Structural Biology & Computational Biophysics

Graduate Program FAQ

What is Biophysics?
Biophysics is the application of physical principles and methods to biological problems. Biophysics is a discipline that combines the power and elegance of physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology to decipher the molecular basis of many biological processes.  Biophysicists have been at the forefront of some of the most exciting developments in biomolecular sciences in the past twenty years, inlcuding structural biology & computational biophysics.  An interesting article called “Q&A: What is Biophysics?” was written by FSU Molecular Biophysics and Physics professor Huan-Xiang Zhou and published in BMC Biology.

What are the career opportunities in Biophysics?
The Biophysical Society website has information regarding the variety of careers in biophysics.  Check out the BPS booklet called “Careers in Biophysics.”  Molecular Biophysics trained scientists are employed in  universities, industry, government, medical centers, and research facilities.  While biophysics was once a fledgling discipline, many scientists now recognize that knowledge of this area is key to solving many questions about how biological systems work.

What is the difference between IMB, MOB and KLB?
IMB is the Institute of Molecular Biophysics which is housed in KLB (Kasha Laboratory Building). IMB was founded in 1960 with the goal of providing a center for interdisciplinary research. KLB has 5 stories of laboratory and office space. The building was initially constructed in 1962, but underwent a complete renovation in 2003. MOB, the Molecular Biophysics Graduate Program, enrolled its first student in 1969 and is headquartered in KLB. Many MOB students are members of labs housed in KLB, but  others are located in CSL (Chemistry Sciences Laboratory), the King Building and Bio Unit 1 (Biological Sciences), or COM (College of Medicine).

Do I have to be a physics major to enter the Biophysics graduate program?
No. Our students have degrees in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics and other science fields. Successful students in our program come from many different scientific backgrounds and our curriculum is designed with the flexibility to meet their individual goals. A minimum of one semester each of biochemistry and physical chemistry is strongly recommended prior to starting the program. Please see the Curriculum page to learn more about classes and expectations.

Do I need to apply separately for the MOB Graduate Program or will an application to Physics, Chemistry or Biological Science Graduate Programs be considered by MOB?
You must apply specifically to MOB. We are an independent program and although we are associated with these other Graduate Programs, our admissions process is completely separate and our deadlines may be different. In addition, our curriculum, program requirements and financial package are independently determined. You can apply to either the Molecular Biophysics track  or the Computational Structural Biology track. See our Admissions Page for more detailed information.

Can I get a masters degree in Biophysics?
No, the Florida State University MOB program leads only to a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics or Computational Structural Biology.

Can I apply for Spring (January) admission?
Our normal application cycle is for Fall admission only, although very occasionally a student has been admitted in the Spring.  Applicants who want to be considered for additional fellowships available from the university must apply by December 15 of the year prior to the Fall they wish to enroll.  However, we may accept late applications if there are openings after the initial round of offers made in the Spring. See our Admissions Page for more detailed information.

How long does it take to complete a PhD? 
Most students will complete all degree requirements, including coursework and their dissertation research project, in about five years.

How many students do you admit each year?
We are a small, selective program. We receive applications from many outstanding candidates and are only able to admit a fairly small number. A typical incoming class has 5 students.

Are there stipends and tuition waivers available?
All MOB students in good standing receive a living stipend and a waiver that covers 90% of tuition and fees.  There are also additional department and university fellowships available for highly qualified students. Please see the Financial Support page to learn more.

Are international students welcome in your programs?
International students are welcome and receive the same financial package as US citizens. However, the MOB Program has a very limited number of openings for international students each year. The Center for Global Engagement (CGE) is a great resource for learning more about the experience of international students at FSU.

What are the TOEFL requirements?
The TOEFL is required of all applicants whose native language is not English. Students with a 4-year Bachelor’s or a graduate degree from an accredited university in an English-speaking country can be exempt from the TOEFL for admissions purposes. The MOB Program’s required minimum TOEFL score of 90 on the IBTOEFL  is higher than the University Admissions standard.

