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Degree Options

There are two degree options in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology graduate program. Read the sections below to learn more about your options.


Master of Science Degree

The MS degree may be earned in either of two ways, one (Plan I) requiring a thesis describing the results of a laboratory research project, and the other (Plan II) requiring a comprehensive examination. The majority of MS candidates enroll in the Plan II course work MS degree. 

Plan I: Thesis Plan

A minimum of 36 quarter units of graduate and upper division undergraduate courses in or related to biochemistry are required (24 must be graduate level). Preparation and presentation of a thesis that is acceptable to a committee of three faculty members is also required of every candidate for the degree. After a student selects a research advisor, he or she is responsible for approval of courses and a thesis research project, and for guidance on the drafting and completion of an acceptable thesis. 

Plan II: Comprehensive Examination Plan

A minimum of 36 quarter units of graduate and upper division undergraduate courses in or related to biochemistry are required (18 must be graduate level). A faculty advisor is responsible, not only for the program of study, but also for guidance in preparation for the comprehensive examination in basic biochemistry. Upon the student's successful performance in the examination, the Program so advises the Dean of the Graduate Division and the MS degree is conferred. The normative time for an MS degree in Plan II is 3 quarters if all prerequisite courses have been completed as an undergraduate.

Admission Requirements for the Masters Degree can be found on the Admissions page.


Doctoral Degree (PhD)

The doctorate is awarded to candidates who display an in-depth understanding of their area of specialization in biochemistry and molecular biology, as well as the ability to make original contributions to the knowledge of that field, as evidenced by the candidate's Ph.D. dissertation. The degree is an affidavit of critical aptitude in scholarship, imaginative enterprise in research, and proficiency in oral and written communication.

Major Requirements

The two key elements to a biochemistry graduate student's education at UCR are a personalized intellectual experience and the breadth of formal course work available to them. These are achieved through a close student-advisor relationship that begins after the student selects his/her dissertation advisor. Together, the student and the advisor plan how to attack a research problem and devise a coherent series of formal courses to supplement and complement their research experience.

Course requirements in the major consist of in-depth graduate level courses in physical biochemistry, enzymology, molecular biology, and biochemical regulation. In addition to these core courses, there is a unit requirement for course work in special interest areas of biochemistry. In recent years, the advanced offerings have included courses on computer analyses of nucleic acid and protein sequences; molecular evolution; effects of stress on plant metabolism; tutorial in the use of a SPEX spectrofluorometer; recombinant DNA techniques; DNA sequencing methods; biochemical transformations of inorganic metabolites and the mitochondrial genome. These advanced courses are taught by the faculty in their fields of research specialization and by distinguished visiting scientists.

Admission Requirements for the Doctoral Degree can be found on the Admissions page.


Ph.D. Degree Information


  • Selection of the Research Advisor

    First-year students who haven't already agreed to work with a specific advisor spend two five-week rotations in the laboratory of each research advisor with vacancies for graduate students. These lab rotations provide an opportunity for the student to become acquainted with various research projects in the department, as well as with the personality and teaching philosophy of each individual laboratory. A description of the research programs of the faculty members and cooperating faculty members who participate in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program is available on their personal websites. First-year students submit selections of their choices for research advisor to the Graduate Advisor at the end of the second quarter; the Graduate Advisor formulates proposed assignments on the basis of available openings, with the students' first choices receiving the highest priority. The entire faculty approves these assignments.

  • The Research Advisory Committee

    After selecting a research advisor, each student then proposes two additional faculty members who are knowledgeable in the area of the student's thesis project. These two faculty members, together with the research advisor, constitute the student's permanent advisory committee, which usually becomes the dissertation committee when the student is advanced to candidacy. The Research Advisory Committee meets formally on an annual basis to review the student's progress and to offer research advice.

  • Service as a Teaching Assistant

    Every Ph.D. candidate serves a minimum of two quarters as a teaching assistant in general biochemistry lectures and laboratory courses. This service is usually completed during the second or third year in the Ph.D. program. All graduate students newly assigned as Teaching Assistants are required to receive training for this position; this training is administered by the Graduate Division's Teaching Assistant Development Program on the Graduate Program's behalf. Each year an outstanding Teaching Assistant in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Program is identified and receives the Walton B. Sinclair award (with monetary honorarium).

  • Qualifying Examination

    At the end of the second year of instruction, students take a written comprehensive examination, which covers all areas of basic biochemistry. The written exam is followed in the Fall Quarter by an oral examination, which focuses on the student's area of research. The oral qualifying committee is composed of five faculty members, four from within the Graduate Program and one member from an area of the student's interests outside the Program.

  • Dissertation

    The ability to conduct independent investigation is demonstrated by completion of a dissertation in the principal field of study. The student's dissertation committee approves the subject of investigation, reviews the research progress annually and advises the student in the research and writing. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are required to defend the thesis research orally before the members of their dissertation committee and to present a general seminar on their research to the Biochemistry Department. Members of the dissertation committee and the Dean of the Graduate Division must approve the completed dissertation before the final degree is awarded.

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