Admissions

Every year, the Biophysics PhD enrolls a class of 8-12 of some of the most promising and adventurous young scientists from around the globe. Our students come from diverse and eclectic backgrounds, both scientific and personal. We are committed to a diverse community at UC Berkeley and in the Biophysics program. In making admissions decisions we consider the potential of the whole individual to succeed in the program. Research accomplishments, personal and scientific statements of purpose, and recommendation letters are given careful consideration alongside GPA and GRE scores. Finalists are invited to Berkeley for interviews every February.

Admission is for the Fall semester only, and Biophysics does not offer a Master’s degree.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have, but please be sure to read this entire page first, as many of your questions will be answered below.

Application Requirements

Minimum requirements for admission to graduate study:

  • A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution.
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Sufficient undergraduate training to undertake graduate work in the chosen field. This includes such undergraduate majors as: biological sciences, structural biology, physics, math, and chemistry. Laboratory experience is highly recommended.
  • GRE scores. We do not have set requirements for GRE scores. Outstanding GRE scores alone do not guarantee admission, nor do low scores disqualify an applicant.
  • TOEFL scores for international students (see below for details).

Application requirements (ALL materials, including letters, due December 1st). More information is provided and required as part of the online application, so please create an account and review the application before emailing with questions and well before the deadline:

  • A completed graduate application: The online application generally opens the first week of September and is located on the Graduate Division website. Paper applications are no longer accepted. Please create your account and review the application well ahead of the submit date.
  • A nonrefundable application fee: The fee must be paid using a major credit card and is not refundable. For US citizens and permanent residents, the fee is $105; students may request a fee waiver as part of the online application. For all other students the fee is $125 (no waivers).
  • Three letters of recommendation, minimum (up to five are accepted): Letters of recommendation must be submitted online as part of the Graduate Division’s application process. Letters are due December 1st. It is your responsibility to monitor the status of your letters of recommendation (sending prompts, as necessary) in the online system.
  • Transcripts: Unofficial copies of all relevant transcripts, uploaded as part of the online application (see application for details). Unofficial copies of official transcripts are strongly preferred, as uploaded transcripts must include the applicant and institution name and should be easy for the reviewers to read (print-outs from online personal schedules can be hard to read and transcripts without your name and the institution name cannot be used for review). Do not send official paper transcripts to Grad Division or Biophysics, they will be discarded.
  • (Highly, highly recommended) Applicants should also apply for extramural funding, such as NSF Fellowships. Please see Financial Support, below.
  • Read and follow all of the “Tips for the Application Process” listed below. This ensures that everything goes smoothly and you make a good impression on the faculty reviewing your file.

GRE: Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination and have their exam scores reported to the University. The UC Berkeley school code is 4833; department codes are unnecessary as our system matches scores directly to an application. As long as the scores are sent to UC Berkeley, they will be received by any program you apply to on campus.

The GRE general test is required. GRE subject tests are not required, but can be submitted if taken. It is strongly recommended that applicants take the GRE by November so scores arrive in time to complete application files by early December. Self-reported scores are acceptable for review until the official scores are available. Current test scores are preferred, but we will accept scores up to five years old.

TOEFL/IELTS: Adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by those applicants applying from countries where English is not the official language. There are two standardized tests you may take: the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). TOEFL minimum passing scores are 90 for the Internet-based test (IBT), and 570 for the paper-based format (PBT). The TOEFL may be waived if an international student has completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better while in residence at a U.S. university (transcript will be required). Please click here for more information.

Application Deadlines

The Application Deadline is 8:59 pm Pacific Standard Time, December 1, 2017. The application will lock at 9pm PST, precisely. All materials must be received by the deadline, including letters. GRE & TOEFL tests must be taken by the deadline, as self-reported scores are acceptable for review.

It is your responsibility to ensure and verify that your application materials are submitted in a timely manner. Please be sure to hit the submit button when you have completed the application and to monitor the status of your letters of recommendation (sending prompts, as necessary) and official GRE scores. We do not contact you unless you are missing materials after the deadline. Please include the statement of purpose and personal statement in the online application. Applications that are missing these statements will be considered incomplete and may be disqualified. Please DO NOT send résumés, separate folders of information, or articles. They will be discarded unread.

Interviews

The Biophysics recruitment visit is February 21-23, 2018.

