PROGRAM DESCRIPTION AND FACILITIES

The graduate program in Biochemistry began in 1960 starting with the offering of Masters in Science (M.S.) and doctor in Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in Biochemistry and Nutrition. The name of the department was changed in 1992 to Department of Biochemistry. The graduates of our program can be found throughout the industrial, academic and government environment in Puerto Rico, the U.S. mainland and in Latin America. The department faculty actively seeks external funds to support our graduate students and has been able to improve our research facilities with state of the art instrumentation.

The Department of Biochemistry is located on the sixth floor of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus Building at the Río Piedras Medical Center. Available Research Facilities include Molecular Biology, Tissue Culture Core Facilities and the Center for Environmental and Toxicological Research. Also available are the Flow Cytometry and Electron Microscopy Units, the Campus Computer Center, the Animal Laboratory Resources Center, the Institute of Neurobiology and the Caribbean Primate Center. These resources complement the facilities offered by the individual investigators in their respective laboratories.

The Department of Biochemistry characterizes itself by conducting research in the areas of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, Genetics, and Biotechnology including topics in: Molecular and Genetic Alterations in Disease, Biochemistry of Proteins, Protein Structure/Function Relationships, Biochemistry of Glycoconjugates and Cellular Differentiation, Interactions between Nutrition and Disease, Aging and Oxidative Stress, Ocular Biochemistry, Clinical Biochemistry, Analytical Biochemistry, Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, Biochemical Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. Individual faculty members also participate as mentors in the Intercampus Ph.D. program in Biology and in other Ph.D. programs at the UPR level.

The graduate student of the Department of Biochemistry should be able to practice his/her profession in a research, academic or industrial environment either in Puerto Rico, the National, or International level. It is expected that the graduate of the Biochemistry department contribute to the economic, social and cultural development of Puerto Rico. In order to achieve this goal the mission of the graduate program in Biochemistry is to prepare professionals with the fundamental and essential knowledge in the discipline of Biochemistry. In a wider context, the mission of the Biochemistry program is to prepare professionals that will practice their profession with the firm purpose to advance basic and applied knowledge in the field of Biochemistry, through their professional and scholarly activities contributing in solving the daily health related problems of our society which results in human benefit. It is expected that the biochemistry graduate practice their profession with the highest ethical principles, proper of the discipline they have chosen and that they set a solemn example for the future generations.

ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS

All applicants must fulfill the general requirements of the Graduate Division of the Medical Sciences Campus (Described in the document of Requirements and Regulations for Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy Degrees by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 1997 Revision).

1. The applicant must take the GRE General Test and the Subject Test in their major area.
The following guides for consultation are available:

GRE Practicing to take the General Test Big Book
GRE Practicing to take the Biology Test 3rd edition
GRE Practicing to take the General Test 9th edition
GRE Practicing to take the Cell and Molecular Biology Test
GRE Practicing to take the Biochemistry Test

2. It is desirable that applicants have a B.S. degree in Biology or Chemistry, however, applicants with majors in other areas of Science are strongly encouraged to apply.

3. Applicants must have a minimum G.P.A. and G.P.S. of 3.0. out of a 4.0 system.

4. Required undergraduate courses are: General Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry (or Quantitative Chemistry*), General Biology, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry**, General Physics and Integral Calculus. Recommended courses are Cell Biology, Biochemistry, and Genetics.

NOTE: * At the discretion of the department, this requirement may be waived if the required course is taken during the first year of graduate studies.
** At the discretion of the department, this requirement may be waived if the departmental Physical Chemistry of Macromolecules course (BCHM 8517) is taken during the course of their graduate studies.

FINANCIAL AID

Students can apply for Teaching or Research Assistantships during the first year. However, priority will be given to those students who are carrying out their research projects. Assistantships can be requested for 10-20 hrs/wk. Approval is granted depending on justifications and availability of funds. Financial aid through other programs such as, RISE, NIH, EPA, or NSF predoctoral fellowships as well as support through individual federal or local grants may be available through the individual researchers or under the guidance of individual faculty members. Information on other financial aid is available through the Division of Graduate Studies, the Dean of Students Financial Aid Office, and through each individual researcher.

ACCREDITATION OF COURSES

Students can request the accreditation of specific courses to be substituted for other courses, however, the final accreditation of these courses will depend on the nature of the course content and will be decided by the Department Faculty. Only graduate courses approved with A or B (or their equivalent) in fully accredited institutions and which have been taken no longer than four years before entering the graduate program can be considered for transfer. A maximum of fifteen (15) credits taken in another graduate program at an accredited institution may be approved for transfer by the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry. BCHM 8531-36 cannot be substituted by any other course. BCHM 8500 can be substituted by the Biochemistry course offered by the department to M.D. students (BCHM 8550/MPRI 7119). Only courses that were not accredited towards a degree can be considered for transfer. In order to consider a request for accreditation of courses to students transferring from other institutions or other graduate programs, the student must write a letter stating his/her specific request. In addition he/she must submit an official transcript of his/her academic record and the description of the courses according to the catalog from the University where these were approved. The student also needs to provide a certified letter from the registrar of the University indicating that the courses to be transferred were not used for any other degree. All information needs to be supplied to the Department Graduate Student Coordinator. This request will be forwarded to the Departmental Faculty and processed according to the rules and regulations of the Registrar’s Office of the University of Puerto Rico Medical Sciences Campus.

Applicants who have completed a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry at the Medical Sciences Campus in the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine can transfer up to twenty-four (24) credit hours, taken during the course of studies within five (5) years of the application date to the Doctoral Program. Persons with continuous exposure to the field of Biochemistry after obtaining their Master’s Degree can request in writing a waiver of this 5-year time limit on Biochemistry courses to the Departmental Graduate Studies Coordinator and the Departmental Chairman. This waiver will be evaluated by the Departmental Faculty and informed to the Graduate School Committee for approval before final submission to the Registrar’s Office. The final transfer of credits and the substitution of courses will be done following the procedures described by the Registrar’s Office Manual (“Manual de Normas y Procedimientos de la Oficina del Registrador”). Only graduate courses approved with A or B will be considered for transfer. However the following courses will not be transferred under any condition: Seminars (BCHM 8531-36), Thesis Proposal (BCHM 8526), and Masters Thesis (BCHM 8595).

Applicants who have completed an M.D. degree at the UPR School of Medicine need to take the GRE general and GRE subject exams. They can transfer up to 12 credits towards the M.S. or Ph.D. degree with the approval of the Department of Biochemistry Faculty. A course program will be designed for these students by the student’s mentor in collaboration with the Graduate Student Coordinator with final approval by the Department Chairperson.

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