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). For regular Fall admission, application materials must be received by February 1st. Applications received after this time will only be considered if spaces are available (see below).
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.
- Ph.D. student with a specific Major Advisor
- Ph.D. student on rotation system (no initial Major Advisor)
- 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 must 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 should expect to be involved in the research of three different labs during their first year in the program, with the requirement of having a Major Advisor in place by the end of their first year. Applicants must contact potential rotation faculty before applying and identify at least three Biology faculty for their rotation in their Statement of Purpose. Applicants should be aware that some faculty may not be available to participate in the rotation system. The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) will only review applications from rotation students who have agreements from at least three Biology faculty for lab rotations.
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 student, the Graduate Studies Committee and individual faculty.
Students should expect to start their first rotation halfway through their first semester. Typically, a rotation student will be within a lab for 7-8 weeks (approximately half a semester) before rotating into a new lab. At the completion of each rotation, students are required to write a brief report describing their experience, which is submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator and GSC. Following the completion of all rotations, the student will write a brief summary of their entire rotational experience, which also describes their preferred choice of permanent Major Advisor as well as alternates. While the GSC will endeavor to place students with their preferred Major Advisor, after consultation with the faculty involved, students may be placed with alternate choices. Rotation students must have a Major Advisor in place by the end of their first academic 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 must 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.
The Graduate Studies Committee reviews applicants and makes recommendations for admission and awarding of assistantships to the Department Chair. For full consideration, applicants for Fall admission must have all of their materials submitted through the Graduate School online submission system and received by the Department of Biology by February 1st. Because testing agencies, universities, and references often take 2-3 weeks to submit materials, applicants are advised to make requests for test scores, transcripts, and letters of reference well ahead of the deadline. Applications that are incomplete in the Department of Biology as of February 1st will not be considered initially, and will be considered as late applications. Late applications are only considered if admission places or assistantships are still available; such applications are typically reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee in late March. While we appreciate early decisions from applicants who are offered admission and/or assistantships, the Department of Biology supports the Council of Graduate Schools’ resolution to allow applicants to graduate programs up to April 15th to make decisions on offers of admission.
Applications for Spring admission are reviewed on a case by case basis but are usually only considered when the Graduate Studies Committee determines that the applicant would be a competitive applicant for regular Fall admission.
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. (See the Graduate School’s FAQ page for the address to which official transcripts must be mailed. Keep in mind that mailed applications can take 2-3 weeks to be received by the Graduate School and forwarded to the Department of Biology)
- 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 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 (note, that the GRE is required for all applicants). 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 Graduate Studies Committee who will assess all of the application material and make a recommendation to the Chair of the Department of Biology.