Increasingly research careers in the biomedical sciences depend on experience at the interfaces between the physical, engineering, health and biological sciences. The next generation of interdisciplinary scientists benefit from a familiarity with new technologies that enable researchers to measure, manipulate and analyze biomedical systems at a wide range of physical scales from the single molecule to the whole organism and to perform analysis that integrates across these scales.

A Unique Interdisciplinary Specialization for UCSD PhD students

Participating Graduate Programs


Biological Sciences

Biomedical Sciences

Chemistry and Biochemistry

Materials Science and Engineering

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering



As of Spring, 2009, UC San Diego introduced the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Specialization in Multi-Scale Biology.  This specialization program is available to doctoral candidates in participating Biological Sciences, Engineering, Health Sciences and Physical Sciences Ph.D. programs at UCSD (Bioengineering, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Neurosciences and Physics). Students enrolled in one of the participating doctoral program and/or departments can apply for the Ph.D. Specialization in Multi-Scale Biology in the Spring Quarter of their first or second year by submitting a brief summary of research interests (see Admissions).  Students admitted into the specialization complete a Graduate General Petition form, with approval from their home department, and submit the form to obtain the specialization major code on their academic records.

The program aims to provide a unique interdisciplinary education at the interfaces between the biological, medical, physical and engineering sciences.  It is designed to allow a student to augment their graduate training in their home discipline with interdisciplinary training in integrative and quantitative analysis across multiple scales of biological organization from molecule to organism in health and disease. Students who complete the requirements of their home department together with the requirements of this specialization will earn a Ph.D. in (home program name) with a specialization in Multi-Scale Biology for e.g. PhD in Biomedical Sciences (Multi-Scale Biology). 

The specific objectives of this program are: 

(1)    To train a new generation of cross-disciplinary scientist who has been actively engaged in life science research and training activities at the interfaces between established scientific disciplines via a formal collaboration between graduate programs from four divisions at UCSD.

(2) To provide state-of-the-art training in specialized research technologies through a comprehensive hands-on graduate laboratory course curriculum co-taught by faculty and to students from more than one participating discipline. This curriculum exposes students to high-technology research techniques including mass spectrometry, electron microscopy and MRI that are normally unavailable for formal graduate instruction, and create unique opportunities for students to work together in multi-disciplinary teams.

(3) To provide a unique education 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.

Curriculum & Degree Requirements

Students admitted into the specialization complete the new curriculum, which offers 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.

Please click here for a detailed list of courses.