Biophysics, Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Program Description

Graduate study in biophysics is interdisciplinary and highly individualized. Students majoring in biophysics are expected to obtain a broad, interdisciplinary knowledge of fundamental principles in both the biological and physical sciences. But because biophysics covers a wide range of areas, it would be unrealistic to expect to master each facet in detail. A student working in computational modeling of protein motions will develop a strong background in statistical physics, computational science and chemistry, while a student involved in laser studies of proteins in biological membranes will develop a strong background in quantum physics, instrumentation, chemistry and biomembranes.

At the point of passing the "A" exam -- usually after two years of study -- each student is expected to demonstrate competence in specific subject areas that serve as a foundation for further work. Areas of required competence are: advanced mathematics, physical chemistry (i.e., statistical mechanics and/or quantum mechanics), biochemistry and molecular cell biology, computer literacy and/or laboratory electronics and instrumentation, and advanced studies in molecular biophysics and associated areas of biological and physical sciences.

The field's members are drawn from fourteen departments in seven campus units, and include three members of the National Academy of Sciences. International and national honors won by members of the Cornell biophysics faculty include the Biological Physics prize of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Eli Lilly Award in Biochemistry, the Pfizer Award, and Guggenheim and Fogarty Foundation fellowships.

Research facilities for X-ray crystallography, optical, laser, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and computation include the Cornell Theory Center (supercomputing); the Center for High Energy Synchrotron Studies; MacCHESS (Macromolecular Crystallography at the Center for High Energy Synchrotron Studies), the Developmental Resource for Biophysical Imaging Optoelectronics, the Center for Advanced Technology in Biotechnology; the Cornell Nanofabrication Facility; the Keck 3D Stereo Viewing Theater; the Biomolecular NMR Center; and the Chemistry NMR Facility.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-2313

107 Biotechnology Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • biophysics


2015-2016 $20,800

Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Dec. 1; no spring admission

Requirements Summary:

Applicants must have a strong background in the physical sciences, and must submit scores on the GRE general test and on a relevant GRE subject test (physics or chemistry preferred). TOEFL scores of Writing (20), Listening (15), Reading (20) and Speaking (22) or higher are also required of all non-native English speaking applicants. Additional admission information is available on the Field's Web site,

  • all Graduate School Requirements, including the TOEFL Exam for Non-Native English Applicants
  • three letters of recommendation
  • GRE general test
  • GRE subject test in Physics, Chemistry or Biology is highly recommended but not required