I completed my undergraduate degree a few years ago and wasn’t a great student back then. Is there any way I would be considered for admission?
We understand that it may take some “life experience” before applicants are ready to attend graduate school. The type of activities in which you have participated recently will be reviewed carefully during the admission process. If you have a low GPA from your initial college experience, try taking some advanced or graduate level courses to show that you can do well in coursework. Work and research experience will also be considered and strong letters of recommendation will be very important.

I have some questions I’d like to ask a current MOB student. Is that possible?
Absolutely. We have a close-knit group of students and they are happy to share information about their experiences. Click here to find information about how to contact several current students.

What is “Boot Camp”?
During the 2½ week period after new students arrive in early August until classes start, they participate in Core Facility Practical Training (affectionately known as “boot camp”). With the exception of the days for required new graduate student orientations, students are involved every weekday from 9 am – 5 pm working in the core facilities. The students get hands-on experience and training in the Computational, Protein Expression, Physical Biochemistry and X-ray Crystallography Facilities.

Do you have information on life in Tallahassee?
Tallahassee is the capital city of Florida and home to 2 universities and a community college, with a regional population of about 370,000. We have rolling hills and many live oaks draped with Spanish Moss, as well as palm trees. We are closer in distance to Atlanta than to Miami.  We have a mild climate, but we do get occasional hard freezes in the Winter and the leaves give us some color changes in the Fall. We get a dusting of snow about every 25 years or so. Our Spring is an exceptionally beautiful time and it usually arrives in late March. Tallahassee has numerous cultural, sports, and natural attractions.  St. George Island beaches, located near Tallahassee, have made the top ten list of best beaches in the US for the past three years. Please see our About Tallahassee page for more information on things to do in the area and various annual festivals.

Where do FSU students live?
FSU offers limited graduate student housing on campus. The options are Rogers, Traditions and Ragans Hall.

On-campus Residence Halls
for single graduate students
Type of Accommodation Cost per person/
per semester
Rogers Hall 1 Bedroom / 1 Bath Apt (Shared by 2 students) $2,535
Ragans Hall 4 Bedrooms / 2 Baths Apt (Shared by 4 students) $3,620
Traditions Hall 2 Bedrooms / 1 Bath Apt (Shared by 2 students) $3,860

Rates listed include furnished rooms (bed/dresser/desk/chair/refrigerator/stove/basic living room furniture), electricity, water, high speed internet (RESNet), and general maintenance and custodial service.
In the past Ragans and Traditions have closed during the couple of weeks before the Fall semester began so they were not suitable for our students who need to be in Tallahassee in early August for the Core Facilities Workshop.  Please check with the FSU Housing Department regarding these options.

There are a variety of other apartments and housing units in Tallahassee. You may want to visit  the Tallahassee Craigslist for information on what is available in off-campus housing.
Check out to see what others have to say about the various apartment complexes.
We do not endorse any of the commercial brokers listed below, but have included links for your convenience. (Hotpads has a graphically interesting map to help you visualize where the apartments are located in Tallahassee.)
Student Housing Solutions (STU)

In general, the properties located to the south, west and northwest of campus are the choice of many students, especially undergraduates. There are numerous large apartment complexes. The free FSU bus system runs frequent routes through much of these areas, so you could live there fairly easily without a car. Students can also ride the city buses to any location in Tallahassee at no cost. Properties to the east and northeast are quieter and home to more families and graduate students.

See this FSU website for resources and an FSU brochure about renting apartments and other tips on moving to Tallahassee. The Center for Global Engagement, which assists international students, has a Housing page with a detailed Housing Comparison Chart. This is a useful resource for both domestic and international students. Most of these apartments are located close to campus since international students don’t typically have cars when they first arrive. This list is by no means exhaustive of the options in Tallahassee and it does not reflect an endorsement of any particular housing.

MOB Links

HongLi - CopyMOB Graduate Program Director
Dr. Hong Li
Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry

For more information contact:
MOB Graduate Program Coordinator