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2023-2024 Graduate Bulletin

Graduate Program in

Molecular Biophysics

College of Arts and Sciences


Program Director: M. Elizabeth Stroupe

Molecular biophysics involves the application of the principles and techniques of biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics to the study of biomolecular systems. Studies are aimed at advancing our understanding of fundamental biological structures and processes, information needed for the understanding of disease, and for the design of novel therapeutic strategies. In general, these studies require a multidisciplinary approach that may include techniques derived from molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics. Biophysical techniques such as X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and other spectroscopic methods are common components of this work.

The development and application of physical techniques to study biological systems requires training in disciplines that have been traditionally divided into separate departments. To foster the development of a fully integrated research training program, the Institute of Molecular Biophysics was constructed in 1962 with funds from the Atomic Energy Commission, the National Institutes of Health, and the State of Florida. In this institute, students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty associated with different departments share expertise and lab space. It is within this unique environment that the Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program is centered.

The program offers an interdisciplinary core of courses leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Molecular Biophysics or Computational Structural Biology. To this end, students are required to participate in a curriculum that will provide them with a strong background in both the physical and biological sciences. The program is designed to produce researchers and scholars with a broad understanding of the fundamental processes of biomolecular systems and a deep understanding of one or more experimental or theoretical approaches for the study of such systems. Research facilities available for the development of the graduate thesis include those located in the Institute of Molecular Biophysics; the departments of Biological Science, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Physics; and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. No master's degree is offered.


Application for admission to the Molecular Biophysics graduate program is made through the University Office of Admissions using an online application and routed to the Program Coordinator. The admissions committee will consider all applicants with a strong background in any areas of physical, biological science, chemistry, mathematics, or engineering studies with a demonstrated aptitude for quantitative analysis and problem solving. All applicants must meet the minimum criteria of a 3.0 undergraduate grade point average (GPA) in all upper-division undergraduate coursework and provide three current letters of recommendation from individuals who are able to assess the applicant's academic and research potential. Successful applicants typically score above 153 on the Verbal portion and above 154 on Quantitative portion of the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or have a combined score of at least 307 total Verbal and Quantitative combined. We do not have a minimum GRE score for admission, but applicants with lower GRE scores need to have strong research backgrounds, a GPA greater than 3.2 on upper division courses, and excellent letters of recommendation. The GRE Subject test is not required, subject to GRE waiver review by the program director. Official transcripts are also required. International students must score a minimum of 600 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 90 on the iBT version of the language exam. Applicants are asked to advise the admissions committee of their areas of interest so that applications can be circulated to the appropriate faculty members. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the Program Coordinator at

Financial Aid

Acceptance into the program is accompanied by financial aid in the form of graduate assistantships, health insurance subsidy, and tuition waivers. Additional support of up to $2,000 per student is available during the first two years to enable students to attend national meetings and workshops. Travel money is also available for advanced students presenting research at such meetings. In addition, the Donald Caspar Award, Lyn Kittle Scholarship, and the Randolph Rill Award for Academic Achievement are available to selected outstanding applicants, providing a bonus up to $2,000 that may be paid over the first two years. Eligibility for financial aid is reviewed every year and is based on satisfactory progress.

College Requirements

Please review all college-wide degree requirements summarized in the "College of Arts and Sciences" chapter of this Graduate Bulletin.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

The direction and supervision of graduate work at the doctoral level resides primarily with the major professor (thesis advisor) and the supervisory committee. The University requires that the degree be completed within five calendar years from the time the student gains admittance to candidacy by passing the preliminary exam and thesis prospectus defense.

Overall requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree are as follows:

  1. Completion of the course requirements outlined below;
  2. After admission to doctoral candidacy, a minimum of twenty-four semester hours of dissertation credit is required;
  3. Teach at least one semester;
  4. Enroll in and attend the following seminar each Fall and Spring of the graduate career and present at least one seminar each year in the program:
    • BCH 6896r (letter grade) or BCH 6897r (S/U grade)
    • Attendance at other seminars and colloquia (such as CHM 6590r Physical Chemistry Seminar, PSB 6920r Neuroscience Colloquium, or BSC 6921r Colloquium in Biological Science) are at the discretion of the student and the major professor, but the student must enroll in BCH 6896r or BCH 6897r in Fall and Spring semesters.
  5. Successfully complete the oral and written components of the preliminary doctoral examination;
  6. Submit a doctoral research proposal approved by the major professor and the supervisory committee;
  7. Submit, publicly present, and successfully defend an original dissertation.

