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.


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 has completed a basic degree 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 on a 9-point scale (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 the 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. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  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, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions 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.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


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. The normative time for Comparative Biochemistry is five years. Requirements include completion of course work, an oral qualifying exam, and a Ph.D. dissertation. Listed below is a sample of courses that students may take to satisfy the course requirements. The exact courses taken will vary depending on the student's research focus and goals. 


Courses Required (examples)
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 and Developmental 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

Faculty and Instructors

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


Adam Arkin, Professor. Systems modeling.
Research Profile

Mina J.Bissell, Distinguished Scientist. Breast cancer research, enhanced role of extracellular matrix (ECM), nucleus environment to gene expression in normal and malignant tissues.
Research Profile

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 and 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

Judith Campisi, Professor. Mechanisms that link tumor suppression and the development of cancer to aging and the major diseases associated with aging .

Jamie Cate, Professor. Molecular basis for protein synthesis by the ribosome, RNA, antibiotics, a thermophilic bacterium, escherichia coli.
Research Profile

Susan E. Celniker, Biochemist Senior Scientist. Biological Systems and Engineering, Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology.
Research Profile

Jhih-Wei Chu, Biological Faculty Engineer. Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging.

Douglas S. Clark, Professor. Biochemical engineering and biocatalysis.
Research Profile

Jennifer A. Doudna, Professor. RNA machines, hepatitis C virus, RNA interference, ribosomes.
Research Profile

Kenneth Downing, Biophysicist Senior Scientist. Development and application of electron methodology for determination of macromolecular and subcellular structures .

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

Lin He, Assistant Professor. Comparative genomics, developmental biology, cell biology.
Research Profile

Sona Kang, Assistant Professor. Epigenetics, chromatin remodeling, gene expression, diabetes, metabolic diseases .
Research Profile

Gary H. Karpen, Adjunct Professor. Gene expression, cell biology, chromosome structure and function, drosophila melanogaster, centromere identity and function.
Research Profile

Jay Keasling, Professor. Microorganism metabolic engineering for environmentally friendly product .
Research Profile

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

Judith P. Klinman, Professor. Catalytic and regulatory mechanisms in enzyme-catalyzed reactions, kinetic, spectroscopic, stereochemical biological techniques, peptide- derived cofactors, Nuclear tunneling and role of protein dynamics in catalysis, enzymatic activation of molecular oxygen.
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

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

Sangwei Lu, Adjunct Professor. Pathogenesis and Transmission of Salmonella, Foodborne Pathogens, Foodborne Diseases-Detection and Prevention.
Research Profile

Jian-Hua Mao, Geneticist Senior Staff Scientist. A systems biology approach to identification of genetic networks controlling susceptibility to genomic instability and carcinogenesis induced by radiation.
Research Profile

Gerard Marriott, Biochemist Faculty Scientist. Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging, Cellular and Tissue Imaging.
Research Profile

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

Anders Naar, Professor. Gene expression, microRNAs, Mammalian Cell Metabolism, Metabolic Diseases, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, NAFLD/NASH, cancer therapies .
Research Profile

Joseph L. Napoli, Professor. Metabolism, nutritional biochemistry, fat-soluble vitamins, retinoids, retinoic acid, retinol, vitamin A, vitamin D, analytical biochemistry.
Research Profile

James Olzmann, Assistant Professor. Cell biology, organelle biogenesis, lipid droplet regulation, lipotoxicity, lipid storage, cell death, protein quality control, systems biology, metabolic disease, cancer.
Research Profile

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

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

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

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

Department Chair

Fenyong Liu, PhD (Public Health)

Phone: 510-643-2436

Head Graduate Advisor

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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