The Molecular Biophysics & Structural Biology (MBSB) Graduate Program at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University is an interdisciplinary program for PhD studies that cross the boundaries of biology, chemistry, physics and other traditional disciplines. MBSB research groups aim to unravel and explain biological phenomena and processes in atomic and molecular detail.


Research conducted by faculty of the graduate program covers a diverse range of topics in Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. Areas of study are focused on understanding fundamental principles involved in reactions and interactions in biological systems. Research projects attempt to address and elucidate answers to questions such as:

  • How do proteins fold and can we prevent misfolding?
  • Can we design proteins with novel functions?
  • How does the coordinated interaction between proteins and nucleic acids lead to cellular differentiation and the formation of an organism?
  • How do macromolecules assemble into molecular machines or viruses and how do they operate?
  • How do signals traverse membranes?



The curriculum stresses an interdisciplinary approach to learning and research in modern Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology. In addition to traditional lectures, the curriculum includes multiple novel components from laboratory and hands-on demos to student-taught lectures and review of actual grant proposals. Students with a diversity of backgrounds in physics, chemistry and mathematics as well as cellular and molecular biology are encouraged to apply. As they join the program, all MBSB students will be advised by a mentor, exploring research options through laboratory rotations before choosing a thesis advisor in their first year.


Lab space photoFacilities and Environment: 

Students in the program are trained through specifically designed courses and extensive laboratory research, set in a collaborative and collegial atmosphere. Unique to this program is the opportunity to train across traditional boundaries, and possibly be co-mentored by two thesis advisors. Students benefit from active participation and mentoring by prominent, internationally renowned faculty and receive training in state-of-the-art methodologies such as high field solution and solid-state NMR spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, cryo electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and computational molecular biology. Excellent state-of-the-art equipment and resources are available for both experimental and computational research (see also: Research Facilities).

BST3 building photo

The University of Pittsburgh ranked ninth overall in the National Science Foundation's most recent ranking of federally funded research. In a recent analysis of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, the Faculty of the University’s School of Medicine ranked sixth among U.S. medical schools. Carnegie Mellon University attracts students from all 50 US states and 93 nations, and is affiliated with 19 Nobel Laureates and 12 Turing Award recipients, among other prestigious award recipients. An open and collaborative atmosphere between faculty at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University allows students to explore all aspects of Molecular Biophysics and Structural Biology in an integrated research community.