Course Requirements

Students with very different backgrounds in biological or physical sciences may be admitted to the program. Thus, some may be required to take additional courses to provide an adequate background for graduate training in molecular biophysics, including a minimum of one semester of biochemistry and physical chemistry at the undergraduate level. This requirement may be met by taking the appropriate courses at Florida State University or equivalent courses from other institutions. Descriptions for all courses may be found under the appropriate departmental listings.

To help the student select a major professor and a dissertation topic, first year students are required to complete three lab rotations with faculty approved by the Graduate Program Committee. Each rotation will be for a minimum duration of six weeks. Credit for the rotations is obtained by registering for the following course during the first year:

MOB 5905r Directed Individual Study (1–12) [rotation]

All students are expected to complete a series of common graduate core courses, which consists of each of the following courses:

BCH 5505 Structure and Function of Enzymes (3)

BCH 5745 Chemical and Physical Characterization of Biopolymers (3)

PCB 5137 Advanced Cell Biology (3)

  • Approved Responsible Conduct of Research (1–2). This course should meet the NSF/NIH standards for responsible conduct of research training.

An additional nine semester hours are required, selected from courses offered by the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, Neuroscience, and others. These courses must contribute directly to progress toward the degree program.

Definition of Prefixes


ENC—English Composition

MOB—Molecular Biophysics

Graduate Courses

COM 5115. Scientific Presentations and Posters (3). (S/U grade only). This course emphasizes the importance of learning how to give top-notch talks and posters as a young science professional because a scientists' professional reputation rests not only on their scientific contributions, but also on how well they communicate their findings. This course covers such topics as effective slide design; how to overcome nervousness; how effectively use presentation aids, including microphones, pointers, notes, props, and handouts; how to handle audience questions; how to cope with problems; how to publicize a talk; ethical issues in giving talks; and how to design and use a poster to interact with colleagues at a conference.

ENC 5457. Writing in the Sciences (3). (S/U grade only). This course enables students to work on a writing project throughout the semester (e.g., journal article, fellowship proposal, or prospectus). Students identify the audience and purpose of their writing project and then clarify the central idea of their article or proposal. From there, they draft their work section by section, figure by figure, and then peer review their sections and figures in small groups. Central to the course is the idea that writing and thinking go hand in hand and that it is only through careful revision (at least for most), including careful consideration of peer feedback, that we are able to produce a finished paper or proposal that is clear and cogent enough to be published or funded.

MOB 5905r. Directed Individual Study (1–12). (S/U grade only). This course provides students with an opportunity to gain practical experience using different laboratory techniques and various instruments and equipment in research projects assigned by and under the close supervision of professors affiliated with the MOB graduate program. One-on-one discussions assures understanding of necessary basic scientific research approaches. May be repeated to a maximum of one hundred and fifty semester hours.

MOB 5906r. Directed Individual Study (1–12). Replaces MOB 5905 with a letter grade, with permission from the program director. May be repeated to a maximum of twelve semester hours.

MOB 5915r. Supervised Research (1–5). (S/U grade only). May be repeated to a maximum of five semester hours.

MOB 5935r. Special Topics (3). May be repeated to a maximum of fifteen semester hours.

MOB 6935r. Advanced Specialized Molecular Biophysics (3). May be repeated to a maximum of twenty-four semester hours.

MOB 6980r. Dissertation (1–12). (S/U grade only). A minimum of twenty-four semester hours of credit must be earned.

MOB 8964r. Preliminary Doctoral Examination (0). (P/F grade only.) A comprehensive examination. Passing exam required for admission to doctoral candidacy.

MOB 8965r. Thesis Prospectus Defense (0). (P/F grade only.) Prerequisite: MOB 8964. A formal grant proposal, or prospectus, in the NIH or NSF format describing preliminary results and proposed experiments is submitted to the doctoral supervisory committee followed by a formal oral presentation and an oral defense of the prospectus.

MOB 8985r. Dissertation Defense (0). (P/F grade only.)