Medical Biophysics

Medical Biophysics

About the Program

The goal of the PhD program in Medical Biophysics (MBPH) is to train the next generation of structural biologists and biophysicists to:

  1. Be very familiar with the basic chemical and physical principles important in every living organism
  2. Be proficient with the theoretical and practical aspects of the of important experimental and theoretical biophysical methods
  3. To be able to apply these methods to answer fundamental biomedical questions
  4. To become responsible investigators eager to translate their findings.
Ralf Langen, Ph.D.


Ralf Langen, Ph.D.
Program Chair

The program includes all aspects of biophysics, with an emphasis on structural biology and on application of biophysical methods and theories to answer important biomedical questions.

The MBPH program is an intercampus program that includes faculty from all over USC who not only have active biophysical research programs and serve as mentors, but also contribute to courses offered by the program. In addition, a monthly biophysics seminar series with presentations from USC and outside faculty will expose the students to current biophysical research. The MBPH program will teach a comprehensive overview about all aspects of biophysics including hands-on training in many biophysical methods. Consequently, students will obtain practical and theoretical knowledge as well as the necessary overview to be able to complete a successful thesis.

Medical Biophysics students are required to completed BIOC 522, CHEM 521 and one of the following courses: CHEM 488, CHEM 520a, CHEM 520b, CHEM 544, CHEM 565L, CHEM 625, PSCI 557, PSCI 650, PSCI 651, PSCI 661, PSCI 664, PSCI 665 or other courses approved by the faculty adviser. In the second and subsequent years, students are required to register in INTD 600 every fall and spring semester. In addition, students are required to complete at least 4 units of MBPH 794a Doctoral Dissertation , MBPH 794b Doctoral Dissertation.

MBPH Program Requirements

Degree Unit Requirement: 60 units

PIBBS Requirement: Completion of PIBBS required core curriculum (29 units)

Required MBPH Courses:

  • BIOC 522 – Applications of Physical Methods in Biochemistry
  • CHEM 521 – Basic Principles of Physical Methods in Biochemistry
  • INTD 600 – Student Research Presentation
  • MBPH 794ab – Doctoral Dissertation (at least 4 units)

Complete one of the following courses:

  • CHEM 488 – Introduction to Theory and Practice of X-ray Crystallography
  • CHEM 544 – Introduction to Quantum Chemistry
  • CHEM 565L – Advanced Practical Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • CHEM 625 – Chemical Applications of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • PSCI 557 – Introduction to Tools and Techniques for Chemical Biology
  • PSCI 650 – Mechanisms of Ion and Solute Transport Across Cell Membranes
  • PSCI 651 – Molecular Modeling and Kinetic Simulations in Membrane Transport
  • PSCI 664 – Drug Discovery and Design
  • PSCI 665 – Drug Transport and Delivery
  • Other courses may be allowed with consultation from the Director if they benefit the student’s research project

Qualifying Exam:
Students must pass both the written and oral portions of the qualifying exam during the second year of study. The written portion will require students to write a research grant proposal, in a format modeled after an NIH F31 fellowship application. The oral defense portion will include both a formal presentation of the grant proposal, as well as an open forum in which the guidance committee asks general questions related to the student’s research.

Dissertation:
Each student’s research is reported in a dissertation written under the guidance of the student’s mentor and the dissertation committee. The dissertation must demonstrate the student’s capacity for independent research, scholarly achievement and technical mastery of a special field.