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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics

Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
141 Chalmers Hall
1711 Claflin Rd.
Manhattan, KS 66506
785-532-7278 fax

Biotechnology Core Facility
206 Burt Hall
785-532-6297 fax

Biomolecular NMR Facility
37 Chalmers Hall

Graduate Program Overview

The science of biochemistry

Biochemistry explores the molecular basis for life processes through chemical and physical studies on the structure and behavior of complex molecules found in biological materials. Biochemistry has emerged as a highly creative and successful discipline that has developed many new technologies and broadly applies the technological advances of other disciplines. Through characterizing the structure, function, assembly, and dynamic changes of macromolecules, biochemists seek to answer fundamental questions about living processes (basic research) and to bring to fruition significant improvements in the quality of life and medical care (applied research). Diverse advances have converged to allow the development of recombinant DNA technology, and a revolution is under way toward understanding how plants and animals regulate their metabolic processes and expression of genetic information. The great complexity and endless variety of biological systems, together with the need for broad explorations, assure that imaginative research will continue in the field of biochemistry for the foreseeable future.

Graduate program approach

The biochemistry program seeks excellence in teaching and research through a program tailored to the development of the individual student. The Graduate Biochemistry Group administers granting of M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in biochemistry whether the research is conducted within the Department of Biochemistry or in other cooperating departments. The program of study is flexible, accommodating students with a wide range of backgrounds, including genetics, microbiology, physics, and medicine as well as the traditional chemistry, biochemistry, and biology degrees. The graduate program is structured to aid students in the successful completion of their graduate training in biochemistry by providing access to leading researchers in biochemistry and related fields, offering a core curriculum, seminars, and teaching and research opportunities.

Faculty and facilities

One of the unique features of the graduate program is the versatile collection of over two dozen faculty members formally associated with the Graduate Biochemistry Group. The faculty members are scientists from the Department of Biochemistry, the Division of Biology, the Departments of Grain Science and Industry, Chemistry, and Human Nutrition, and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Many other researchers with interests in biochemistry and molecular biology are collaborative investigators and participants on graduate student supervisory committees. The Graduate Biochemistry Group faculty members and their academic departments are noted for strong research programs in the basic and applied sciences. The research environment in biochemistry is exciting and vigorous because of these diverse yet interacting programs.  Members of the Graduate Biochemistry Group currently receive well over $3 million a year in outside research funds. These funds support technicians, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate research assistants and are used to provide up-to-date research equipment and supplies.

The Department of Biochemistry has 14 large research facilities. Ten are located in the Chalmers. That building also houses the department's teaching laboratories. The other research suites are located in Burt Hall. The department is well equipped for advanced research in a wide range of areas. Structural biochemistry research studies are conducted within the Biomolecular NMR Facility containing a complete high performance digital 500 MHz Varian NMR System® equipped with a 4-RF channel console, shaped pulsed and field gradient accessory. A ‘state-of-the-art’ 5mm PFG triple resonance 13C enhanced 1H{13C/15N} cryogenic NMR probe along with a 3 mm 1H{13C/15N/31P} Penta probe, a 5 mm 1H{13C/15N} triple resonance probe and a 5 mm [15N-31P] broadband probe are available for multi-nuclear/multidimensional NMR experiments to solve structural and dynamics problems in molecular pharmacology, rational drug design, protein folding, and solution phase biostructure.

The Computational Biochemistry and Biophysics Lab is equipped with 8 Linux workstations and two iMacs, with a total 44 cores, 46 GB memory, and more than 30 TB disk space. Major moleulcar modeling tools include CHARMM, GROMACS, NAMD and MMTSB. In addition, the Lab shares a high-performance computational facility (Beocat) housed in the College of Engineering. With over 1400 computing cores, Beocat is the largest single cluster in Kansas.

