FAQs for PhD Program
Program Requirement FAQs
All MCB PhD students receive a stipend and a full tuition waiver. In the 2020-2021 academic year, the stipend is $35,000. The program will also cover the cost of the Brandeis Health Insurance for the student each year they are in the program.
Prospective students can apply online at the Brandeis University GSAS website. All interested applicants must submit a formal application to the graduate school; we do not accept students directly into labs.
The application fee is $75. More information is available on the GSAS website (including information pertaining to application fee waiver requests).
GREs are not required, but if you choose to submit them, they will be considered. Approximately 62% of the 2018 applications included GREs, and approximately 66% of the students invited for interviews provided GREs.
Almost all international applicants must submit official test score results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE-Academic). An applicant should check with the testing agency to ensure that their scores are still valid and that the agency will be able to send an official score report.
Students who are citizens of the following countries, or who have graduated from an accredited degree program within these countries, are exempt from this requirement: Australia, Canada (except Quebec), Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, and the United Kingdom.
While the program will consider these scores within the context of the entire application, the Graduate School does have strict exam score requirements. This information, as well as the extended policies for this requirement, is available.
The MCB PhD program accepts applications for the Fall semester only. The deadline for applications is December 1, but applicants are encouraged to complete their applications in advance of this deadline. All decisions are typically made by April 15.
The Graduate School will coordinate all aspects of your visa with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO), once accepted into the program. More information about requirements for international students is available on the GSAS website. More information for international students can be found on ISSO's website.
If you would like to be considered for the Master's program if denied admission from the PhD program, please contact the Division of Science Graduate Affairs Office by email or by calling 781-736-2352.
A spot in the PhD program is not guaranteed for MS students. Brandeis MS students who wish to transfer to the PhD program must formally apply to the PhD program. The PhD admissions committees will consider such applications within the context of the entire applicant pool. However, should a MS student be accepted into the PhD program, they will be allowed to transfer any eligible (i.e. those that meet the program requirements and specifications) courses towards their PhD course requirements. The time spent as an MS student will count towards their three-year-minimum residency for the PhD program.
Applicants do not need to contact anyone in the program prior to applying.
It is not necessary for applicants to contact faculty members in advance of admission regarding joining their lab. Applicants who are particularly interested in a specific faculty member should still apply directly to the program. Faculty members cannot accept graduate students directly into their labs prior to acceptance into the program. All PhD students must rotate through four labs before joining a lab.
If you have any questions about the program or about the application process, please contact the Division of Science Graduate Affairs Office by email or by calling 781-736-2352.
The minimum residency requirement is three years, but students generally finish in five to six years.
Students are required to take six graduate level courses, including Molecular Biology (BIOL 105b), Mechanisms of Cell Function (BIOL 103b), Proseminar (BIOL 200a) and three electives. In addition, all students must take the Graduate Student Research Seminars (BIOL 350) each semester, Topics in Molecular Genetics and Development Journal Club each semester, and Responsible Conduct of Research (CONT 300b) or equivalent.
All MCB PhD students are expected to create a new body of knowledge relevant to their field. Students will join a laboratory at the end of their first year and formally conduct an original investigation under the guidance and mentorship of their thesis advisor. Students will write a dissertation of their results and are expected to have at least one first-author paper accepted or published in a quality journal at the time of their thesis defense.
Faculty members cannot accept graduate students directly into their labs prior to acceptance into the program. All MCB PhD students must complete four research rotations in their first year before choosing a dissertation lab. The choice of dissertation laboratory is made jointly by the student and the faculty member.
Students may choose to rotate with any member of the Life Sciences community. The Life Sciences programs hold a “faculty bazaar” during orientation week to aid in the rotation selection process. This is a three-night series of short research presentations (with dinner) designed to acquaint students with research opportunities at Brandeis. Students will submit three choices for their first rotation. Subsequent rotations will be jointly arranged between the student and the faculty member in whose lab the rotation is to take place.
All MCB PhD students are required to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for two semesters, typically both semesters of their second year. TA assignments will be determined in the summer preceding the second year, and usually consist of one lab course and one lecture course.
All MCB PhD students must complete an “Outside” Exam at the end of their first year. This exam consists of a proposal based on the subject area of one of the student’s four rotations. The student submits a written proposal based on an NIH R21 grant format. The written proposal will be evaluated by two MCB faculty readers. Students will have one week to revise the proposal based on reader comments. The revised proposal will be submitted to the oral examination committee, and the student will defend the proposal in an oral exam in front of the committee. Students will complete an “Inside” Exam at the end of their second year. This exam consists of a written research proposal outlining the student’s expected dissertation project. This proposal is then defended in front of a committee of MCB faculty members. Successful completion is required for advancement in the program.
Beginning in the third year, each student is required to meet at least once per year with their thesis committee to evaluate their dissertation progress. Specific PhD thesis requirements are set by the student’s advisor and the thesis committee. As a rough guideline, a PhD student should have at least one first-author paper accepted or published at the time of their thesis defense. With approval of the thesis committee, the student will write and submit a dissertation of their results. After submission of the dissertation, the candidate will give a public thesis seminar to the University community, and on the same day defend the work in an oral exam to the dissertation committee.