Prospective Students

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Our commitment to research and community

The life of an MIT biology graduate student is a rich amalgam of experiences—academic, scientific, social, and recreational. Our first-year students work and study together, forming friendships and creating a supportive, interactive environment. Graduate students fuel research success and frequently contribute to exciting, cutting-edge discoveries. The extraordinary quality of our graduate students is a significant factor in our ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty.

Our department and graduate program have been consistently ranked in the top 5 (often #1) in the rankings published by the National Academy of Sciences and by US News and World Reports. Our students and faculty work hard and take education and research seriously, but we are committed to fostering an atmosphere of excitement, collaboration, and support, not competition.

One of the ways that our program stands out from others is the organization of the first year. Our students engage in an intensive, focused curriculum in lecture and discussion-style subjects. Before choosing a lab and thesis topic, students are introduced to the research interests of all faculty members in the Department through talks, poster presentations, and meetings.

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Quick Facts

  • Most of our students take approximately 6 years to complete the PhD program.
  • Our students choose a research lab based on what interests and excites them the most, even if they’ve had no experience in this area prior to graduate school.
  • The majority of our graduates pursue careers as research scientists in academia or industry.
  • Many of our students use their PhDs to pursue careers in medicine, business, law, education, science communication, or policy.
  • Our students come from many different backgrounds and types of schools.
  • Our program is generously supported by an NIGMS training grant.

View Program Demographics and Statistics

View Program Graduate Outcomes

Who should apply?

We encourage all interested students to apply. We are looking for:

Strong academic records

For students offered admission in the 2019-2020 academic year, the average undergraduate GPA was 3.8. Most students in our program completed a challenging science curriculum in college, including coursework in biology. Most students also have a solid foundation in chemistry, physics, and mathematics.

Commitment to research

Successful applicants have prior research experience in an area related to biology and have demonstrated interest in and aptitude for research.

Diverse backgrounds and experiences

We seek a diverse student body, consistent with the importance of multiple viewpoints, backgrounds and perspectives to the advancement of science. We encourage students from groups under-represented in the life sciences to apply, including underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged students, and disabled students. We have a long tradition of successfully training students from many different cultural and socio-economic backgrouds, and our current students come from undergraduate schools including large state universities, Ivy+ schools, and small liberal arts colleges. Students who attended community college for one or two years before transferring to rigorous 4-year programs can do very well in our program.

Good communication skills

Scientific training and research require working with others and sharing ideas, so excellent English communication skills are required.  

Diverse scientific training

Our core curriculum allows students from a wide range of scientific backgrounds to succeed. Students who have majored in chemistry, physics, or mathematics have all done extremely well in our program. Successful applicants have enough biology experience to engage in our advanced first-year biology coursework. Students with an interest in biophysics can consider our Biophysics Certificate Program.

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Frequently Asked Questions