Biophysics & Quantitative Biology, PhD

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology

center director: Satish Nair

overview of admissions & requirements: Biophysics and Quantitative Biology Admissions

overview of grad college admissions & requirements:

college website:

department website: Biophysics

department faculty: Biophysics Faculty

department office: 179 Loomis, 1110 West Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801

phone: (217) 333-1630


The Ph.D. degree is a research degree, and the program is designed with a major emphasis on individual research.

Graduate Degree Programs in Department

Biophysics and Quantitative Biology, MS

Biophysics and Quantitative Biology, PhD

optional concentration:

Computational Science and Engineering

Biophysics and Quantitative Biology offers a doctor of philosophy degree program. In rare circumstances and with special permission of the director and advisor, a current student may obtain a terminal master's degree after meeting the requirements of the degree. Biophysics students are not admitted initially into the program for a master’s degree. Opportunity also exists for specializing in computational science and engineering within the department's graduate program via the Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) Concentration.


The objective of the program in biophysics is to give students sufficient training in physics, chemistry, and biology to enable them to apply the conceptual, instrumental, and mathematical approaches of the physical sciences for solving biological problems. The curriculum is broadly based and provides sufficient flexibility for students entering with either previous training in the physical sciences or for students with a background in biology and some experience in the physical sciences.

Admission requirements are usually one year of college biology, one year of college physics, chemistry through organic chemistry, and mathematics through calculus; however deficiencies in one of these areas can be corrected during the first two years of study. Most applicants who are accepted into the program have general Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores in the 70%-90% range. The Biophysics and Quantitative Biology Program does not require the subject GRE for admission. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) or IELTS is required for international applicants.

Please refer to the Biophysics and Quantitative Biology Admissions web page for additional information and application deadlines.

Graduate Teaching Experience

Experience in teaching is considered a vital part of the graduate program and is required as part of the academic work of all Ph.D. candidates in this program. Every biophysics student is required to serve as a teaching assistant for one semester at the quarter time level or higher.

Faculty Research Interests

Over 40 faculty members from the Schools of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Chemical Sciences, and Medicine, and the Colleges of Engineering and Veterinary Medicine, are affiliated with the Center for Biophysics and Quantitative Biology.  Faculty interests range from experimental biophysics (single molecule spectroscopy, protein and RNA folding, molecular dynamics, cellular biophysics, imaging, etc.) to computational and theoretical biophysics (utilizing a wide range of computer platforms to simulate diverse biological phenomena at many levels as well as bioinformatics). Individual faculty interests can be found on the Biophysics web site.

Facilities and Resources

Center faculty and students have access to world-class research facilities at the University of Illinois, including the Beckman Institute, the Carl R Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, Blue Waters Sustained Petascale Computing, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the Biomedical Imaging Center, the Roy J Carver Biotechnology Center, and the School of Chemical Sciences' Mass Spectroscopy Center and Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Research Center.

Financial Aid

All incoming graduate students in biophysics will be supported by the Center for the first semester in the program.  Continuing support for subsequent years will be granted as long as students remain in good standing and continue to make satisfactory academic progress, contingent upon the availability of funds. This support can be in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships, traineeships, or fellowships. After the first semester of study, most students are supported directly by their research advisor in the form of a research assistantship.

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology

A qualifying examination is offered each spring. This qualifier must be passed by the end of the second year. By the end of the third year, after formulating a definite research problem, the student takes a preliminary examination where the chosen research topic is presented to the student’s faculty committee. The committee also examines the candidate on their chosen general research area. The Ph.D. thesis is based on original work of the student and is defended at a final public examination. The thesis and the exam must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of theory and techniques in one of the areas of biophysics.

For additional details and requirements refer to the department's Student Handbook and the Graduate College Handbook.

BIOP 401Introduction to Biophysics (or equivalent)3
BIOP 581Lab Rotation I2
BIOP 582Lab Rotation II2
BIOP 583Lab Rotation III2
BIOP 586
BIOP 590
Special Topics in Biophysics
and Individual Topics
BIOP 595Biophysics Seminars (Sections A & B)3
BIOP 599Thesis Research (32 max applied toward degree)32
Two 500-level courses from the pre-approved Biophysics course list (see Course Lists tab)
One computational or experimental lab course – based on the student's research focus (see Course Lists tab)
MCB 580Res Ethics & Responsibilities1
Total Hours64

Other Requirements

Other requirements may overlap
Students are required to teach for a minimum of one semester during their graduate career
Masters Degree Required in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology for Admission to PhD? No, but Masters level requirements must be met (32 additional hours min)
Qualifying Exam Required Yes
Preliminary Exam Required Yes
Final Exam/Dissertation Defense Required Yes
Dissertation Deposit Required Yes
Minimum GPA: 3.0

Approved Biophysics Course List and Computational & Experimental Lab Course Lists

Biophysics Course List 

ANSC 542Applied Bioinformatics4
BIOE 505Computational Bioengineering4
BIOE 598Special Topics (section TL)1 to 4
BIOP 576Computational Chemical Biology4
CHBE 594Special Topics (section HZ2)1 to 4
CHEM 546Advanced Statistical Mechanics4
CHEM 570Concepts in Chemical Biology4
CHEM 572Enzyme Reaction Mechanisms3 or 4
CPSC 567Bioinformatics & Systems Biol4
CS 598Special Topics (section JP or SS)2 to 4
ECE 564Modern Light Microscopy4
MCB 571Bioinformatics4
PHYS 504Statistical Physics (section A)4

Computational Lab Course List

BIOC 455Technqs Biochem & Biotech4
PHYS 598Special Topics in Physics (section OM or BP)1 to 4
CHEM 483Solid State Structural Anlys4
PATH 521Biophysics of Viruses2

Experimental Lab Course List

ANSC 449Biological Modeling3 or 4
BIOP 576Computational Chemical Biology4
BIOP 586Special Topics in Biophysics (section C)1 to 4
BIOE 505Computational Bioengineering4
BIOE 598Special Topics (section AGB)1 to 4
CHBE 571Bioinformatics4
MCB 432Computing in Molecular Biology3
STAT 530Bioinformatics4