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(bio)chem vs physics electives - Biophysics

  1. Mar 19, 2012 #1
    I am planning on going to graduate school in biophysics but I'm not sure which electives I should take to prepare myself. As a physics major I have a lot of freedom in my electives but by looking at different graduate programs I'm not sure how I should spend them. Some biophysics programs are grounded in the physics department and others in biochem or even biology. They all suggest different amounts of biology chemistry and physics (some only 2 semesters of physics?!). I am tempted to take more physics as it seems easier to catch up on bio and chem in grad. Is this wise? Does it depend on the research that i want to pursue? What are some classes that would prepare me well for a biophysics program?

    Advice is much appreciated
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2012 #2
    My general suggestion is to pick courses that are taught by excellent teachers - a good instructor can make a mundane topic incredibly interesting, while a less gifted instructor can make even the most cutting-edge and fascinating topic pure drudgery.

    The reality is that biophysics programs are incredibly diverse in their audience for admissions, and some have very flexible requirements as a result. If I had to suggest something (based on what I'd tell the undergraduate version of myself), I'd recommend picking courses that complement - but don't necessarily provide a complete overlap - to any undergraduate research you're doing. So if you're doing something computational, I'd see about taking another laboratory course where you get to do some serious data analysis and quantitative measurements. If you're doing some sort of molecular biophysics research, I'd see about taking a cell biology course to provide some larger-scale perspective.

    Insofar as "catching up" on the biology and chemistry - the conventional wisdom is that you can, but I don't think it's quite that simple. You can learn enough to get along, no doubt - but that doesn't translate into "Eh, I basically have a Ph.D. in chemistry and biology as well in all but name." If, for example, you end up hitting upon some biochemical esoterica (since you're out at the cutting-edge of research and not using the conventional model organisms), the standard texts don't cover such material and you really need someone who knows that material to say, "oh, well, that's because that organism actually prefers this different pathway."
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