Graduate Catalog
2019-2020
 
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Biochemistry
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
The main office, core facilities, and most research laboratories of the Department of Biochemistry are located in Engel Hall. Named after Ruben William Engel (1912 - 2007) who was Department Head of Biochemistry and Nutrition from 1952 to 1966, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture from 1966 to 1967, and Professor/Advisor in the Philippine National Nutrition Program from 1967 to 1978.
111, Mail Code:0308 Blacksburg VA 24061
Engel Hall
Degree(s) Offered:
• PhD
PhD Degree in Biochemistry
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Offered In:
Blacksburg
• MSLFS
MSLFS Degree in Biochemistry
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Offered In:
Blacksburg
Email Contact(s):
Web Resource(s):
Phone Number(s):
540/231-6315
Application Deadlines:
Fall: Jan 15
Directions
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The Graduate School
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Engel Hall

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Department Head : Glenda Gillaspy
Graduate Program Director : Pablo Sobrado (Graduate Committee Chair)
Professors: Dennis Dean; Glenda Gillaspy; Peter Kennelly; Timothy Larson; Jianyong Li; Biswarup Mukhopadhyay; Pablo Sobrado; Zhijian Tu; Jinsong Zhu
Associate Professors: Richard Helm; Michael Klemba; Robert White
Assistant Professors: Anne Brown; Brandon Jutras; Justin Lemkul; Zachary Mackey; Daniel Slade; Clement Vinauger Tella
Affiliated Faculty: Carla Finkielstein; Florian Schubot
Director, Fralin Life Sciences Institute: Dennis Dean
Research Assistant Professors: Chloe Lahondere (Blacksbrug)

Biochemistry Introduction

The Graduate Program in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech prepares students for careers as independent researchers in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, biotechnology, and related areas. Training involves a combination of advanced course work, participation in seminars and journal clubs and laboratory research conducted under the guidance of a faculty committee selected by students and their faculty advisors.

Incoming students participate in three laboratory research rotations to familiarize themselves with faculty and their research. The department has strengths in
microbial pathogenesis and infectious disease, cell signaling, proteomics and molecular modeling. The largest cluster of faculty conducts research on infectious diseases with the ultimate aim of developing novel approaches to disease treatment and prevention.

Major milestones for students are completion of an
oral qualifying examination, an oral preliminary examination which also requires writing an NIH-style research proposal, and writing and defense of a research dissertation. Students also present their research at national and international conferences and participate in more informal training opportunities, including university-wide scientific writing and grant proposal preparation workshops. Our students typically complete their Ph.D.s within five years and pursue a variety of careers including positions in academia, industry and state and federal government.

Student Group

The graduate program of the Department of Biochemistry consists of 35-40 graduate students, nearly all of whom are in the Ph.D. program. More than 500 undergraduates are currently enrolled as biochemistry majors, and many participate in departmental research programs.

Financial Aid

Assistantships are available to qualified Ph.D. candidates. For 2019-2020, the assistantship stipend for entering students was $25,000 for the calendar year. In addition, tuition waivers are granted to all students receiving assistantships.

Cost of study

Tuition and academic fees for the 2019-2020 academic year were $15,244; however, tuition and academic fees are paid or waivers are granted to all students receiving assistantships.

Applying

A background in biology, biochemistry, or chemistry is considered the minimum prerequisite for admission, but students with majors in other fields are also accepted. All application materials for admissions should be received by January 15 for the following academic year. International students must also submit TOEFL scores. The General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations is no longer required. Application to the program is made online at the Graduate School's Web site (graduateschool.vt.edu).
Offered In (Blacksburg)

