Students are not admitted into the Biophysics Program for a terminal master's degree. However, a master's degree is officially offered. For more information, see the Biophysics Handbook.

The doctor of philosophy degree with a major in biophysics is an interdepartmental offering under the supervision of the biophysics program committee. The biophysics degree is intended for those who wish to emphasize physical principles and methods in solving biological problems. By necessity, the interdisciplinary nature of biophysics generates interaction among, and expands the boundaries of, traditional areas of science. Persons with strong training in biophysics can be expected to be major innovators and contributors in research and applied technology. Biophysics graduates pursue careers in academic, industrial, and government research, and in teaching and administration.

The biophysics program consists of 44 faculty members from 14 departments that span four colleges within the university. State-of-the-art facilities are available within the biophysics program for research in x-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic-resonance spectroscopy, electron resonance spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, microscopy and imaging, and computational chemistry. Graduate students in biophysics can choose from an expansive range of research topics including, but not limited to, biomolecular structure and function interactions, protein engineering and biotechnology, virus structure and function, enzyme catalysis and kinetics, membranes, neurochemistry, and electrophysiology.

The program is flexible in its formal course requirements and emphasizes excellence in research. The candidate is encouraged to begin research as quickly as possible, since it is research experience that brings focus and meaning to classroom studies, and research progress that empowers critical judgment and self-confidence for independent work. To enhance self-confidence, students are expected to participate in weekly seminars and to present a seminar.

Financial assistance is available to support qualified graduate students throughout their graduate studies. Types of graduate appointments that may be awarded include research assistantships, fellowships, and traineeships. The stipends awarded provide financial support to students during their graduate work, permitting them to devote their efforts to coursework and research. In recognition of the leadership provided by scientists and researchers at University of Wisconsin–Madison, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have funded a predoctoral training grant in molecular biophysics for the past consecutive 20 years.

This master’s program is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master’s, and should instead see the admissions information for the Ph.D.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244).
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's GPA Requirement policy (https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203).
Other Grade Requirements Credits are not counted from courses in which a grade of BC or below is obtained for the Biophysics core courses. In the event of an unsatisfactory grade, the student must repeat the course and obtain a grade of B or better if they want to count the class towards their Biophysics GPA and course requirements.
Assessments and Examinations Students take two rounds of exams in order to achieve dissertator status. At the end of students' second year, they are required to take their written preliminary exam. Once this exam is passed, students must take their preliminary exam by the end of their third year.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required Courses

The following coursework is completed on the way to earning the Biophysics Ph.D. and is the minimum required for the master's:

Required by the time oral prelim is taken:
BIOCHEM/​CHEM  665 Biophysical Chemistry4
CHEM 668 Biophysical Spectroscopy 13
Biophysics Additional Courses 26
Students must take at least 2 additional classes from different categories from the following list of classes (alternative classes may be substituted with approval from the Biophysics Program Steering Committee):
Protein and Enzyme Structure and Function
Mechanisms of Action of Vitamins and Minerals
Organic Analysis
Introductory Quantum Chemistry
Purification and Characterization of Protein and Protein Complexes
Chemical and Statistical Thermodynamics
Mathematical Methods for Systems Biology
Molecular Biology
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Microscopy of Life
Biomedical Optics and Biophotonics
Selected Topics in Physical Chemistry (Topic: Spectroscopy of Individual Molecules and Particles)
Advanced Topics (Topic: Advanced Topics in NMR)
Computational Courses
Bioinformatics for Biologists
Advanced Bioinformatics
Speciality Courses
To fulfill the remainder of required credits, students can take specialty courses. It is recommended to take courses in areas such as biotechnology, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, molecular biology, or physics. Students should consult with their Thesis Advisor and thesis committee members about appropriate specialty courses to take pertaining to individual training goals.
Total Credits30

Because CHEM 668 Biophysical Spectroscopy is only offered every other year, students will be advised upon joining the program in which semester they must complete the course. This course must be taken for 3 credits.


