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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the guidelines for admission to our PhD program?

  • Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework. In general, we look for applicants to have a background that contains science courses, although there are no absolute prerequisites. Applicants who have taken coursework in Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Molecular and Cellular Biology are generally well prepared for the core curriculum. Coursework in Neuroscience and Psychology may be helpful to applicants interested in Neurosciences and applicants interested in Biostatistics and Epidemiology should have taken two semesters of Calculus. Additionally, our guidelines suggest students possess a competitive score on the GRE General Test and a 100 on the online format of the TOEFL test for international applicants. Applicants to the interdisciplinary curriculum should also have a significant relevant research experience and three letters of recommendation. Applications are only accepted online.

2. What are the qualifications of applicants accepted into our PhD program?

  • Last year our matriculating students had an average V+Q GRE score of approximately 1200 and an overall GPA of 3.5. All students interested in the interdisciplinary curriculum had relevant research experience and many had acquired master's degrees.

3. What is the makeup of the PhD Admissions committee?

  • The Admissions committee is comprised of a representative from each department or program that makes up our graduate program and additionally has two graduate students as representatives. The Associate Dean for Admissions and Career Development chairs the committee.

4. What is the process for reviewing applications?

  • The Admissions committee reviews applications in two steps. First, the paper credentials of the applicants are reviewed to decide whether to extend an interview offer. Interview weekends take place from Thursday night to Saturday afternoon with a formal interview day on Friday. During the interview day, applicants generally meet with 3 members of the Admissions Committee and three additional faculty members in their area of research interest. Group dinners on Thursday and Friday nights and lunches on Friday and Saturday offer an opportunity for applicants to meet with current students in an informal setting. After an applicant is interviewed, the admissions committee meets to make an admissions decision. Applicants are notified within a week or two of the interview of the admissions committee's decision. All accepted students are offered financial support. Any questions applicants have about acceptance should be referred to the Associate Dean for Admissions.

5. What are the financial considerations for interviews?

  • Travel expenses for students invited to interview are covered up to $300 whether they fly or have mileage compensated for driving. In addition, each applicant is housed at our expense in a nearby hotel for two nights and all meals are paid for during their stay. International applicants residing in other countries are usually interviewed by telephone except for those in China who are interviewed by faculty who visit China as part of the China-US Biochemistry Admissions Program (CUSBA). Applicants interviewed by CUSBA are responsible for their own travel expenses to attend the interviews in China.

6. What is the first year PhD curriculum like?

  • The first year curriculum currently has three tracks. Students interested in Biostatistics and Epidemiology take a specialized curriculum formulated by that department. Students in Bioinformatics take 4 units of the core curriculum and do two laboratory rotations. All other students enter into our interdisciplinary curriculum for the first fall semester. Students interested in Neurosciences then track into specialized coursework for that department in the spring semester. All other students take the second semester of the core curriculum followed by a program selective in the late spring. All of these students do 3 laboratory rotations in addition to coursework during their first year. Students generally choose their dissertation advisors by the summer of their first year.

7. What is the current financial support for PhD students during their first year?

  • All PhD students receive a base stipend of $23,000/year and paid health insurance (single person), and do not pay tuition expenses. The College of Graduate studies supports most students for the first twelve months while they are taking the core curriculum. The College of Graduate Studies will pay up to $700 in travel expenses one time for current students to present their work at scientific meetings.

8. What funding options are available after a student has chosen a dissertation advisor?

  • Many students are supported by their mentor's funding. However, a variety of training grants are available (see the website: that have positions open for pre-doctoral students. In addition, our students have had enormous success in securing their own individual funding (NIH NRSAs or other national association funding). Students who secure their own individual fellowships or grant funding that brings in at least 60% of their tuition costs will receive an additional $1500 from the College of Graduate Studies for each year that they receive this funding. Students supported by individual grants or fellowships that receive less than 60% of their tuition will be paid an amount prorated proportionally from the $1500. Students who obtain their own fellowships that do not pay tuition are eligible to receive prorated bonuses up to $1500 from their mentors.