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 5 1/2 to 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.

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View Program Graduate Outcomes

Who should apply?

Biology Graduate Admissions Statement

March, 2020

In response to the challenges of teaching, learning, and assessing academic performance during the global COVID-19 pandemic, we have adopted the following principle: our admissions committee will take into account the significant disruptions that the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 has had on our applicants. This will factor into how we review students’ transcripts and other admissions materials. This is consistent with our long-standing practice of performing individualized, holistic reviews of each applicant.

In particular, as we review applications now and in the future, we will respect decisions regarding the adoption of Pass/No Record (or Credit/No Credit or Pass/Fail) and other grading options during the unprecedented period of COVID-19 disruptions, whether those decisions were made by institutions or by individual students. We will also take into account lost research opportunities during the pandemic.

Ultimately, even in these challenging times, our goal remains to form graduate student cohorts that are collectively excellent and composed of outstanding individuals who will support and challenge one another.

We offer in-person campus visits to applicants who are invited to interview. Visits will be in February and will include one-on-one meetings with faculty members and many activities that will introduce you to our department and graduate program. For students who are unable to travel, we can discuss alternative interview arrangements.  We encourage all interested students to apply to our graduate program. 

Strong academic records

Students in the program have strong academic records. 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 first-generation college students, disadvantaged students, and disabled students. We have a long tradition of successfully training students from many different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, 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