Skip to main content

Graduate Admissions

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, with a focus on engaging in state-of-the-art research with renowned faculty. Our graduates are successful in securing careers in science and related fields in a variety of settings that include academic research and teaching, biotech, and governmental agencies. Students in the program develop critical thinking skills and technical expertise through dissertation research, a firm foundation of course work, seminars, teaching opportunities, and a wide range of professional development activities.

Because the research interests of the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences are diverse, our graduate program is highly flexible and 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 enter Biological Sciences at the end of their first year. 

  • Qualifications: the Program in Biological Sciences seeks students with backgrounds in any area of biology or a related discipline and, most importantly, a passion for original research. These areas include molecular, cellular, chemical, developmental, evolutionary, organismal, or computational biology. 
  • 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.
  • Questions? Please email or call (615) 343-2008 for assistance.