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Ph.D. Program

Biochemistry graduate student in lab

The Ph.D. program in the Department of Biochemistry at Virginia Tech prepares students for careers as independent researchers in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, molecular microbiology, biotechnology, and related areas.

Graduates of our program are employed in industry, academia, and government positions, typically following one or more years of postdoctoral training.

Fellowships and research assistantships are available to qualified Ph.D. students. In Fall 2023, the assistantship stipend for entering students was $31.4k for the calendar year. In addition, tuition waivers are granted to all students receiving assistantships. Students on assistantships are also eligible to enroll in university-subsidized health insurance. All students are responsible for fees, purchase of textbooks, and thesis/dissertation printing costs.

Benefits of the program

  • Receive your Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 4-5 years
  • A $31,404 minimum stipend, with the opportunity for higher from fellowships
  • Free tuition for the duration of the degree
  • Eligibility for a substantial subsidy on the premium of the university-sponsored health insurance plan 


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 agreement of the student, the faculty advisor, and the departmental Graduate Committee. Currently, our Department's total annual research expenditures exceed $3.9 million.

We invite applications from highly motivated students to join our program in pursuit of a Ph.D. in biochemistry from a dynamic and productive department with investigators that produce high-impact research in the following general research areas:

  • Molecular Biology of Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Vector-Borne Diseases
  • Drug Discovery
  • Protein Structure-Function
  • Enzymology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Metabolomics
  • Molecular Microbiology
  • Computational Biochemistry

More information on classes can be found here.


  • Advanced coursework
  • Qualifying exam consisting of a written and oral defense of an original research proposal (first year)
  • Preliminary exam consisting of a written and oral defense of your dissertation project (second year)
  • Seminar presentations
  • Two semesters of serving as a graduate teaching assistant
  • Annual committee meetings
  • Written dissertation and oral dissertation defense to be awarded a degree

Training involves a combination of advanced course work, teaching assistantships (minimum two semesters required), participation in journal clubs and seminars by nationally and internationally renowned scientists, and laboratory research, with research as the primary focus of the program.

Advanced coursework on proteins, genes, and molecular and cellular mechanisms is tailored to meet students' needs and research interests and is typically completed in the first two years of studies.

Students entering the department complete research rotations with three different faculty members prior to joining a laboratory at the end of the first year. All students must pass a qualifying examination (by the end of year 1), oral preliminary examinations and successful defense of an original research proposal (by end of year 2) to continue in the doctoral program. Students that do not successfully pass the preliminary examination and research proposal requirements for the Ph.D. degree may be eligible for a Master's degree (thesis required).

All graduate students are required to hold annual meetings with their dissertation committee to discuss research progress (via written report and oral presentation) and enhance their technical writing and public speaking skills. Successful defense of dissertation is required for completion of the Ph.D. degree.

How to apply

To apply to our Ph.D. Program, you need to submit an application electronically. Instructions and forms for applying online are available here. Students who are most successful in our Ph.D. program have earned a Bachelor's degree with a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and have completed the following course work:

  • at least one year of biology
  • at least one semester of biochemistry
  • at least one year of organic chemistry
  • calculus

Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions concerning specific requirements, please contact the our Graduate Program Chair, Justin Lemkul (

A complete application includes the following:

  1. Online application for admission.
  2. Three letters of recommendation. Names and e-mail addresses of the individuals providing letters should be included with the online application to facilitate electronic submission and review of the letters.
  3. Official transcripts from all institutions previously and presently attended. To expedite review, official transcripts should be sent directly to:

Department of Biochemistry
111 Engel Hall
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061

International students must also submit TOEFL scores. TOEFL score of 577 or higher (233 on the computer-based test, 90 on the internet-based test) are desirable.