biology, chemistry, or other fields related to biophysics. In such cases, each missing required course will be counted as a deficiency that the student must correct by obtaining a passing grade in an equivalent undergraduate or graduate course taken within the first two years of graduate study.

In addition, it is recommended for entering graduate students to have taken undergraduate courses in general biochemistry; general genetics and/or molecular biology; and biophysical chemistry. Students who have not taken courses in these subjects will be expected to do so as part of their formal graduate course work.


Biochemistry 601 Protein and Enzyme Structure
Biochemistry/Genetics/Bacteriology 612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Biochemistry/Chemistry 665 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Chemistry 668 Biophysical Spectroscopy
Chemistry 872 Biophysics Seminar
Neuroscience 610 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
990 Research Credits

For more information: Biophysics Graduate Program, Room 413 Bock Laboratories, 1525 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3203; biophysics@bocklabs.wisc.edu; www.biophysics.wisc.edu