Certificate in Molecular Biophysics

Molecular biophysics is an interdisciplinary area of research situated at the intersection of molecular biology, chemistry, chemical biology, physical chemistry, and molecular physics. Molecular biophysics, as a field of endeavor, is distinguished by analytical and quantitative research inquiry of biomolecular and macromolecular systems, using diverse molecular spectroscopic methods, structure determination, functional bioenergetics, statistical thermodynamics, and molecular dynamics. Topics of active research interest include protein structure and folding, molecular models of enzyme mechanisms, protein-DNA and protein-RNA interactions, membrane proteins and the nature of gene expression and regulation at the molecular level. As a consequence of recent advances stemming from the human genome project, the field of structural bioinformatics finds an increasingly important emphasis in our program. A parent organization for this field of research is the U.S.-based Biophysical Society, with some 7,000 members, and sister societies worldwide.

Undergraduate students majoring in chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry (MB&B), or physics can choose to obtain a Certificate in Molecular Biophysics. The certification program involves following the prescribed major in each department. Within the chemistry and MB&B majors, students are expected to take the following courses to fulfill major requirements (note: all courses are cross-listed):

MB&B/CHEM395Structural Biology Laboratory1
MB&B/CHEM383Biochemistry1
MB&B307
MB&B308
Molecular Biophysics Journal Club I
and Molecular Biophysics Journal Club II
1
CHEM337
CHEM338
Physical Chemistry I: Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy
and Physical Chemistry II: Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, and Kinetics
1-2
or MB&B381 Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences

Physics students can follow the biophysics track in their major as described here. In both the MB&B and chemistry majors students must take either two (MB&B) or three (CHEM) elective courses to complete the major. To achieve certification, students must choose their elective courses in the area of molecular biophysics. Elective courses can be chosen from a set of courses offered by participating faculty, listed here. In addition, students must do independent research for at least two semesters under the direction of one of the program faculty. It is possible to be jointly mentored; however, at least one mentor must be a faculty participant in the molecular biophysics program.

Graduate students in chemistry, physics, or the life sciences may elect to participate in the interdisciplinary program in molecular biophysics and receive an equivalent certificate. Program participants pursue a course of study and research that often overlaps the disciplinary boundaries of chemistry, biology, molecular biology, and physics. Graduate training opportunities are available for students with undergraduate background in any one of these areas. Individualized programs of study are provided so that each student obtains the necessary interdisciplinary background for advanced study and research in molecular biophysics. Interested students should contact Professor Ishita Mukerji at imukerji@wesleyan.edu.

All participating students—undergraduate and graduate—complete independent research projects with affiliated faculty and participate regularly in weekly meetings of the Molecular Biophysics Journal Club, in which research papers from the current literature are presented and discussed. Journal club students also meet regularly with seminar visitors in the area of molecular biophysics. The program hosts an annual retreat where undergraduate and graduate students are expected to present their research either orally or in poster format. At Wesleyan, students participating in the molecular biophysics program have the opportunity to select research projects with varying degrees of emphasis on biophysics, biochemistry, biological chemistry, bioinformatics, and/or molecular biology. The common element among participants is an emphasis on a quantitative, molecular-based mode of inquiry in research. Students are also encouraged to present their work at an international scientific meeting, and the program typically provides some financial support for their expenses.