To meet the 6 credit minimum, all elective courses must be at least 2 credits. That means that students can, for example, take two 3-credit courses, three 2-credit courses, or one 2-credit and one 4-credit course to satisfy this requirement. The above list of courses have all been approved as elective courses by the Biophysics Steering Committee. If you are interested in a different course, in order for it to count as an elective course towards your Biophysics graduate degree, the course needs to be approved by the Steering Committee. Please email the coordinator at biophysics@bocklabs.wisc.edu a syllabus from the course and a short paragraph detailing why the class is relevant to your research.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned more than two years prior to admission to the doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. No admissions are made into the master's program.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student. Coursework earned more than two years prior to admission to the doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements. No admissions are made into the master's program.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


All students are required to have an advisor by the end of their first semester in the program. Thesis committees must be formed prior to their preliminary exam. The committee consists of at least four other faculty members and the student's advisor. After gaining dissertator status, students are required to hold yearly progress report meetings with their committee until graduation.


15 credits

Time limits

This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances.


Fall semester enrollment only. First semester, program-sponsored lab rotations lead to thesis lab selection and research assistantship through the thesis advisor. 

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Articulates, critiques, or elaborates the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry or schools of practice in the field of study.
  2. Identifies sources and assembles evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  3. Understands the primary field of study in a historical, social or global context.
  4. Selects and/or utilizes the most appropriate methodologies and practices.
  5. Evaluates or synthesizes information pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  6. Communicates clearly in ways appropriate to the field of study.
  7. Recognizes and applies principles of ethical conduct.

Faculty Trainers:

Alessandro Senes – Program Director (Biochemistry) Website

Silvia Cavangerno – Program Assistant Director (Chemistry) Website

Paul Ahlquist (Oncology) Website

Tom Brunold (Chemistry) Website

Andrew Buller (Chemistry) Website

Mark Burkard (Medicine) Website

Briana Burton (Bacteriology) Website

Sam Butcher (Biochemistry) Website

Ed Chapman (Neuroscience) Website

Josh Coon (Chemistry) Website

Scott Coyle (Biochemistry) Website

Cindy Czajkowski (Neuroscience) Website

Katrina Forest (Bacteriology) Website

Sam Gellman (Chemistry) Website

Pupa Gilbert (Physics) Website

Randy Goldsmith (Chemistry) Website

Tim Grant (Biochemistry) Website

Aviad Hai (Biomedical Engineering) Website

Jeff Hardin (Zoology) Website

Katie Henzler-Wildman (Biochemistry) Website

Aaron Hoskins (Biochemistry) Website

Xuhui Huang (Chemistry) Website

Meyer Jackson (Neuroscience Department) Website

Jim Keck (Biomolecular Chemistry) Website

Robert Kirchdoerfer (Biochemistry) Website

Bob Landick (Biochemistry) Website

Ci Ji Lim (Biochemistry) Website

Megan McClean (Biomedical Engineering) Website

Matthew Merrins (Biomolecular Chemistry) Website

Jacob Notbohm (Engineering Physics) Website

Vatsan Raman (Biochemistry) Website

Ivan Rayment (Biochemistry) Website

Chad Rienstra (Biochemistry) Website

Gail Robertson (Neuroscience) Website

Phil Romero (Biochemistry) Website

Kris Saha (Biomedical Engineering) Website

David Schwartz (Chemistry) Website

Nate Sherer (Oncology) Website

Raunak Sinha (Neuroscience) Website

Melissa Skala (Biomedical Engineering) Website

Lloyd Smith (Chemistry) Website

Aussie Suzuki (Oncology) Website

Reid Van Lehn (Chemical and Biological Engineering) Website

Ophelia Venturelli (Biochemistry) Website

Amy Weeks (Biochemistry) Website

Liz Wright (Biochemistry) Website

Yongna Xing (Oncology): Website

John Yin (Chemical and Biological Engineering) Website

Martin Zanni (Chemistry) Website

Please consult our faculty trainer site as new faculty are added to the program each year.