Graduate study in biophysics is interdisciplinary and highly individualized. Students majoring in biophysics are expected to obtain a broad, interdisciplinary knowledge of fundamental principles in both the biological and physical sciences. Each student is expected to demonstrate competence in specific subject areas that serve as a foundation for further work. Areas of required competence are: advanced mathematics, physical chemistry (i.e., statistical mechanics and/or quantum mechanics), biochemistry and molecular cell biology, computer literacy and/or laboratory electronics and instrumentation, and advanced studies in molecular biophysics and associated areas of biological and physical sciences.

But because biophysics covers a wide range of areas, it would be unrealistic to expect to master each facet in detail. A student working in computational modeling of protein motions will develop a strong background in statistical physics, computational science and chemistry, while a student involved in laser studies of proteins in biological membranes will develop a strong background in quantum physics, instrumentation, chemistry and biomembranes.