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Ph.D. in Biochemistry

Students entering into our Ph.D. program generally have a B.S. in biochemistry, chemistry, biology, genetics, or related physical or biological science. During the first year in residence, students are advised by a graduate advisory committee and participate in coursework, teaching, and laboratory rotations.

Core Courses

The core courses in the biochemistry Ph.D. program include:

  • BCH 590: Special Topics: Experimental Design and Application
  • BCH 701: Macromolecular Structure and Metabolism
  • BCH 703: Transcription, Translation, and Genome Dynamics
  • BCH 705: Signal Transduction and Cellular Regulation
  • BCH 801 and 810: Departmental Seminar (Thursdays) and Graduate Seminar (Fridays)

Following the core coursework, students may enroll in up to two advanced courses, chosen by the student based on recommendations from their thesis advisor, designed to support their thesis project.  Advanced topics range from biophysical chemistry, advanced molecular biology, metabolism, bioinformatics, or several topics offered through other departments on campus. Students usually complete coursework is completed by the end of the second year. In addition, students gain teaching experience by participating as teaching assistants for one or more semesters. Students also attend weekly departmental seminars presented by eminent visiting scientists.

Graduate Support

We support doctoral students through teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or faculty grants. In addition to stipend support, the department covers tuition for doctoral students and medical benefits through the Graduate Student Support Plan.

Application and Admission Timeline

Review of applications begins in November, and applicants are strongly encouraged to apply well before the December 1, 2023 target date for fall admission, although applications will be accepted until January 15, 2024.  Well-qualified applicants will be contacted in late December-early January. Due to ongoing health and travel concerns, the initial phases of the process will be virtual. Campus visits will be mid-Spring semester.

Incoming Students

Students are advised to arrive in Raleigh the first week of August to allow time to acclimate (exploring your new neighborhood, getting your North Carolina driver’s license, etc). The week before classes start (typically the second week of August), incoming students will meet with the director of graduate programs and the department head for initial advising of coursework. During this week, you will also complete paperwork, obtain your student ID, and secure a parking permit (if needed).

Doctoral students participate in two laboratory rotations, each approximately eight weeks in duration, which allow the student to choose a thesis advisor through knowledge of the laboratory environment.  You will have time to meet with current graduate students and faculty to learn more about potential rotation projects during orientation week. Students will select their first laboratory rotation at the end of orientation week and their second rotation four weeks into the semester. The first rotation continues until fall break, and the second rotation ends before finals week.

Selecting a Laboratory

At the end of the first semester, the student will select a thesis advisor in consultation with the director of graduate programs and the department head. Several factors will influence your decision, including laboratory rotations, TA experience, and approval of the graduate advisory committee. A five-member thesis committee is established, typically during the second semester in residence, which includes at least three members of the department faculty and at least one member from outside of the department. The thesis committee will meet with the student at least once per year, usually following their presentation in Graduate Seminar.

Preliminary Exam

Students are encouraged to schedule their comprehensive exam once they have completed the majority of their formal coursework. The exam occurs during the fourth or fifth semester of the program. The preliminary exams are a written component (an original research proposal written by the student) and an oral defense of the proposal. After successful completion, the student is admitted into candidacy.

Thesis Research

After completion of the thesis research, and with the approval of the thesis committee, the student writes a thesis, presents a departmental seminar based on the research, and defends the thesis before the thesis committee. The defense generally occurs at the end of the fifth year in residence.

Graduate School Forms

Students can complete the Ph.D. program within five years. It is essential to set goals for your progress and be aware of the deadlines you must meet and forms you to complete to stay in good standing and graduate. The Graduate School has numerous resources to assist you.