Diversity in the Graduate Program

Students in the MIT Biology PhD program come from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds and we value this diversity. We use a holistic evaluation process to identify students of outstanding promise. This includes assessing preparation, aptitude, and motivation based on coursework, previous research experiences, and other scientific accomplishments. Letters of recommendation and a personal essay are key parts of the application that help us understand each student’s interests, preparation, and unique circumstances. We do not require GRE scores and we do not use numerical cutoffs (e.g., GPA) at any stage of evaluation. Importantly, we strive to identify students who have taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded to them, recognizing that the extent or nature of these opportunities will vary widely.

Undergraduate Institutions of MIT Biology PhD students

Students matriculate to MIT from a range of undergraduate institutions, as shown here for students entering the program between 2017 and 2020.

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Characteristics of the applicant and enrolled student populations

In the current student population, there is an equal representation of genders. About 18% of current students are from groups underrepresented in science.

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Students enroll in the PhD program following three stages in the admissions process. Most applications from domestic applicants are read by at least three faculty members, and the top ~25% are discussed by a committee of 22 faculty members with extensive experience in graduate education. Based on this evaluation, students are invited to interview in-person. About 20% of domestic applicants are interviewed. Among all interviewed students, approximately 80% are admitted and 45% of those matriculate in the program. The graphs below break these data out by race and citizenship status (URMs, or underrepresented minorities, are Native American, African American, and Hispanic U.S. citizens and permanent residents). Note that the selection process for international students includes additional screening steps, because we receive a large number of applications for a small number of funded positions.

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Changes in the fraction of students from underrepresented groups in science

The percentage of students in the program from groups underrepresented in science has been increasing. In the most recent two years, 27% and 31% of domestic students enrolled in the program have been URMs. Nearly 90% of our students obtain PhDs and there is little difference in the graduation rates between male, female, or URM students. The career outcomes of URM students compared to the total student population over the past 16 years is also very similar. Through continued and enhanced outreach and recruiting efforts we aim to continue to increase the diversity of applicants and students admitted to the PhD program.


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