The Molecular & Cell Biology Graduate Program

Frequently Asked Questions - Ph.D. Degree

The following is a list of questions that we have received over the years. The questions and answers are divided into 3 categories: financial questions, questions related to the application process and program requirements questions.

Please contact  the Division of Science Graduate Affairs Office at scigradoffice@brandeis.edu if you need further information than is available here.

  • Financial FAQs
  • Application FAQs
  • Program Requirements FAQs

Is funding available to PhD students?

All MCB PhD students receive a stipend and a full tuition waiver. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the stipend is $30,500. The department will also contribute up to $2,900 towards each student’s health insurance coverage per year.

How do I apply?
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.

What is the application fee?
The application fee is $75 for on-line applicants. More information is available (including information pertaining to application fee waiver requests).

What are the GRE requirements?
While we do require the GRE exam, the department does not have any explicit GRE requirements in regarding to minimum scores. GRE scores are considered in the context of each applicant's entire application. We do not require, but will consider, the GRE subject test.

What are the TOEFL requirements?

International applicants whose native language is not English or who have not graduated from an  English-speaking institution within an English-speaking country must submit results from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS), or Pearson Test of English (PTE-Academic). Test scores should not be more than two years old. Waiver and exemptions from this must be approved by the graduate school.

While the department 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.

Do I need to submit official test scores and transcripts?
Applicants should submit unofficial transcripts with their application. Official copies of your transcripts are only required if you are admitted and decide to enroll in the program. More information about transcript submission is available.

We will consider applications with just unofficial self-reported test scores, but applicants should make arrangements for official scores to be sent as soon as possible. The admissions committee may require official test scores before an admissions decision is made. We strongly encourage applicants to include self-reported test scores when submitting their applications, as the admissions committee will not consider applications without them and it may take several weeks for official test scores to be sent, received, and processed. When submitting unofficial GRE scores, please make sure to include the GRE percentile scores. Due to variability between GRE tests and the recent change in the GRE scoring practice, the admissions committee relies primarily on GRE percentile scores rather than raw scores.

When can I apply?
The MCB PhD program accepts applications for the Fall semester only. The deadline for applications is December 15th, but applicants are encouraged to complete their applications in advance of this deadline. All decisions are typically made by April 15th.

I am an international student; how do I obtain a visa?
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. More information for international students can be found on ISSO's website.

I applied to the PhD program but was denied, can I be considered for the MS program?
Applicants have the option to choose to be considered for the MCB MS program if denied to the MCB PhD program. If you would like to do this, please indicate by contacting the Division of Science Graduate Affairs Office at scigradoffice @ brandeis.edu or by calling 781-736-2300.

Do I need to contact anyone in the department before applying to the PhD program?
Applicants do not need to contact anyone in the department prior to applying.

It is not necessary for applicants to contact faculty members in advance of admission regarding lab work. 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 at scigradoffice @ brandeis.edu or 781-736-2300.

Will attending Brandeis as a MS student guarantee me a spot as a PhD student?
A spot in the PhD program is not guaranteed for Master's 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 year spent as an MS student will count towards their three-year-minimum residency for the PhD program.

How long does it take to get a PhD degree?
The minimum residency requirement is three years, but students generally finish in five to six years.

What are the course requirements for a PhD degree in MCB?
Students are required to take six graduate level courses, usually three per semester, and pass with a B- or higher. These courses must be "graduate-level" (i.e. 100 or higher) and be listed or cross-listed in the MCB program section of the Brandeis Bulletin. Exceptions to this must be approved by the graduate committee. The six courses must include Biol 103b (Mechanisms of Cell Functions), Biol 105b (Molecular Biology), and Biol 200a (Proseminar). In addition, all students must take the Graduate Student Research Seminars (Biol 350) each semester, a Journal Club (typically Biol 305) each semester, and Responsible Conduct of Research (Cont 300b).

What are the research requirements?
All MCB PhD students conduct an original investigation under the guidance and mentorship of their thesis advisor over the course of their time as a graduate student. By the end of their first year, they will have formally joined a lab and begun dissertation work. 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.

Please see the MCB PhD graduate handbook or the University Bulletin for detailed information.

How do I choose a research lab?
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 to aid in their choice of dissertation lab. The choice of laboratory is made jointly by the student and the faculty member in whose lab the rotation is to take place. Students may choose from Life Sciences faculty, which includes faculty from the Departments of Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Psychology, Computer Science, and Physics. To aid in the rotation selection process, the Life Sciences programs hold a "faculty bazaar" during orientation week. This is a three-night series of short research presentations (with dinner) designed to acquaint students with research opportunities at Brandeis. Students will be assigned to their first rotation and subsequent rotations will be jointly arranged between the student and the faculty member in whose lab the rotation is to take place.

Please see the MCB PhD graduate handbook or the University Bulletin for detailed information.

What are the qualifying exam requirements for a PhD in MCB at Brandeis?
All MCB PhD students must complete two propositions: the outside research proposition and the inside research proposition. The outside exam must be completed by the end of the student's first year. For this exam, the student will submit a written research proposition on a topic unrelated to their rotation or their expected dissertation projects. The student must then defend this proposition to a committee of faculty members assigned by the graduate program. The inside exam is completed at the end of the student's second year and consists of a written research proposition outlining the student's expected dissertation project. This proposition is them defended in front of a faculty committee. Successful completion of both exams is required for advancement in the program.

Please see the MCB PhD graduate handbook or the University Bulletin for detailed information.

What are the dissertation requirements for a PhD in MCB at Brandeis?
Once thesis work has begun, each student is required to meet at least once per year with his/her thesis committee to evaluate their dissertation progress. Specific Ph.D. thesis requirements are set by the student's advisor and the thesis committee. As a rough guideline, a Ph.D. student should have at least one first-author paper accepted or published in a quality journal 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.

Please see the MCB PhD graduate handbook or the University Bulletin for detailed information.

 

 
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