1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Getting into biophysics grad without biophysics major

  1. Dec 12, 2012 #1
    Hello, I'm highly interested in going into grad school as a biophysics student, however in my country (Costa Rica) there isn't a undergraduate program for biophysics, so I'm entering physics program next year. I'm also planning to get into biology program later, but I'm not sure what to do after that. Maybe studying a master's degree in physics with biology courses and then, if it's the case, going to a PhD. in biophysics.

    Any guidance? Am I planning way too early?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2012 #2
    I did not search much on biophysics prerequisites yet, but from what I saw of Tokyo's University Biophysics grad program, you NEED to pass a physics test and MAY take a biology or biochemistry (don't remember what was the name exactly) in addition to the physics test. So my impression is you mostly need a physics background and a biology or biochem background is good to have but not as crucial.

    It's only the impression I've got from looking at one specific university though, so it's to be taken with a grain of salt.
  4. Dec 14, 2012 #3
    Actually Tokyo University is one of my options in case of doing biophysics grad school and Stanford U asks for the GRE of either Physics, Biology, or Biochemistry. I still consider having a biology background should be important enough to have some sort of degree on it.
  5. Dec 18, 2012 #4
    Only one of the grads I know who studies biophysics at my school (for their PhD) had any bio (or chem) courses past the usual intro sequence one gets in the typical US undergrad physics program (i.e., they were hardcore physics and became interested in biophysics during grad school). At my school, biophysics is simply another physics subfield like astrophysics or particle physics, and you need to be a really good physics student to get in and pass the core physics curriculum and physics comprehensive exams. The biophysics profs have said things like "you can learn all the bio you need on the fly", though I'm sure having some bio background is better (so long as it doesn't take away from your physics).

    Also, I am unaware of any biophysics "undergrad programs". Do they really have those nowadays? Not at too many schools I would think (so your situation does not sound problematic in my mind).
  6. Dec 18, 2012 #5
    At my school they have a BA in physics with a concentration in biophysics, so you're taking the intro physics classes, the calc, diffy q's, and linear sequence, than the modern physics sequence, thermodynamics, the biophysics class, and then the bio/chem/o-chem/bio-chem sequences and then whatever upper division physics classes fit the rest of the necessary credits like quantum, e&m, mechanics, etc.
  7. Dec 18, 2012 #6
    So that means I should take some of the optionary classes in my program to get organic chemistry/general biology courses instead of taking a whole degree in biology? (Here taking two degrees isn't a money issue, as public college is cheap)

    @javaNut: Well, I checked some US and other countries universities and some of them had a biophysics or physics with biophysics focus programs, so that's why I found it necessary
  8. Dec 18, 2012 #7
    I was interested in biophysics as well and spent months looking through grad program websites and talking to professors for hints on the best preparation. Biophysics programs pop up in physics, biology, or even biochemistry departments depending on the school. The expected preparation may differ depending simply on which department the program is housed in. The good thing is that most every biophysics program is accepting of physics majors with little biology background, but not so much with biology majors with little physics background.

    If you're interested in staying closer to physics, then an additional degree in biology is overkill. One of the biophysicists in the physics department at my school said that she never took a single biology class in undergrad (or even grad) because her adviser always told her that if she wanted to learn about any biological process then she could simply look it up in a textbook; there is no need to take an entire class to memorize different processes that you will likely just look up anyway. I can understand how this might be a waste of time but I would probably feel much safer taking at least one intro bio course as an undergrad. You've got to know what the interesting problems are before you can tackle them. You also want to make sure that you're really interested in the science. After taking a few semesters of biology, I found that I'm not as interested as I thought so it's better that I find that out now before it's too late!

    I have also been told several times that extra chemistry (biochem/orgo) would be much more beneficial than biology. So basically what I've learned is that you should worry more about getting a good grounding in physics and the biology will be secondary.
  9. Dec 18, 2012 #8
    I'm currently doing research in biophysics as an undergraduate, and knowledge of chemistry has been of occasional use while knowledge of physics has been vastly more important, especially statistical physics.
  10. Dec 19, 2012 #9
    Well, guess I'll just take organic/biochemistry courses and hopefully my college will let me do them as part of my optional courses. Thank you!
  11. Dec 19, 2012 #10
    See, my professor even told me that he didn't get even a rudimentary knowledge of chem or programming (he is a computational biophysicist) until grad school. So those courses will be useful supplements, but even then are not necessary.
  12. Dec 19, 2012 #11
    And another question, besides the organic courses, I must take optional courses on physics. Which should be useful for my grad school? Was thinking on fluids, quantum, or solid state.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook