Application Procedure

The Department of Biology welcomes graduate applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints.

Applicants to the graduate program in the Department of Biology should have a strong background in the biological sciences including coursework in general biology, genetics, ecology or physiology, chemistry, and mathematics. However, applicants missing coursework in one or more of these areas may be admitted conditionally (for example, on the condition that they take a course in genetics during their first semester of enrollment).

Graduate students are admitted to the Department of Biology in one of three categories, and students should clearly indicate the category to which they are applying in their Statement of Purpose.

  1. Ph.D. student with a specific Major Advisor
  2. Ph.D. student on rotation system (no initial Major Advisor)
  3. M.S. student with a specific Major Advisor

Ph.D. student with a specific Major Advisor

This category is for potential Ph.D. students who have identified a member of the graduate faculty to be their Major Advisor, who will become their Dissertation Director. Applicants should have a specific research area in mind and should contact Biology faculty who could potentially serve as their Major Advisor before submitting an application. The applicant should identify that Major Advisor in their submitted statement of purpose. The prospective Major Advisor is responsible for placing a letter of support in the applicant’s file, describing why the student should be admitted into the program, how the student’s research will relate to that of the Major Advisor’s current laboratory/research group, and expectations for the student’s success in the Graduate Program.

Ph.D. student on rotation system (no initial Major Advisor)

Ph.D. students admitted to the graduate program on the rotation system will be directly involved in the research of 2-4 different labs during their first year in the program with the goal of identifying a Major Advisor or co-advisors. Applicants should identify 2-4 potential Biology faculty for their rotation in their statement of purpose. If admitted, the Graduate Program Coordinator will serve as the student’s temporary advisor for their first year and will establish a rotation plan in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee and individual faculty. Applicants should be aware that some faculty may not be available to participate in the rotation system. However the Department will assist in developing a rotation plan that meets the student’s interests.

Students should expect to start their rotations during the third week of their first semester. Typically a rotation student will be within a specific lab for 8-12 weeks (between half and two-thirds of a semester) before rotating into a new lab. At the completion of each rotation, rotating students will be expected to write a one page report describing their rotation experience, which will be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator and Graduate Studies Committee. Following the completion of all of their rotations, the student will write a summary of their entire rotational experience, which also describes their preferred choice of permanent Major Advisor(s) as well as alternates. While the Graduate Studies Committee will endeavor to place students with their preferred Major Advisor(s), after consultation with the faculty involved, students may be placed with alternate choices. Rotation students should have a specific Major Advisor or co-advisors in place by the end of their first year.

M.S. student with a specific Major Advisor

This category is for potential M.S. students who have identified a member of the graduate faculty to be their Major Advisor, who will become their Thesis Director. Applicants should have a specific research area in mind and should contact Biology faculty who could potentially serve as their Major Advisor before submitting an application. The applicant should identify that Major Advisor in their submitted statement of purpose. The prospective Major Advisor is responsible for placing a letter of support in the applicant’s file, describing why the student should be admitted into the program, how the student’s research will relate to that of the Major Advisor’s current laboratory/research group, and expectations for the student’s success in the Graduate Program.

 

Review of applicants for Fall admission typically begins February 1st and applicants are encouraged to have all materials submitted by that date. Applications for Spring admission are reviewed on a case by case basis.

Applicants must submit online to the Graduate School all of the following:

  • An application.
  • A statement of purpose that describes their research interests and experience, career goals, and interest in our graduate program
  • Two letters of recommendation, preferably from individuals who can comment on the applicant’s research experience and/or potential for conducting research in the life sciences.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work.
  • Official results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test.
  • International applicants must also submit English language proficiency test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE-A) as per University policy.

Applicants are only admitted if there is evidence of financial support for their graduate studies. This can be provided in the form of departmental graduate assistantships, which are awarded on a competitive basis and include a tuition waiver, subsidized health insurance, and stipend support. All components of the application (statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, GPA, GRE scores, and, if applicable, letter of support from Major Advisor) are used by the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) to determine eligibility for assistantships. These assistantships are competitive and the Department of Biology recommends that applicants have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale), a combined verbal and quantitative GRE score of 300, and/or a strong research background to qualify. Applicants may also be eligible for additional fellowships and scholarships that are available through the Graduate School.

Admission into the Biology graduate program is based on the recommendation of the GSC who will assess all of the application material and make a recommendation to the Chair of the Department of Biology.