Aims and Scope of the Graduate Program
An integrated approach to graduate study in biochemistry and molecular biophysics has been organized primarily by the Divisions of Biology and Biological Engineering (BBE) and Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (CCE). The curriculum is designed to provide a broad background in biochemistry and biophysics of macromolecules and molecular assemblies, in addition to an appropriate depth of knowledge in the field selected for the Ph.D. thesis research.
The option in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics is open to students with undergraduate degrees in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, biophysics, physics, engineering, and related areas. Applicants whose native language is not English may submit results of the TOEFL exam and, after admission, are required to satisfy the English language requirements of the Institute.
BMB Master’s Degree
Students are not admitted to work toward the M.S. degree. A terminal M.S. degree may be awarded only in special circumstances. In addition to meeting Institute requirements, a student must have formed a committee of four Caltech faculty, typically the Ph.D. candidacy committee, who must approve the request to obtain a M.S. in consultation with the Option Representative, typically conferred after the end of the second year of residence.
BMB Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
The option eepresentative will counsel and oversee the student’s progress upon admission to the graduate program. During the first year of graduate study, students are required to participate in the BMB 202 seminar course and BMB 174. Additionally, as noted below, the option offers a series of courses that will expose the student to contemporary issues in biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and to the tools and methods that are essential for research in this area. Research advisers are normally selected at the end of spring quarter of the first year. Students are required to take five additional advanced courses of nine or more units for grades that are appropriate for their research interests (as determined by the option representative).
All students are to serve as teaching assistants for two quarters with the first in the first year of residence and the second by the end of the fourth year. In addition to serving an educational purpose, funds for the TA assignments are a component of the stipend. Outside factors, such as previous TA positions prior to starting the Ph.D. program, may be considered as satisfying the requirement upon approval by the option representative.
In consultation with the Option Representative and individual professors, students will choose three laboratories to do one term research projects during their first year of residence. These laboratory rotations are designed to provide students with an introduction to different areas of biochemistry and molecular biophysics along with identifying a lab for thesis research. It is possible to waive the third rotation with permission given by petitioning the Option Representative.
Admission to Candidacy
By the end of the sixth term of residency, the student will take an oral examination to assess mastery of the field of biochemistry and to evaluate research progress. As part of this examination, each student will submit a written research report summarizing the progress in their research, and an original research proposal in a field outside the student’s chosen field of research. A candidacy examination committee of four to five faculty (including the advisor) will be assembled by the student in consultation with their advisor and approved by the Option Representative. The chair of the committee should be identified at the time the committee is chosen and must be a member of the BMB option who is not the thesis advisor. In addition to satisfactory completion of the Candidacy exam, admission to Candidacy requires satisfactory completion of BMB 174 and five additional advanced courses of nine or more units (numbered 100 or above). Upon admission to candidacy, the faculty committee will become the thesis advisory committee. Students are required to meet annually with their thesis advisory committee to evaluate research progress. This committee will also serve as the Ph.D. thesis examination committee. A fifth member may be added at this time. After Candidacy, a student will meet annually with the thesis committee to assess progress.
Thesis and Final Examination
Thesis research will be carried out under the direction of one or more faculty members in the BMB option. The thesis defense will consist of a public thesis seminar, followed by a closed examination by the Ph.D. thesis committee.