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.0
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:
  • TOEFL
    • Paper
      • 577.0
    • Computer
      • 233.0
    • iBT
      • 90.0
  • GRE
    • General Test
      • Verbal :
      • Quantitative :
Doctoral students take a set of core courses and at least two specialized courses within their research track during their first two years. Students also complete laboratory rotations (first year) and seminars (all years). Students are typically funded by the department during the first three semesters of laboratory rotation.  Most students will work as a teaching assistant for two of those semesters. Ph.D. candidates must also maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above in all coursework, and complete the following requirements:
- Students must meet all course and research credit hour requirements of the Graduate School.
- 27 hours of courses numbered 5000 or higher, may include up to 4 hours of seminar.
- Complete a minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate study.
- Pass the qualifying examination at the end of the first year. 
- Pass the preliminary examination at the end of the second year.
- Write and successfully defend a research-based dissertation.
A complete description of the Academic requirements for Ph.D. Degree is also available in the Graduate Student Handbook (https://www.biochem.vt.edu/Graduate/phdprogram.html).
Offered In (Blacksburg)

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.0
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:
  • TOEFL
    • Paper
      • 577.0
    • Computer
      • 233.0
    • iBT
      • 90.0
  • GRE
    • General Test
      • Verbal :
      • Quantitative :
The Master of Science in Life Sciences merges the efforts of the departments of Biochemistry, Entomology, Food Science and Technology, and Plant Pathology, Plant Physiology, and Weed Science. Students in basic and applied disciplines in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences share common experiences that prepare them for careers in which interdisciplinary interactions become increasingly valued. At the same time, discipline-specific education and research experience, which characterizes the M.S. in Life Sciences program in each department, prepares students for unique positions and career development. For graduation, students must complete a minimum of 20 graded credit hours and 30 total credit hours.
Specific course requirements* include  Biometry (STAT 5605)  Protein Struct & Fxn (BCHM 5224, 3 hours),  Adv Applic in Mol Life Sci ( BCHM 5784 , 3 hours) and  Research Ethics in Ag & Life Sci (ALS 5324, 1 or 2 hours) . All students must present a seminar and defend a thesis describing the results of their research as a final step for the completion of M.S. degree requirements (a non-thesis MS option is also available).

*Substitutions must be approved, in advance, by the student's advisory committee and ratified by the Graduate School.

Biochemistry Facilities Introduction

Biochemistry is just one facet of a large and vibrant life science research enterprise at Virginia Tech. Our faculty study a range of biochemical problems using cutting edge research equipment and facilities. In collaboration with the Fralin Life Science Institute, our department is home to a proteomics and metabolomics facility. Our students also have access to core facilities for confocal microscopy, fermentation, protein purification, DNA sequencing, flow cytometry, real-time PCR, and microarray analysis. 

Virginia Tech is known for its interdisciplinary graduate training. Research strengths include infectious disease, obesity, microbial pathogenesis, and eukaryotic cell signaling. Biochemistry students and faculty are active in each of these areas. Students also have opportunities to interact with scientists from across the country and around the world through the interdepartmental Virginia Tech Life Sciences seminar series.

The individual laboratories within the department are well equipped for modern biochemical, molecular biological, and microbiological research. Available equipment include a comprehensive suite of mass spectrometers for proteomic analyses, standard and microplate fluorometers, stopped-flow spectrometer with fluorescence excitation for rapid kinetic analysis, UV-visible photodiode array spectrophotometer, a robotic workstation for high-throughput screening, real-time PCR thermocyclers, liquid chromatography systems, systems for electronic autoradiography and fluorescent/chemiluminescent imaging, and tissue culture and insect rearing facilities. Numerous shared on-campus resources enhance the research opportunities available to students. These include the Keck Confocal Microscope Facility, the Keck Transgenic Plant Greenhouse, the Fralin Fermentation and Protein Purification Facility, and the Flow Cytometry Core Facility. Access to NMR spectrometers and X-ray diffractometers is available through the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. The Core Computation and Laboratory Facilities at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute provide a range of bioinformatic, DNA-sequencing, and genomic/proteomic services. The VT CAVE is a multiperson, room-sized, high-resolution, 3-D video and audio environment that can be used to visualize a wide variety of biological molecules in 3-D space.

Biochemistry Facilities

Our students also have access to core facilities for confocal microscopy, fermentation, protein purification, DNA sequencing, flow cytometry, real-time PCR, and microarray analysis. In collaboration with the Fralin Life Science Institute, our department is home to the center for drug discovery screening laboratory, and proteomics and metabolomics facility.
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