Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

A Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) is offered to students at the Institute of Environmental Health by the Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems.

Upon completion of the program students will be equipped with:

  • Conceptual knowledge and in-depth understanding of biomolecular and biogeochemical systems in environmental and public health contexts.
  • Technical know-how in using systems thinking to solve biomolecular and biogeochemical problems in public and environmental health.
  • Enhanced capability and competitiveness in the development of a career related to biomolecular and biogeochemical systems, particularly in health and environmental fields.


The Biochemistry &Molecular Biology curriculum provides students the opportunity to explore the structure and function of macromolecules and their integration into biological and environmental processes. Leading-edge metallobiochemistry, structural biology, spectroscopy, proteomics, microbial genetics and genomics are applied to uncover the molecular details of enzyme mechanisms, signal transduction, and control of gene expression. Collaborations with Environmental Science &Engineering allow BMB students to engage in multidisciplinary research involving the application of molecular biology and genetics to ecological studies.

The curriculum is designed to ensure a common foundation of core concepts and skills, but also to allow considerable flexibility for customization to provide the optimal educational experience for each student. Core concepts and skills are taught through a series of three required core courses, with the remaining coursework consisting of advanced electives, readings groups, and special topics courses selected in consultation with the student's advisor.


The Biochemistry &Molecular Biology degree program offers two concentrations of study: Biochemistry &Molecular Biology and Environmental &Biomolecular Systems. 

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology is for students who wish to focus their graduate study on defining life processes at the molecular scale. Applications include enzyme and protein engineering, microbial engineering, and microbial cell factories.

Environmental & Biomolecular Systems is for students interested in a holistic view of the physical, chemical, and biological processes at the molecular, cellular and particle levels. Applications include bioremediation, assessing environmental health effects and multiscale biogeochemistry.


All Ph.D. students mass pass a written qualifying exam near the end of their first year, prepare and defend a dissertation proposal in their second year, conduct original research leading to multiple peer-reviewed publications, and finally submit a written dissertation and complete an oral defense of the dissertation. The typical time to complete the Ph.D. in BMB is 5-6 years.

Most students accepted into the BMB Ph.D. program have Bachelors (or equivalent) degrees in the physical or biological sciences, engineering, or related disciplines (e.g., computer science). Prospective students with different backgrounds are encouraged to inquire, if they have professional or other experience that might provide adequate background. Requirements for admission to this program include all the general requirements are described on the Admissions web page. Admission to the Ph.D. program relies upon funding and the successful identification of a faculty member with room for a student in their research program.

Most Ph.D. students are full time, but Ph.D. students can be part-time under special circumstances. To matriculate, students should follow the instructions on the Admissions web page.