Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required but may be considered if available.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Undergraduate preparation for the Biophysics Program can vary widely and will be evaluated by the admissions committee on an individual basis. Most applicants have taken courses in general, organic, and physical chemistry; introductory physics; cell and/or molecular biology; calculus through differential equations; and computer sciences. Students can generally make up any deficiencies in their undergraduate background within the first year of graduate study through a broad and flexible course curriculum. The normal undergraduate course prerequisites are:

  • two semesters of physics with calculus
  • two semesters of calculus
  • two semesters of organic chemistry
  • one semester of physical chemistry
  • one semester of computer sciences
  • one semester of statistics
  • introduction to biology

Exceptions to these requirements may be granted for incoming biophysics graduate students who otherwise have strong undergraduate training in physics, mathematics, computer sciences, biology, chemistry, or other fields related to biophysics. In such cases, each missing required course will be counted as a deficiency that the student must correct by obtaining a passing grade in an equivalent undergraduate or graduate course taken within the first two years of graduate study.

In addition, it is recommended for entering graduate students to have taken undergraduate courses in general biochemistry; general genetics and/or molecular biology; and biophysical chemistry. Students who have not taken courses in these subjects will be expected to do so as part of their formal graduate coursework.

Admission to the biophysics Ph.D. program is highly competitive. A committee of biophysics faculty trainers reviews each application and invites selected students for personal interviews in February. Outstanding international students will be offered video-conferencing interviews with members of the admissions committee. Final admissions decisions are made after all interviews are completed. An application for admission consists of:

1. A resume or CV

2. A personal statement that discusses a candidate's reasoning for pursuing a biophysics Ph.D. What initially drew you to the field? How will earning a Ph.D. help you accomplish your goals?

3. An official transcript of coursework from all undergraduate institutions attended

4. Three or more letters of recommendation

5. A report, if submitting, from the Educational Testing Service of scores received on the GRE General Test

6. A report, if appropriate, of scores received on the TOEFL English language proficiency exam or an appropriate alternative (IELTS, MELAB)

The admissions committee highly weighs the personal statement and letters of recommendation when reviewing applicants. GPA values are evaluated to ensure they meet minimum graduate school requirements.

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.

Program Resources

The Biophysics Graduate Degree Program offers stipends in the form of traineeships or research assistantships to all Ph.D. candidates, and assists those with outstanding records in competing for University and national awards (fellowships). The program guarantees a full stipend ($27,000 for 2017–18) for all its Ph.D. candidates who remain in good standing in the program. In addition to the stipend, all students receive tuition remission and are eligible for comprehensive health insurance.

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


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Any grade of BC or lower will not count toward the Biophysics core course requirement. If a student receives a BC or lower, the student must repeat the course in order to receive a higher grade.
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 oral preliminary exam by the end of their third year.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements No minor required.

Required Courses

Required by the time oral prelim is taken:
BIOCHEM/​CHEM  665 Biophysical Chemistry4
CHEM 668 Biophysical Spectroscopy 12-3
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
Chemical and Statistical Thermodynamics
Mathematical Methods for Systems Biology
Molecular Biology
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Eukaryotic Molecular Biology
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Microscopy of Life
Additional Courses
BIOCHEM 729 Advanced Topics (Ethics) 21-3
CHEM/​BIOCHEM  872 Selected Topics in Macromolecular and Biophysical Chemistry 31-3
990 Seminar 4

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.


If students fall below the 3.00 GPA program requirement or have incomplete grades, the Biophysics Program follows the Graduate School's policy of satisfactory/unsatisfactory progress. This could result in academic probation or suspension.


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


15 credits

Time Constraints

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

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 challenges, frontiers and limits with respect to theory, knowledge or practice within the field of study.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  3. Creates research, scholarship or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  4. Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  5. Communicates complex or ambiguous ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  6. Evaluates the implications of the discipline to broader social concerns.
  7. Fosters ethical conduct and professional guidelines.


Chair: Dr. Alessandro Senes (Biochemistry) Website

Paul Ahlquist (Oncology) Website

Tom Brunold (Chemistry) Website

Andrew Buller (Chemistry) Website

Mark Burkard (Medicine) Website

Judith Burstyn (Chemistry) Website

Briana Burton (Bacteriology) Website

Sam Butcher (Biochemistry) Website

Silvia Cavangerno (Chemistry) Website

Baron Chanda (Neuroscience) Website

Ed Chapman (Neuroscience) Website

Josh Coon (Chemistry) Website

Gheorghe Craciun (Mathematics) Website

Cindy Czajkowski (Neuroscience) Website

Katrina Forest (Bacteriology) Website

Brian Fox (Biochemistry) Website

Sam Gellman (Chemistry) Website

Pupa Gilbert (Physics) Website

Randy Goldsmith (Chemistry) Website

Jeff Hardin (Zoology) Website

Katie Henzler-Wildman (Biochemistry) Website

Hazel Holden (Biochemistry) Website

Aaron Hoskins (Biochemistry) Website

Meyer Jackson (Neuroscience Department) Website

Mathew Jones (Neuroscience) Website

Jim Keck (Biomolecular Chemistry) Website

Bob Landick (Biochemistry) Website

John Markley (Biochemistry) Website

Megan McClean (Biomedical Engineering) Website

Matthew Merrins (Biomolecular Chemistry) Website

Julie Mitchell (Mathematics) Website

Regina Murphy (Chemical and Biological Engineering) Website

Jacob Notbohm (Engineering Physics) Website

Vatsan Raman (Biochemistry) Website

Ivan Rayment (Biochemistry) Website

Tom Record (Biochemistry) Website

Gail Robertson (Neuroscience) Website

Phil Romero (Biochemistry) Website

Subhojit Roy (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) 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

Doug Weibel (Biochemistry) Website

Yongna Xing (Oncology): Website

John Yin (Chemical and Biological Engineering) Website

Martin Zanni (Chemistry) Website