Top applicants who are being considered for admission will be invited to visit campus for interviews with faculty. Invitations will be made by mid-January at the latest. Students are expected to stay for the entire event, arriving in Berkeley by 5:30pm on the 21st and leaving the evening of the 23rd. In the application, you must provide the names of between 7-10 faculty from the Biophysics website with whom you are interested in conducting research or performing rotations. This helps route your application to our reviewers and facilitates the interview scheduling process. An invitation is not a guarantee of admission.

International students may be interviewed by phone, as flights are often prohibitively expensive.

Financial Support

The Biophysics Group provides a competitive stipend ($35,000 for 2017-18) as well as full payment of registration fees and non-resident tuition (which includes health care). Students maintaining satisfactory academic progress are provided full funding for five and a half years. The program supports students in the first year, while the PI/mentor provides support from the second year on. Extramural or campus fellowships are considered part of a student’s funding package, even in the first year, and should be accepted, unless otherwise notified by the program. A portion of the student’s overall support is in the form of salary for a minimum of one semester of teaching assistance as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) in departments such as Chemistry, Physics, or Molecular and Cell Biology. Teaching is part of the training of the program and most students will not teach more than one semester, unless by choice.

Due to cost constraints, the program admits few international students; the average is two per year. Those admitted are given full financial support, as stated above: stipend, fees and tuition.

Students are also strongly encouraged to apply for extramural fellowships. There are a number of extramural fellowships that Berkeley biophysics students apply for that current applicants may find appealing. Please note that the NSF now only allows two submissions – as an undergrad and once in grad school. The NSF funds students with potential, as opposed to specific research projects, so do not be concerned that you are tied to a project – just put together a good proposal! All eligible students are expected take advantage of both opportunities to apply.

Tips for the Application Process

Uploaded Documents: Be sure to put your name and type of essay on your essays (Statement of Purpose, 2-3 pages, Personal Statement, 1-2 pages) as a header or before the text, whether you use the text box or upload a PDF or Word doc. There is no minimum length on either essay, but 3 pages maximum is suggested. The Statement of Purpose should describe your research and educational background and aspirations. The Personal Statement can include personal achievements not necessarily related to research, barriers you’ve had to overcome, mentoring and volunteering activities, things that make you unique!

Letters of Recommendation: should be from persons who have supervised your research or academic work and who can evaluate your intellectual ability, creativity, leadership potential and promise for productive scholarship. If lab supervision was provided by a postdoc or graduate student, the letter should carry the signature or support of the faculty member in charge of the research project. Note: the application can be submitted before all of the recommenders have completed their letters. It is your responsibility to keep track of your recommender’s progress through the online system. Be sure to send reminders if your recommenders do not submit their letters.

Extramural fellowships: it is to your benefit to apply for fellowships as they will facilitate entry into the school and lab of your choice and often provide higher stipends. Do not allow concerns about coming up with a research proposal before joining a lab prevent you from applying. The fellowships are looking for research potential and proposal writing skills and should be flexible once you have started graduate school.

Calculating GPA: Schools can differ in how they assign grades and calculate grade point averages, so it may be difficult for this office to offer advice. The best resource for calculating the GPA for your school is to check the back of the official transcripts where a guide is often provided. There are also free online tools that can be found via a search.

Faculty Contact/Interests: Please be sure to list faculty that interest you as part of the online application. You are not required to contact any faculty in advance, but are welcome to.

Submitting the application: To avoid the possibility of computer problems on either side, it is inadvisable to wait until the last day to submit your application. It is not unusual for the application system to have difficulties during times of heavy traffic. However, there is no need to submit the application too early. No application will be reviewed before the deadline.

Visits: We only arrange one campus visit for recruitment purposes. If you are interested in visiting the campus and meeting with faculty before the application deadline, you are welcome to do so on your own time.

Name: On the online application, please capitalize the first letter of your first and last name. DO NOT use all caps or no caps. And please double check that you have entered your first and last names in the correct fields. This is our first impression of you as a candidate, so you do want to get your name correct! Be sure to put your name on any documents that you upload (Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement).

California Residency: You must have lived in California previously, and be a US citizen or Permanent Resident, to be a resident. You are not considered a resident if you hope to enter our program in the Fall, but have never lived in California before or are here on a visa. So, please do not mark “resident” on the application in anticipation of admission.