Sep 23, 2018  
Rensselaer Catalog 2018-2019 
    
Rensselaer Catalog 2018-2019

Biochemistry and Biophysics


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Director, Graduate Degree Program: Catherine Royer
Undergraduate Curriculum Adviser, Undergraduate Degree Program: George Makhatadze

Biochemistry and biophysics are closely related fields. Biochemistry focuses on the interconversion of compounds in the many complex reactions of life, on the mechanisms whereby enzymes catalyze and regulate these reactions, and the function and structure of the molecular components of living organisms. Biophysics is principally concerned with processes of energy conversion, information transmission, and the structure and properties of materials in biological systems, as explored with methods of physics. Biochemical and biophysical research is advancing the basic life sciences and making possible advances in more applied fields such as medicine and agriculture. For example, in the pharmaceutical industry, elucidating mechanisms of drug action and devising new ways of dealing with diseases increasingly depend on application of knowledge and techniques of biochemistry and biophysics.

Rensselaer’s biochemistry and biophysics undergraduate curriculum includes thorough grounding in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, along with modern biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular-level biology. Advanced biochemistry and biophysics courses impart knowledge and training in cutting-edge research approaches. Students following this curriculum are thus well prepared for graduate school and employment in the biotechnology industry. The curriculum also provides an excellent background for students planning careers in medicine. While rigorous, the undergraduate curriculum offers sufficient flexibility and course choices to allow students to tailor their education to particular career paths. Most students pursue undergraduate research in faculty laboratories. Some seek industrial experience through Rensselaer’s Cooperative Education Program, and the high degree of flexibility facilitates fitting a co-op experience into the degree program.

The master’s degree program prepares students for jobs in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and other related industry sectors and is well suited to students wishing to upgrade their skills while employed in industry. The program may also be attractive to students wishing to obtain an M.S. degree before proceeding to professional study in medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, etc. Those with a B.S. degree in a field not closely related to modern biological science who wish to enter into a doctoral program at Rensselaer or elsewhere may also benefit from the program.

The Ph.D. program in Biochemistry and Biophysics includes faculty from several departments in the Schools of Science and Engineering interested in molecular-level life sciences, biochemistry, and biophysics. State-of-the-art research laboratories and core facilities in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies provide research opportunities for doctoral students in a wide range of topics.

Research Innovations and Initiatives

Biophysical research at Rensselaer includes the study of areas as diverse as protein structure and function, protein folding, bacterial bioenergetics, ion transport, myosin mechanics, microtubule-based motors, photosynthesis, and cellular bioengineering. A variety of approaches, including molecular modeling, spectroscopic probes, nuclear magnetic resonance, electron spin resonance, and molecular biology are being used to study protein structure. Biochemical research includes the large-scale purification and characterization of biological macromolecules, biosensors, biochemical signaling, glycobiology, enzymology, proteomics, DNA aptamers, rational protein design, and folding and stability of RNA and proteins.

Undergraduate Program

Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum
As a result of completing this program students will:

  • demonstrate proficiency in the foundational topics of cell and molecular biology, genetics and evolution, biochemistry, and ecology and the environment.
  • demonstrate additional competency in advanced Biological Sciences topics relative to their academic interest.
  • be able to apply skills such as reading primary literature, developing a testable hypothesis, designing an experiment, collecting and analyzing data, and using statistical and quantitative methods.
  • be able to communicate effectively on scientific topics in both written and oral forms.
  • be able to apply knowledge and skills from across the curriculum to current problems in biological sciences to generate integrative papers, proposals, or other types of projects.

Graduate Programs

Master’s Programs

Web Page: https://science.rpi.edu/biology/programs/graduate/ms-biochemistry

Thirty credit hours of course work are necessary to complete the M.S. program. The master’s in BCBP can be a Thesis-based master’s, or a professional project-based master’s. A minimum of 2 credits and a maximum of 9 credits must be in research. A total of 15 or more credits (including thesis or project) must be at 6000 level with the rest at 4000 or above, and 15 or more must have the BIOL, BCBP, CHEM or PHYS prefix. Eight credits must be BCBP modules. A thesis or professional project based on original research or internship is required.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum
Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • explain general principles and concepts from a variety of sub-disciplines within the broader field of biochemistry and biophysics.
  • demonstrate extensive knowledge of a specialized field of biochemistry and biophysics, and be able to answer challenging questions in that field.
  • critically analyze and interpret the scientific literature and scientific presentations.
  • discuss issues related to scientific ethics and scientific misconduct and apply ethical standards to their own research and/or professional conduct. 
  • for those students doing laboratory research, design, prepare, and execute experiments, using appropriate research techniques.
  • critically interpret research data and evaluate findings using appropriate statistical analyses.
  • effectively communicate their scientific research and findings in a variety of written and oral formats.

Doctoral Program

Web Page: https://science.rpi.edu/biology/programs/graduate/phd-biochemistry

Candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfy the requirements of the Graduate Program Committee (GPC) including passing the first year Core Course, which serves as a qualifying exam with a grade of B or better. In addition to satisfying Institute requirements for the Ph.D. degree, entering students must either complete the Molecular Biochemistry I course (BCBP 4760), or have had the equivalent as part of their previous education. They must complete graduate versions of three of the Molecular Biophysics Module courses. Additional courses may be chosen relevant to the area of specialization of each student’s research.  Entering students must complete three rotations in the first year. A thesis adviser must be chosen from the list of participating faculty by the end of the second semester. A seminar must be presented, and a candidacy exam completed by the end of the second year of study. The latter consists of a written and an oral portion. Degree candidates also must submit a dissertation based on an original research project, present their findings in a public seminar, and defend their work in an oral examination. Additionally, all doctoral candidates are required to participate in teaching for at least one semester under the supervision of a faculty member. Seventy-two credit hours are required for the Ph.D.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • explain general principles and concepts from a variety of sub-disciplines within the broader field of biochemistry and biophysics.
  • demonstrate expert knowledge of a specialized field of biochemistry and biophysics and be able to ask and answer challenging questions in that field.
  • critically analyze and interpret the scientific literature and scientific presentations.
  • independently design, prepare, and execute experiments, using appropriate research techniques.
  • critically interpret research data and evaluate findings using appropriate statistical analyses.
  • independently design and execute a research strategy aimed towards answering a pressing scientific question in the field.
  • effectively communicate their scientific research and findings in a variety of written and oral formats, including the ability to prepare a manuscript of original research for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
  • discuss issues related to scientific ethics and scientific misconduct and apply ethical standards to their research and professional conduct.

Faculty

The science and engineering faculty members of the BCBP graduate program listed below provide a variety of research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the Biochemistry and Biophysics degree programs. Faculty members from the Biology and Chemistry Departments who are involved in the teaching of biochemistry and biophysics courses are designated with an asterisk (*).

Biology: B. Barquera, M. Bentley*, C. Bystroff*, S. Forth*, S. Gilbert*,  J. Hurley*, L. Ligon*, G. Makhatadze*, C. A. Royer*, D. Swank, C. Wang*

Biomedical Engineering: D. Vashishth

Chemistry and Chemical Biology: C.M. Breneman,  W. Colon*, R. Gross, K.V. Lakshmi, R.J. Linhardt, L. McGown, C. Ryu, X. Wang

Chemical and Biological Engineering: G. Belfort, S.M. Cramer, J.S. Dordick, S. Garde, P. Karande, M. Koffas, R. H. Zha

Physics: E. Wertz
 

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