Biochemistry, PhD

Learn to solve biological problems with molecular tools. This program teaches you to define structure, properties and synthesis from the molecular perspective in a biological context, how to tackle complex challenges and how to be successful in an increasingly post-disciplinary scientific world.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: Biochemistry, PhD

The PhD program in biochemistry through the School of Molecular Sciences provides students with the training they need to solve biological problems at the molecular scale and to be successful, independent scientists who can contribute to current challenging societal issues.

Students earning a doctoral degree in biochemistry are fully trained in all fundamental aspects of the discipline. Most also choose to join transdisciplinary teams that work on larger, mission-based contemporary problems in areas such as:

  • biogeochemistry
  • energy and sustainability
  • fundamental chemical biology
  • materials and nanoscience
  • medicine and health
  • structure function and dynamics

Students should visit the prospective student site to learn more about this doctoral program and the graduate research page to learn more about the cutting-edge, transdisciplinary research being conducted in the School of Molecular Sciences.

The doctoral program in biochemistry prepares students for professional careers in industry, government and academia.

How to apply

Applications are accepted for fall semesters only. Applications are due by January 1 of each year.

There is a two-part application, consisting of the general application through Graduate Admissions and the supplemental application through the School of Molecular Sciences (SMS). All applications are submitted online and no documents should be mailed to the School of Molecular Sciences.

The School of Molecular Sciences will review unofficial documents submitted through the supplemental application and notify selected students of intent to admit, but in order to receive an official offer of admission, official documents and test scores must be sent to Graduate Admissions directly.

ASU ranked #6 in a study published in Thompson Reuters' Science Watch, which measured the world-wide impact of publications in chemistry in terms of the number of citations that papers received.


The Biochemistry PhD program is a research-focused degree program and affords students the opportunity to complete complimentary coursework that is supportive and enhances the skills and knowledge needed to be successful in the chosen area of research. The PhD in Biochemistry requires 84 credit hours, a written and oral comprehensive exam, prospectus and a dissertation.

Requirements Hours
Coursework 12-18
Seminars 8
Research 46-52
Dissertation 12
Total Semester Hours Required 84

Qualifying exams consisting of a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam and a prospectus are required to advance to candidacy. Students must successfully defend their dissertation during a public final oral defense. Students must also maintain a minimum GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") or better.

Courses and electives

The Biochemistry PhD degree does not require students to take specific courses. Instead, students work in collaboration with the research advisor to select coursework and seminars to build a unique plan of study to provide maximum flexibility and benefit to the student's individual needs as they pertain to the specific area(s) of research.

At a Glance: program details

Degree Requirements

six graduate-level courses (12-18)
enrollment in a BCH 501/CHM 501 seminar (8)
BCH 792 Research (46-52)
BCH 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
The program consists of coursework and seminars selected by the student in consultation with the student's supervisory committee and based on the student's area of research. Qualifying exams consisting of a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam and a prospectus are required to advance to candidacy. Students must successfully defend their dissertation during a public final oral defense. Students must also maintain a minimum GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") or better.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in chemistry, biochemistry or a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. personal statement
  4. three letters of recommendation
  5. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

In addition to the admission application, applicants must complete an online supplemental application to the School of Molecular Sciences. The supplemental application is available 24 to 48 hours after submission of the admission application. The personal statement and contact information for the letters of recommendation are submitted as part of the supplemental application. Information about the supplemental application can be found on the department's website. Applications lacking a supplemental application are not reviewed.

Career Opportunities

Professionals with training achieved in pursuit of a graduate degree in chemistry or biochemistry have opportunities in five general areas:

  • industry (R&D, quality control)
  • academia (high school and higher education)
  • government (research, policy)
  • nonprofit (policy, public education)
  • entrepreneurship (consulting, start-ups).

In addition to specialized technical skills, graduates possess high-demand skills like critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, time management and many others.

Some career examples include:

  • chemistry lecturer
  • drug discovery scientist
  • government scientist
  • pharmacology scientist
  • research and development scientist
  • research group leader
  • science consultant
  • university professor

The American Chemical Society also provides helpful resources and a more exhaustive list of possible careers on their website at


Students are required to complete six courses (2-hr or above). Some of the available courses are listed below.

Course Title Credits
BCH 520 Chemical Biology 3
CHM 535 Medicinal Chemistry 3
BCH 564 Bionanotechnology 3
BCH 598 Structure Discovery in Biophysical Chemistry 3
BCH 561 Advanced Topics in Biochemistry 3
BCH 598 Biochemistry of Cancer 3
BCH 598 Peptides and Proteins 3
BCH 598 Electron Microscopy of Biological Macromolecules 3
BCH 598 Scientific Writing for Chemists 3

A full listing of courses can be found in the catalog under the CHM and BCH course prefixes.

In addition, students may take up to two courses in related areas from other units with the approval of the research advisor and Graduate Programs Committee.


Students will take eight (8) seminars, one per semester, and can choose from any topic. Students are encouraged to take seminars outside of their research area to broaden their knowledge in other areas of chemistry/biochemistry.

Course Title Credits
BCH 501 Current Topics in Biochemistry 1
CHM 501 Topic: Inorganic Chemistry 1
CHM 501 Topic: Physical Chemistry 1
CHM 501 Topic: Organic Chemistry Seminar 1
CHM 501 Topic: Geo/Environmental Seminar 1
CHM 501 Topic: Analytical Chemistry Seminar 1
CHM 501 Topic: Science Policy for Scientists and Engineers 1


Students should be engaged in research and register for Research credit, BCH 792, each semester. The number of credits will vary dependent upon the other coursework being taken. Twelve (12) credits should be taken each semester.


The basic requirement for the PhD degree is for the candidate to demonstrate his/her competence to conduct independent, original research. The major research effort of the candidate will be embodied in the dissertation presented for the PhD degree. In order for the dissertation to be acceptable, it must contain new and unique contributions to scientific knowledge, publishable in primary research journals. Each student is required to present the results of his/her dissertation during a final oral defense.

Twelve (12) credits of Dissertation, BCH 799, must be taken to satisfy the degree requirements. These are taken toward the end of the degree program as the student nears degree completion and has satisfied all of the other requirements.

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