Program of Study

Biochemistry PhD Program


  • Register for nine hours each semester, with credits available from graded courses and/or research hours.
  • Beyond these basic rules, coursework choices are subject to approval by the supervising professor and the graduate adviser.
  • New students will meet with the graduate adviser for assistance with course selection.
  • You must maintain a “B” average to remain in good standing with the Graduate School and the Biochemistry Graduate Program.
  • A typical course schedule is as follows:
    • Year 1:
      • Fall:
        • CH 395G (Biochemistry)
        • CH 387D (Physical Methods Biochemistry)
        • CH 192G (Current literature student seminar)
      • Spring:
        • CH 395J (Molecular Biology)
        • CH 394 (Enzyme Kinetics)
        • CH 192G (Current literature student seminar)
    • Year 2:
      • Two elective courses
      • CH192G (Current literature student seminar: Fall only)
      • Research
      • Qualifying exams occur in the spring
    • Year 3: (through completion of degree)
      • CH192G is taken until a total of six semesters is reached. Students typically complete the PhD degree in 4.5-6 years.

Selection of supervising professor

  • Choosing a research adviser and completing a thesis research project will be the most significant activities of your graduate years.
  • You may do first year research rotations with any faculty member on the Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology or Microbiology Graduate Studies Committees.
  • To help make your decision:
    • attend seminars by faculty members.
    • meet individually with faculty members.
    • consult with other graduate students.
    • complete three research rotations during the first year.

Qualifying exam (taken in the spring of the second year)

The Qualifying Examination is an essential step that must be completed before admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. All core courses must be completed with a B- or better prior to taking the qualifying examination. It consists of an original research proposal written as an abbreviated NIH grant application. You will present and defend your proposal orally to a committee of 3 faculty on the Biochemistry Graduate Studies Committee. The examination is designed to test whether you are ready to plan and carry out independent research.

Advancement to doctoral candidacy

After you pass your qualifying exam and complete all required graded courses, you will be eligible for advancement into doctoral candidacy. Each grad student would normally expect to reach this point by the end of the third year. Doctoral Candidacy will allow you to focus solely on research and register each semester for Dissertation coursework.

Advancement into candidacy requires an application and approval by the student’s supervising professor, the Graduate Adviser, and the UT Graduate Dean.

The first part of the application procedure is completing the departmental candidacy paper application. This consists of listing all graded courses, certifying the TA service, selecting the dissertation committee, and obtaining signatures of all faculty who will serve on the dissertation committee. Application packets can be obtained from the Graduate Office, Welch 2.218.

After completion of the departmental application and approval by the Graduate Office, then the online UT doctoral candidacy application is undertaken. The name and rank of each person serving on the doctoral committee and an abstract of the doctoral research are submitted. The doctoral abstract can be broad and is changeable as the student progresses in the program. Once the on-line portion is submitted, it must be approved through UT Direct by the student’s supervising professor, the Graduate Adviser, and the Graduate Dean.

If you have questions about this process, please contact the Graduate Office.

Graduation requirements

  • Completion of doctoral research, compilation of dissertation
  • Scheduling of final doctoral defense with committee members
  • Submission of paperwork to Graduate School
  • Final oral examination with committee members’ signatures
  • The UT Office of Graduate Studies lists graduation guidelines, deadlines and downloadable forms that are needed for graduation.

Responsibilities of Teaching Assistants

  • Our degree program currently requires students to serve as a teaching assistant for at least one semester.
  • A variety of teaching positions are available; some involving lab sections, discussion sections, tutoring, lecturing, grading, etc.
  • Students are matched to teaching positions based on their backgrounds, performance, and individual and faculty preference
  • A 20-hour TA position will involve a variety of activities both in and out of the classroom.
  • Attendance at office hours, lab hours, TA meetings, etc., is mandatory.
  • Poor performance will not be tolerated.
  • Three Golden Rules for Teaching Assistants:
    • All contact with undergraduates, staff and faculty involves a high degree of responsibility, diplomacy and courtesy
    • Your reputation in the department is partially established by your teaching performance
    • The Graduate Office reserves the right to refuse any graduate student an assignment as a teaching assistant
  • All graduate students are required to take CH398T a pedagogy course designed to help you become an effective teaching assistant during your graduate career and to prepare you for teaching and presentations later in your careers.

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