Comparative Biochemistry

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The interdisciplinary Graduate Group in Comparative Biochemistry administers the PhD degree for students interested in a biochemical and molecular approach to problems in the biological sciences. Students work under the supervision of faculty from diverse disciplines including Molecular and Cell Biology; Nutritional Science and Toxicology; Plant and Microbial Biology; Chemistry; Chemical Engineering; Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; Public Health; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

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Admission to the University

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant comes from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. If the applicant is admitted, then official transcripts of all college-level work will be required. Official transcripts must be in sealed envelopes as issued by the school(s) attended. If you have attended Berkeley, upload your unofficial transcript with your application for the departmental initial review. If you are admitted, an official transcript with evidence of degree conferral will not be required.
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, not the Graduate Division.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants from countries or political entities in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to applicants from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:
    • courses in English as a Second Language,
    • courses conducted in a language other than English,
    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and
    • courses of a non-academic nature.

If applicants have previously been denied admission to Berkeley on the basis of their English language proficiency, they must submit new test scores that meet the current minimum from one of the standardized tests.

Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

Normative time is defined as the elapsed time in years that under normal circumstances would be needed to complete all requirements for the PhD degree assuming that the student engaged in full-time, uninterrupted study and is making desirable progress toward the degree. Normative time for Comparative Biochemistry is five years.

Time to Advancement


Courses Required
Advanced Biochemistry/Molecular Biology:
MCELLBI 110Molecular Biology: Macromolecular Synthesis and Cellular Function4
MCELLBI 200AFundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology3
Enzymes/Metabolism/Cell Biology/Plant Microbial Biology:
PLANTBI 200APlant Developmental Genetics1.5
NUSCTX 250Advanced Topics in Metabolic Biology3
MCELLBI C214Protein Chemistry, Enzymology, and Bio-organic Chemistry2
MCELLBI 230Advanced Cell Biology4
Physical Biochemistry:
MCELLBI 206Physical Biochemistry3
CHEM 270A/270BAdvanced Biophysical Chemistry I1
COMPBIO 294Comparative Biochemistry Seminar1
Grad Elective Courses per approved study list
Grad Elective Seminar per approved study list
COMPBIO 299Graduate Research1-12


Comparative Biochemistry

COMPBIO 294 Comparative Biochemistry Seminar 1 Unit

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Fall 2017, Fall 2016
The objective of this course is to provide an overview of the research activities conducted by faculty members of the Graduate Group in Comparative Biochemistry. The lectures will cover a wide range of interdisciplinary research topics reflecting the breadth of the Group. An important goal of this course is to enhance intellectual and collaborative interactions between students and faculty of the Graduate Group by increasing awareness of the range
of research projects. The course will be conducted in a seminar format and is required for students new to the Graduate Group. It is also recommended for advanced students currently in the Group.
Comparative Biochemistry Seminar: Read More [+]

COMPBIO 299 Graduate Research 1 - 12 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2017
Graduate student research.

Graduate Research: Read More [+]

Faculty and Instructors

+ Indicates this faculty member is the recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.


Steven Brenner, Professor. Molecular biology, computational biology, evolutionary biology, bioengineering, structural genomics, computational genomics, cellular activity, cellular functions, personal genomics.
Research Profile

George A. Brooks, Professor. Exercise & environmental physiology, metabolism, lactate shuttle, crossover concept, lactate, lactic acidosis, traumatic brain injury, obesity, diabetes, the Warburg Effect in cancer, aging biology, isotope tracer technology, arterial-venous difference measurements, clamp technology, muscle biopsies, cell culture, mitochondrial biogenesis, energy substrate partitioning, carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, fatty acid reesterification, menopause.
Research Profile

Bob B. Buchanan, Professor. Biotechnology, environmental policy, plant biology, thioredoxin.
Research Profile

John E. Casida, Professor. Pesticides, insect biology, environmental science, pest management, molecular toxicology.
Research Profile

Peter H. Duesberg, Professor. Genetic structure of retroviruses, carcinogenesis, aneuploidy, virology, HIV-AIDS.
Research Profile

Lin He, Assistant Professor.

Ian Holmes, Assistant Professor. Computational biology.
Research Profile

Sung-Hou Kim, Professor. Computational genomics, Structural Biology, drug discovery, disease genomics.
Research Profile

Jack F. Kirsch, Professor. Enzymology, directed evolution, drug discovery.
Research Profile

Isao Kubo, Professor. Agriculture, insect biology, pest management.
Research Profile

John Kuriyan, Professor. Structural and functional studies of signal transduction, DNA replication, cancer therapies, phosphorylation.
Research Profile

Lexin Li, Associate Professor.

Stuart M. Linn, Professor. Biology, enzymology of DNA metabolism, DNA repair and replication in mammalian cells, mechanisms of DNA damage by reactive oxygen species, structure of iron: DNA complexes, DNA damage and repair, DNA polymerases.
Research Profile

Fenyong Liu, Professor. Public health, infectious diseases.
Research Profile

Anastasios Melis, Professor. Photosynthesis, Metabolic Engineering, bioenergy.
Research Profile

Daniel S. Rokhsar, Professor. Biology, collective phenomena and ordering in condensed matter and biological systems, theoretical modeling, computational modeling, behavior of quantum fluids, cold atomic gases, high temperature superconductors, Fermi and Bose systems.
Research Profile

Randy W. Schekman, Professor. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, organelle assembly, intracellular protein transport, assembly of cellular organelles, Alzheimer's Disease.
Research Profile

Barry Shane, Professor. Plant biology, health and nutrition, nutritional sciences and toxicology.
Research Profile

Martyn T. Smith, Professor. Cancer, genomics, toxicology, molecular epidemiology, exposome.
Research Profile

Yun Song, Associate Professor. Computational biology, population genomics, applied probability and statistics.
Research Profile

Hei Sook Sul, Professor. Plant biology, health and nutrition, nutritional sciences & toxicology.
Research Profile

Christopher D. Vulpe, Professor. Genetics, genomics, ecotoxicology, gene expression, water quality, copper, iron, toxicology, susceptibility, environmental, ecotoxicogenomics.
Research Profile

Nir Yosef, Assistant Professor. Computational biology.
Research Profile

Emeritus Faculty

Bruce N. Ames, Professor Emeritus. Molecular biology, cancer, aging, mitochondrial decay, oxidants and antioxidants, micronutrient deficiencies and DNA damage, chronic inflammation and cancer.
Research Profile

Nancy Amy, Professor Emeritus. Nutritional science and toxicology, nutrition, cell metabolism, trace elements.
Research Profile

George W. Chang, Professor Emeritus. Microbial biology, health and nutrition, food safety.
Research Profile

Ben De Lumen, Professor Emeritus. Cancer prevention, academic enterpreneurship.
Research Profile

Montgomery Slatkin, Professor Emeritus. Evolutionary theory, genetic evolution, natural populations of plants and animals populations, human populations, natural selection structure genomes.
Research Profile

Contact Information

Graduate Group in Comparative Biochemistry

324 Barker Hall

Phone: 510-643-1711

Visit Group Website

Department Chair

Fenyong Liu, PhD (Public Health)

Phone: 510-643-2436

Head Graduate Adviser

Barry Shane

Phone: 510-643-6692

Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Phong Trang

324 Barker Hall MC #7354

Phone: 510-643-1711

Fax: 510-643-0896

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