Studies & Degrees in Biophysics

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The dictionaries and encyclopedias have their definitions of biophysics, quoted as follows: (a) an interdisciplinary science that uses the physical science to study biological systems, (b) science that deals with the application of physics to biological processes and phenomena, (c) discipline concerned with applications of the principles and methods of the physical sciences to biological problems, (d) application of physical techniques and physical methods of analysis to biological problems, (e) application of various methods and principles of physical science to the study of biological problems, and (f) an interdisciplinary science that uses the methods of physical science to study biological systems.

From these definitions, you will know that this discipline involves the physical sciences such as chemistry, physics, geology or astronomy, and any of the natural sciences dealing with inanimate or lifeless matters, and with energy that has something to do with non-living materials, but not biology that is concerned with the study of living organisms, or with life itself. Biophysics, however, does not have a department of its own in many universities, making its presence only in various departments or institutions of learning such as molecular biology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, mathematics, computer science, physics, medicine, pharmacology or neuroscience. In Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the oldest institution in the United States being 375 years old as of 2011, a 6-year graduate program in biophysics is offered under a biophysics-related department with such areas as structural molecular biology, molecular genetics, cell and membrane biophysics, physical biochemistry and neuroscience. Prior to the awarding of a Doctor of Philosophy degree to a student, the University requires the student to undergo a period of intensive research on his area of concentration.

The John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, US, offers a course in biophysics under a Molecular Biophysics Program, integrating various aspects of molecular biophysics with an intensive laboratory work. In this program, students are trained in both the fundamental principles and contemporary advances in the science, x-ray crystallography, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, molecular biology, and optical spectroscopies. In the Temple University in Philadelphia, a biophysics undergraduate program is under the College of Science and Technology with course works in various physical sciences. The University of Illinois has a 2-year Doctor of Philosophy program on a combined discipline of biophysics and computational biology, with coursework in physical sciences or biophysics, individual research and final examination, involving the defense of the student’s thesis before a panel of judges and professors. The Department of Molecular and Cell Biology of the University of Connecticut in Connecticut, offers graduate, undergraduate and Master’s degree programs in biophysics in combination with structural biology. Biophysics is a major in the undergraduate program, while the Master’s and Doctoral degree programs deal with the foundations of structural biology and the structure and function of Biological Macromolecules, and other subject areas.