Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Group

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Frequently Asked Questions about BMB

How long does it ordinarily take for BMB students to complete their Ph.D.?

The time taken to complete a Ph.D. is quite variable. However, most students write and defend their thesis late in their fifth year or early in their sixth year of graduate study.

What do most BMB graduates do after getting their degree?

A sample of career choices for recent BMB graduates can be seen here.

How many new faculty members have been recruited recently?

Most departments with faculty involved in the BMB Graduate Group recruit new faculty annually. In the 2014-15 academic year, six new assistant professors joined the graduate group. These were from the departments of Biochemistry & Biophysics, Cell & Developmental Biology, Cancer Biology, and Pharmacology. In addition, 6 new senior faculty from these and other departments became members of BMB. See News for announcements of new BMB faculty members.

What are the average GRE scores and GPAs for students entering the program?

Statistics for the Fall 2015 entering class: Average GRE scores: Verbal: 157 (73%); Quantitative: 159 (76%); Writing: 4.22 (65%); Average GPA - 3.76.

What is the ratio of male to female students? How many are international students? How many are underrepresented minority (URM) students?

43% of the current BMB students are women. Approximately 11% are international students and 16% are underrepresented minorities.

How do BMB students pick their research advisors?

All BMB students undertake three laboratory rotations in BMB labs (BMB 699) during their first year of study. This exposes them to the science and personality of these labs. Most students will choose to do their dissertation research in one of these three labs. A fourth rotation can be done if none of these labs suits the student’s needs and interests.

What courses do BMB students take in their first 2 years?

Course requirements in the first 2 years are BMB 508, BMB 509, BIOM600, BIOM 611, BMB 705, and 3 lab rotations (BMB 699) Students are also required to take 4 credits of electives. A description of the courses can be found here.  Sample curricula can be seen here.

What student services are available to specifically help international students at Penn?

Penn Global promotes, assists and coordinates international activities, including providing services to international students, staff and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania.

What activities are available to BMB students?

Activities based in the Graduate Group are described here.  Other University information is available at Information on activities in the City of Philadelphia can be found at:

Where do most graduate students live?

The cost of living in West Philadelphia, which is adjacent to Penn, is quite reasonable; rent is a little more in Center City. Information on the options available can be found at: All accepted students are paired with an existing student mentor who will be able to provide assistance with many issues including finding a place to live.

What about stipends?

Fellowships from the Biomedical Graduate Studies program at Penn (of which BMB is a part) provide tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend for all full time students in good academic standing.  BGS endeavors to provide a uniform stipend to all students. Stipends for BGS fellowships are paid in equal amounts at the end of each month. The stipend level for academic year 2014 - 2015 is $30,500. In addition, BGS provides incoming BMB students with a $1,000 relocation award to help cover start-up costs such as moving expenses and apartment security deposits.

Is owning a car necessary? Is it practical to have one?

Most graduate students do not have a car.  Public transportation in the city and on campus is very good and cheap. Penn also has a variety of shuttle services to help you get around quickly and safely. In addition, Penn's urban location affords easy access to destinations off campus and outside of the city. Philadelphia's mass transit system, SEPTA, operates a coordinated system of bus, subway, train and trolley lines that covers all of Philadelphia and parts of surrounding counties. With a 15 - 20 minute walk to Amtrak's 30th Street Station, Penn students can expand their possibilities by making short excursions to destinations such as New York City and Washington, D.C. In addition, Philadelphia International Airport is only a twenty-minute drive from campus, and can also be reached via SEPTA train -the University City station is on the edge of campus, at South Street and Convention Avenue. 

If you have a car, you may want to apply for a parking permit to the University's Department of Transportation and Parking. Depending on where you want to park, this will cost you ~ $900 (for more remote Commuter Parking) or ~$1,500 (for 24 hour campus parking). There is often a wait for these spots, so you should apply early.

Where can I find directions to the Penn campus?

Maps of campus are at the following website:

Is student health care provided?

Yes. To learn more about the Student Health Service click here.