The department has equipment and technical capability for gene cloning (supported by polymerase-chain reaction capabilities) and all varieties of electrophoresis experiments. For preparative procedures the department has multiple ultracentrifuges, high pressure liquid chromatographs, and facilities for both anaerobic enzyme preparations and large scale preparations of subcellular organelles. The department has several cold rooms, animal cell culture facilities, instrument rooms, and dark rooms. Facilities are available for housing animals and growing plants year-round. Analytical instruments include scintillation counters, gamma counters, scanning spectrophotometers, and absorbance, fluorescence, and electrochemical detection for analysis of samples separated by HPLC.

The university Biotechnology Core Facility is housed within the Department of Biochemistry and provides both instruments and expertise for mass spectometry of biopolymers, oligonucleotide synthesis, peptide synthesis and gas-phase peptide sequencing. High resolution purification of peptides and synthesis of peptides containing non-natural amino acids are areas of special interest.

A plant transformation center, centrally supported and housed in Throckmorton Plant Sciences Complex, is regularly used by graduate group members. Greenhouse space there is used to grow transformed crop plants.

Additional facilities are also available on campus: DNA sequencing, fluorescence-activated cell sorting, electron microscopy (transmission and scanning), quasi-elastic light scattering, GLC-mass spectrometry, emission spectrometry, Fourier-transform infrared spectrometry, atomic absorption and stopped flow kinetics. Parallel computing, mini super-computers, and ethernet and internet networks are available throughout the campus.

Core curriculum

The core curriculum is broad and students are expected to specialize through appropriate choice of advanced courses from the many offerings taught by faculty in their areas of research expertise. Students in either the M.S. or Ph.D. degree program take the two-semester, comprehensive, core biochemistry courses Biochemistry I and II and the associated laboratories, plus a one semester course in physical biochemistry. All students are expected to attend the weekly graduate student seminar and individual research group meetings. For the M.S. degree, students must complete 22 to 24 hours of course work and do research leading to a satisfactory thesis. For the Ph.D., 10 hours of biology courses are required, and advanced chemistry courses are encouraged. Admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. requires satisfactory performance in the two core biochemistry courses, and, early in the second year, preparation and defense of a research proposal on a topic selected by the student in consultation with their supervisory committee. This defense serves as the preliminary examination for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. Approximately 30 to 40 hours of course work are required for the Ph.D. in addition to research for a satisfactory dissertation.

For a complete listing of graduate courses, please see the following links:

Department of Biochemistry

Division of Biology

Department of Chemistry

Department of Anatomy and Physiology


Graduate students are encouraged to attend and participate in both graduate and departmental seminar programs in order to become informed of the latest research in biochemistry and related fields. A strong seminar program involves presentations by eminent visiting scholars from around the world and by the faculty of many departments on campus. A graduate student seminar program provides further opportunity for acquiring insights into new developments in the field.

Teaching and research

The Graduate Biochemistry Group offers teaching and research opportunities to students. Graduate students teach a variety of courses and assist with labs in the Department of Biochemistry. Additionally, within their first year, graduate students meet with the Graduate Biochemistry Group faculty, discuss their research interests, and choose the faculty member they would like to have as their major professor. In the graduate program, research is viewed as a cooperative effort in which graduate students learn to design and execute significant experiments by interaction with faculty, postdoctoral research associates, and fellow graduate students. Whereas the growth of each graduate student is supported by this team effort, the program encourages and guides students towards the achievement of a self-sustaining capability and independence, qualities that are necessary for the continuing in the learning, teaching, and researching of biochemical topics. Success in achieving that goal is apparent in the activities of our graduates.

Financial support

The Graduate Biochemistry Group generally admits only those applicants for whom financial support is available. The primary form of financial aid is a combined teaching/research assistantship within the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. As employees of KSU, teaching/research assistants are provided with several benefits. Teaching/research assistants receive health insurance at a reduced rate and a waiver of their academic tuition for each of fall and spring semesters (up to 10 credit hours per semester).

Additionally, U.S. resident graduate students are eligible for other forms of financial support. Exceptional applicants may be considered for a supplement to the assistantship of up to $8,000 for the first year of graduate study. Also, several national fellowships are open to U.S. citizens.

Before being considered for the teaching/research assistantship, applicants must submit official GRE results. The applicants, whose native language is not English, must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by submitting official TOEFL scores.