A&SMolecular Biophysics and Structural Biology
The Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology graduate program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University educates students to conduct research at the interface between biology, chemistry, and physics. The disciplines of Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology aim to unravel and explain biological phenomena and processes in atomic and molecular detail. Research carried out by program faculty covers a diverse range of topics in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. Areas of study focus on understanding fundamental principles involved in reactions and regulatory interactions in biological systems. Our research projects attempt to answer the key questions, such as: How do proteins fold and can we prevent misfolding? Can we design proteins with novel functions? How does the coordinated interaction between proteins and nucleic acids lead to cellular differentiation and the formation of an organism? How do macromolecules assemble into molecular machines and viruses? How do these assemblies operate? How do signals traverse membranes?
University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University
Program Director: James Conway (UPSOM) and Gordon Rule (CMU)
Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology Graduate Program
Graduate Studies Office
3550 Terrace Street
524 Scaife Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Admission Requirements and Procedures
Students with at least a baccalaureate degree in physics, chemistry, and mathematics or cellular and molecular biology are encouraged to apply. Admissions are based upon the student’s academic record, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, previous research experience, written statement of interest, and a personal interview. Applicants who are citizens of countries where English is not the official language (and the Province of Quebec in Canada) are required to submit evidence of English Language proficiency by submitting the official results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum TOEFL score of 600 (paper) or 250 (computer) or 100 (iBT), or IELTS score of at least 7.00 is required for admission to the Program. We actively seek qualified applicants from underrepresented minorities and students with disabilities.
Additional information and a link to the online application can be a found at http://www.mbsb.pitt.edu/index.php/apply-for-the-mbsb-program
All students receive complete financial support in the form of stipend, tuition, and health insurance.
All students enter the Program in the fall session and after performing three rotations identify an advisor and area of research. Areas of research focus include: Macromolecular recognition; Virus, lipid and protein structure and interactions; Principles of protein structure and dynamics; Membrane proteins; Gene regulation and signaling; Cellular biophysics; Chemical structure and dynamics. Methodologies employed comprise NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and computational molecular biology. Required coursework is completed during the first year. Students are required to complete the Comprehensive Exam by August 31 of their second year in the graduate program.
A minimum of 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the PhD degree. The 72 credits are completed by taking required and elective course work as well as dissertation research credits upon being admitted to candidacy.
Laboratory Research Rotation (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2000)—taken during the first fall, spring and summer semester of the first year.
Macromolecular Structure and Function (BIOSC 2810)—taken during the first fall semester of the first year
Molecular Biophysics I: Structural Biophysics (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2001)—taken during the first fall semester of the first year
Molecular Biophysics II: Biomolecular Interactions & Dynamics (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2002)—taken during the first spring semester of the first year
Molecular Biophysics III: Theory and Simulation (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2003)—taken during the first spring semester of the first year
Scientific Ethics and the Responsible Conduct of Research (INTBP 2290)—taken during the first summer semester of the first year
Introduction to Statistical Methods I (BIOST 20410 -taken during the first summer semester of the first year
MBSB Seminar (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2020)—taken every fall and spring semester through graduation
Data and Literature Club (MSMBPH/MOLBPH 2030)—taken every fall and spring semester through graduation
Advanced Elective Courses—6 credits total—with the permission of his/her advisor, students are permitted to choose from a number of courses offered at Pitt as well as CMU.
Additional information on the core curriculum can be found at
Terminal Masters Degree
The program does not admit students whose goal is to attain a Master's of Science degree. However, it might become necessary for a PhD student to transfer to an MS track for academic reasons or reasons beyond the student's control, e.g., medical circumstances or a change in family circumstances necessitating a long-distance move.
The Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology training faculty can be found at the following Web site: http://www.mbsb.pitt.edu/index.php/people/faculty
The curriculum stresses an interdisciplinary approach to learning and research in modern Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. Upon entering the program, each student is advised by a mentoring committee, explores research options through laboratory rotations, and then chooses a thesis advisor in the first year.
A list of available courses can be found at the following Web site: