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    University of Southern California
  Sep 25, 2017
USC Catalogue 2017-2018

Medical Biophysics (MS)

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Return to: Keck School of Medicine of USC  


Keith Administration Building 409
1975 Zonal Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9031
(323) 442-0230
FAX: (323) 442-9031
Program Director: R. Farley, PhD,

The Medical Biophysics (MBPH) program is designed to attract students who are motivated to pursue graduate degrees in biomedical research areas that require a more quantitative mindset than is demanded in most biomedical research. These students often have backgrounds in mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering, and are keen to apply their quantitative skills in biomedical research. These potential applicants usually do not apply to the existing MS or PhD programs at USC because faculty members who have research programs of interest to these students often do not have high visibility in the larger existing programs. The MBPH program will include faculty from different departments who have research programs that involve quantitative biophysical laboratory work. Research areas appropriate for the MBPH program include structural biology, neuroscience, membrane biophysics and theoretical biophysics. As the only organizing unit for biophysics research at USC, the MBPH program will be unique and has the potential both to provide new educational opportunities and to strengthen existing graduate programs at USC.

Admission to the Program
Applications to the MBPH program will normally be processed through the online Graduate Admission Application Potential applicants will be encouraged to inquire about the program by contacting one or more members of the MBPH program graduate committee prior to submitting the online application. Applicants to the MBPH program will usually have completed course work in mathematics (including calculus), physics, chemistry and biological sciences, and will have earned a Bachelor's degree. Applicants will submit either GRE or MCAT test scores, a personal statement explaining the reasons for applying to the MBPH Program, a brief description of any previous or ongoing laboratory research, and three letters of recommendation. Foreign applicants may be required to submit results from a TOEFL examination. Applicants who are deficient in some areas may be required by the MBPH program graduate committee to remedy the deficiencies as a condition of admittance to the program. The MBPH program graduate committee may recommend admission of a candidate after review of the completed admissions application. Admission to the MBPH program is usually made for an applicant to complete the MS thesis research in a specific laboratory, with the expectation that a thesis will be submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MS in Medical Biophysics degree. For this reason, at least one member of the MBPH program graduate committee must agree to serve as the research mentor for an entering student. Students will be admitted into the MBPH program upon agreement between a faculty mentor and the student that the student will pursue research leading to the MS degree in the laboratory of the faculty mentor. Normally, students are expected to complete the MS in Medical Biophysics program in two years. A five-year limit is allowed for completion of the degree requirements.

Grades and Continued Enrollment
Continuation in the MBPH program requires an average GPA of 3.0 or greater and a "Pass" or "Credit" in all non-graded courses. The MBPH program graduate committee will review each student's progress at the end of each academic semester. At any time after evaluating a student's progress, the MBPH program graduate committee may require a student to pass a screening examination to be eligible to continue in the program. If a student fails to achieve the required metrics or pass a screening examination, the student's guidance committee will recommend either to place the student on a probationary enrollment status with a defined remediation sufficient to remedy the deficiency, to recommend that the student withdraw from the program, or to dismiss the student from the program.

Course Requirements
Completion of the MS degree requires satisfactory completion of a minimum of 32 units of graduate study. This total includes formal graded course work, courses and seminars graded "Pass/Fail" or "Credit/No Credit," and research units. No fewer than 16 units of formal graded course work are required for the MS in Medical Biophysics.


Thesis Defense
An acceptable thesis based upon completion of an original research investigation is required for the MS in Medical Biophysics. The candidate must defend an approved draft of the thesis in a public oral defense. The Thesis Committee will then meet with the student in a closed session to complete the oral examination. Upon successful completion of the defense, a MS degree in Medical Biophysics is awarded.

If a student does not pass the thesis defense on the first attempt, the MBPH guidance committee may grant a second opportunity to pass according to the policies in the USC Catalogue:

"A student who fails the master's examination may be permitted, at the discretion of the faculty, to take it a second time. The retaking of a failed master's examination must be completed before the end of the second consecutive semester (excluding summer session) following the first examination. Requests for exception must be approved by the department chair. A student may not take the master's examination more than twice and must be appropriately enrolled at USC during the semester in which such an examination is taken or retaken. A student who fails the master's examination a second time may not continue in the degree program after the end of the semester in which the second examination was taken. No exceptions are allowed."

Required Courses

All students in the MBPH program are required to take the following courses:


As described above, the executive committee may modify the list of required and recommended courses.

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