UCSD Interfaces Graduate Training Program

Application due date will be announced winter 2018. 


The Interfaces Graduate Training Program at UCSD was established to bring together faculty and students from the biological, engineering, physical and health sciences in 2005. Our program provides unique interdisciplinary graduate training at the interfaces between the biological, health, physical and engineering sciences. The training program has been made possible with the support of grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at NIH.

The program offers training through an interdisciplinary doctoral specialization in Multi-Scale Biology that aims to provide a unique interdisciplinary education at the interfaces between the biological, health, physical and engineering sciences.

The program’s goals are:

1. To train a new generation of cross-disciplinary scientists who have been actively engaged in life science research and training activities at the interfaces between more than two established scientific disciplines via a formal collaboration between graduate degree programs from four divisions at UCSD.

2. To provide state-of-the-art training in specialized research technologies through a new hands-on graduate laboratory course curriculum co-taught by faculty and to students from more than one participating department or graduate program. is curriculum exposes students to several research technologies that would normally be unavailable for formal graduate instruction, and creates unique opportunities for students to work together in multi-disciplinary teams.

3. To provide a unique educational focus aimed at integrative and quantitative analysis across multiple scales of biological organization from molecule to organism in health and disease. This novel theme is highly complementary with many interdisciplinary research centers and projects on campus, but not an emphasis of any particular existing graduate program or specialization.

Scientifically, the new program has a well defined intellectual focus that complements all of the participating graduate programs but is also distinct from any other graduate program or specialization at UCSD. While integrative analysis is a common theme of modern interdisciplinary research in biomedical science, bioinformatics and systems biology emphasize integration of biological information or integration of interacting biological components and functions, and are driven by high-throughput genome-scale biological measurement. In contrast, our focus on Multi-Scale Biology emphasizes integration across physical scales of biological structure and is driven by technologies that probe the physical structure and properties of living systems from molecular to organism scales. This is reflected in the curriculum of the specialization that comprises seven high-technology laboratory courses providing hands-on instruction in techniques for protein structure determination, microscopy, optical imaging, tissue engineering, whole body magnetic resonance imaging and multi-scale numerical analysis. We deliberately chose a laboratory-based curriculum to emphasize the practical application of specialized technologies (that are used in a wide variety of biomedical science contexts) such as mass spectrometry, electron microscopy and MRI, and to minimize the need for discipline-specific theoretical prerequisites. By working in interdisciplinary lab groups, students also combine their diverse academic strengths and solve research-based problems together.


Who can apply for the specialization?

The specialization is currently available to Ph.D. students in Bioengineering, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, NanoEngineering, Neurosciences, and Physics. 

Students accepted into the specialization may be eligible to receive support through the NIH National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) T32 Graduate Research Training Grant that was officially awarded by the NIH in March, 2009. Training grant fellowships often have the following citizenship information  requirements: 

Kirschstein- NRSA trainees and institutional career development scholars must be U.S. citizens, non-citizen nationals, or permanent residents of the United States. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible.  Trainees or scholars in these programs who are permanent residents of the U.S. must submit a notary’s signed statement with this appointment form certifying that they have (1) A Permanent Resident Card (USCIS Form I – 551), or (2) other legal verification of such status.



Students interested in multi-scale, interdisciplinary research are encouraged to apply, see our application information http://interfaces.ucsd.edu/admissions

To receive the link to the 2018 Application form, email pmurphy@ucsd.edu  We look forward to hearing from you.

Applications are accepted in Spring Quarter.  If you are interested in our Annual Information Q&A Meeting in late Winter/early Spring Quarter, please email pmurphy@ucsd.edu  Sample of 2017 application can be accessed by clicking  submit an application

The application requires that you:

– are currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program of a participating graduate program/department

– complete the Google form Application at link provided on this page, which includes providing GPA/GRE scores from your application to UC San Diego, and be in “Good Academic Standing” as defined by UC San Diego Graduate Division.

– describe how research interests are relevant to the Program theme of Multi-Scale Biology

– submit your Curriculum Vitae

– submit a letter of recommendation from a faculty advisor or prospective co-advisor from among the Interfaces Graduate Training Program participating faculty.   Program Steering Committee meets between Spring and Summer Quarter(s) to review all applications and make admissions/training grant fellowship decisions. Sample recommendation letters will be available at the Information Session mentioned above.  Students interested in applying, interested in attending the Spring Information Session, and those with additional questions should contact pmurphy@ucsd.edu  Faculty letters of recommendation should be submitted via email to pmurphy@eng.ucsd.edu


The program anticipates that applicants to the specialization will receive Steering Committee and award information before July 31st. The official academic start date of the program is Fall Quarter. New and continued NIH training grant funding may begin as early as September 1st.

General Information on Progress and Renewal Application

All current Interfaces students are asked to submit annual progress reports.  These materials will serve to assess current progress and are the official review material for the Steering Committee funding decisions. 

Students interested in applying, interested in attending the Spring Information Session, and those with additional questions should contact pmurphy@eng.ucsd.edu


Students in the Interfaces training Program enroll in three or more of seven hands-on graduate laboratory courses taught by interdisciplinary teams of faculty members who will introduce students to state-of-the-art techniques studying living systems across physical scales from molecules to the whole organism. These labs introduce students to multi-scale techniques for measuring, imaging, manipulating and analyzing living systems. The laboratory courses have been designed to train students for modern research opportunities in integrative multi-scale biomedical science. An important goal of the Interfaces training Program is not only to provide state-of-the-art inter-disciplinary training but also to expose students to the language, culture, and technology of other disciplines and help them to become effective cross-disciplinary collaborators and leaders.  Courses taken toward the degree should be taken for letter grade.

Hands-on Technology-Centered Graduate Laboratory Courses

Numerical Analysis for Multi-scale Biology



Supramolecular Complex

BIOM 283


Light and Electron Micro-scopy of Cells and Tissues

NEU260/CHEM 260


Magnetic Resonance Imaging



Tissue Engineering



Multiscale Neurodynamics

BENG 260/BGGN 260


Molecular Imaging and Quantitation in Living Cells  http://ucsd.edu/catalog/courses/CHEM.html BENG 235 Spring


UCSD Interfaces Graduate Training Program 
9500 Gilman Drive, Dept 0412 La Jolla, Ca 92093-0412
Program Director:  Andrew McCulloch
Distinguished Professor and Jacobs Distinguished Scholar
Department of Bioengineering
Adjunct Distinguished Professor
Department of Medicine

Pam Murphy, M.Ed.
Ph: 858/534-4272 or pmurphy@ucsd.edu

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