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The Ph.D. in Biological Sciences

The graduate Program in Biological Sciences provides our students with training across the foundational areas of the biological sciences as well as an in depth opportunity to train with our faculty whilst engaging in state-of-the-art research. Our program prepares students for a variety of careers in science that includes academic research and teaching as well as working with governmental agencies and the ever-growing opportunities in various biotech sectors. Students in the program develop critical thinking skills and technical expertise through dissertation research, beginning with a firm foundation of course work, seminars, and a wide range of professional development activities.

The research interests of the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences are inherently diverse, ranging from molecules and cells to organisms and ecosystems. For that reason, our graduate program is highly flexible, which allows students and their faculty mentors to design paths that maximize the growth of each individual student. The biological sciences program also offers training in teaching, and all graduate students serve as a teaching assistant for at least one semester during their graduate training.

First year graduate students engage in course work, professional development exercises, and laboratory research rotations. This combination allows each student to grow in multiple areas of biology while also identifying an area of specific interest. Students then select a mentor and begin dissertation research in their lab of choice. Specific requirements for completion of the doctorate in biological sciences are detailed in the curriculum section of this website.

Applying to the Program

Students enter the biological sciences program via two pathways. Applications may be made directly to the Department of Biological Sciences; here students enter the program at the beginning of their first year (direct entry). Alternatively, students can apply to Vanderbilt University’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP) or the Quantitative and Chemical Biology Program (QCB) and after rotating with biological sciences faculty, may request entry into biological sciences at the end of their first year. 

  • Qualifications: the Program in Biological Sciences seeks students with backgrounds in biology or a related discipline and, most importantly, a passion for original research.
  • Application deadline: applications for the start of the upcoming academic year open on August 1 and must be submitted through the Vanderbilt Graduate School application portal by December 1.
  • Application: strong applications to the biological sciences program include the student’s academic record from prior institutions, a statement of purpose that details the student’s interests in graduate school and beyond, and several reference letters that provide insight into an applicant’s prior experience, motivation for graduate school, and aptitude for research. Results from the GRE exam are not required.
  • Evaluation and interviews: all applications are evaluated by a dedicated admissions committee. The top applicants are then invited to an in-person interview that is fully paid for by Vanderbilt University.