Stanford School of Medicine
Course Catalog

Structural Biology


Joseph Puglisi, PhD

Department web site:

Faculty of Structural Biology:

Courses offered by the Department of Structural Biology are listed under the subject code SBIO on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

The department offers opportunities for course work and research in cell biology. Courses fall into two categories: (1) a series of one-quarter courses that treat special topics of current interest in cell biology at an advanced level; and (2) Structure of Cells and Tissues (SBIO 211), a one-quarter course tailored to the needs of medical students that includes both lectures on structure-function relationships of mammalian cells and tissues and a lab on medical histology.

The emphasis of research in the department is on understanding fundamental cellular processes in terms of the structure and function of organelles and molecular assemblies. Techniques used include standard methods of biochemistry, cell culture, fluorescence microscopy, genetic engineering, and image processing and three-dimensional reconstruction from electron micrographs, x-ray and electron diffraction, and computational methods.


Doctor of Philosophy

University requirements for the PhD are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of the current Stanford Bulletin.

The graduate program in Structural Biology leads to the PhD degree. The department also participates in the Medical Scientists Training Program (MSTP) in which individuals are candidates for both the PhD and MD degrees.

The graduate program is intended to prepare students for careers as independent investigators in cell and molecular biology. The principal requirement of a PhD degree is the completion of research constituting an original and significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge. The requirements and recommendations for the PhD degree include:

  1. Completion of the following courses or their equivalents:

    1. BIOC 200, 201

    2. CHEM 131, 171, 173, and 175

    3. SBIO 241 and 242

    4. MED 255

    5. additional courses as required for the individually tailored program

  2. Opportunities for teaching are available during the first nine quarters at the discretion of the advising committee.

  3. The student must prepare a dissertation proposal defining the research to be undertaken including methods of procedure. This proposal should be submitted by Winter Quarter of the third year, and it must be approved by a committee of at least three members including the principal research adviser and at least one member from the Department of Structural Biology. The candidate must defend the dissertation proposal in an oral examination. The dissertation reading committee normally evolves from the dissertation proposal review committee.

  4. The student must present a PhD dissertation as the result of independent investigation and expressing a contribution to knowledge in the field of structural biology.

  5. The student must pass the University oral examination, taken only after the student has substantially completed the research. The examination is preceded by a public seminar in which the research is presented by the candidate.

Applicants to the program should have a bachelor's degree and should have completed at least a year of course work in biology, mathematics, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and physics. Application forms must be received by the department before December 15 for notification by April 15. Application to the National Science Foundation for fellowship support is also encouraged. Remission of fees and a personal stipend are available to graduate students in the department. Prospective applicants should contact the Department of Structural Biology for further information.

Current topics of research in the department lie in the areas of gene expression; theoretical, crystallographic, and genetic analysis of protein structure; and cell-cell interaction.