PhD in Biophysics

First Year

Three six-week rotations

Fall Semester

  • BIMS 6000, Core Course in Integrative Biosciences

Spring Semester

  • BIOP 8201, Cellular Physiology and Biophysics (Spring Module 1)
  • BIOP 8301, Molecular Biophysics (Spring Module 2)
  • BIOP 5050, Biophysical Literature (Journal Club)
  • BIMS 7000, Responsible Conduct of Research (Research Ethics)
  • CELL 8450, Effective Science Writing for Grants and Fellowships

Second Year

Restricted Electives (2 credits)

At least one module of Advanced Methods in Molecular/Cellular Biophysics

  • BIOP 8020, Advanced Methods in Molecular Biophysics: Structural Biology (Fall or Spring) 
  • BIOP 8050, Advanced Methods in Molecular Biophysics: Cellular Biophysics (Fall)

Unrestricted Electives (2 credits)

Other Requirements

  • Students are required to take at least one additional elective module on any topic.
  • Students will also be required to attend the Biophysics and Physiology journal club (BIOP 5050) throughout their graduate careers.
  • Students must maintain a graduate GPA of at least 3.0.

Qualifying Exam

Students are expected to write and orally defend the Thesis Proposal by September 1 at the beginning of the third year. If the student enters with a Master’s degree, they are expected to write and orally defend the thesis proposal by January 1 of the second year.

Thesis Proposal

The student prepares a written proposal for their thesis project in the form of an NIH R01 grant proposal.  The student should use the instructions for the NIH Standard Form 424 Grant application to help prepare the proposal.  The document will be presented orally to the student’s selected thesis committee, which includes the thesis advisor(s), and at least three other tenure track faculty members (minimum of four members).  At least one faculty member must be from outside the home department of the thesis mentor and acts as the representative of the Graduate Faculty.  Faculty with secondary or guest appointments in the home department are not eligible to act as the representative.  The eligible faculty are those recognized by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).  Eligible faculty generally does not include faculty with clinical appointments except those with secondary appointments in a basic science department, or those who have approved membership in GSAS.  Faculty with primary appointments in departments in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (i.e., Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, etc.) are generally eligible.  The committee may decide to award a full pass, conditional pass, or fail. The committee will provide detailed critiques to the student in order to meet the conditions to fully pass, or to help improve the thesis proposal and the oral defense in the case of a fail. The student must pass the qualifying exam on the second attempt or the program will recommend dismissal from the Graduate School.

Thesis Defense

Requirements for the Dissertation and Final Examination are as described at the Graduate School for Arts and Sciences (GSAS) website.  The time limit for completion of the Ph.D. is seven years from the beginning of matriculation as a graduate student at the University of Virginia, but most students finish within five years.

During the semester the student will graduate, the student must:

File the Ph.D. Degree Application in the Student Information System (SIS). The deadlines are October 1, February 1 or July 1 for the fall, spring or summer semesters, respectively.

File the finalized, signed dissertation along with the signed Final Examination  with the School of Medicine Registrar.  The deadlines are December 1, May 1 or August 1 for the fall, spring or summer semesters, respectively.

Click here for the Physical Standards of the thesis, a sample title page and checklist of graduation requirements.
Steps to Graduation

Please contact Carrie Walker ( for assistance in filling out the form.

The oral defense will be done in two parts: (1) the public defense, which is in the form of a formal publicly advertised seminar, followed by (2) the private defense which is a private session with only the thesis committee. Generally, this is the same committee that heard the thesis proposal, but the membership can change according to the discretion of the student and advisor. The same rules apply as to its make-up of faculty members.

The scheduling of the thesis defense is up to the student and advisor.  Please provide the date the Program Director and Carrie Walker so that the seminar location can be booked and the announcement prepared and distributed.  Please note the deadlines above for graduating in a given semester.

The content of the dissertation and expectations of the student are left to the discretion of the thesis committee.  The thesis committees are expected to uphold the highest possible academic standards of the University of Virginia within ethical boundaries outlined in the School of Medicine Faculty Handbook.