MS Deadline and Application for Fall 2021
The priority deadline for Fall 2021 MS in Biology applications is January 15, 2021 at 11:59pm EST*
*Applications will also be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until July 1, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
Generally the department does not accept new students for the spring semester, although in special circumstances this may be arranged for students in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution.
PhD Deadline and Application for Fall 2021
The deadline for Fall 2021 PhD in Biology applications is December 2, 2020 at 11:59pm EST
Generally the department does not accept new students for the spring semester, although in special circumstances this may be arranged for students in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution.
Those also interested in the Boston University Graduate Program in Urban Biogeoscience and Environmental Health (BU URBAN) are encouraged to pre-apply by October 19th (1st review cycle) or November 9th (second review cycle). Note that this is a separate application and is not considered an official application to the Biology PhD program.
MS & PhD Application Requirements
Applicants to the MS and PhD programs must have completed a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. While a degree in biology is not required, it is suggested that you at least have completed biology and chemistry courses before applying. Statistics would also be useful. Depending on your specific interests and the program to which you are applying, the most relevant courses will vary. Admission to graduate programs in the Department of Biology is competitive. We favor applicants with strong academic records, as well as a demonstrated aptitude for research for those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track.
- Three recommendations – We consider letters of recommendation a very important part of your application. Letters from individuals who can address the applicant’s research experience and aptitude are particularly valued for those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track.
- Personal statement/statement of purpose – A thoughtful personal statement is important and should include information on your motivation for attending graduate school. Those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track should also include any research interests and any prior research experience.
- Curriculum Vitae
- Additional requirements for international students – Information for international students on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and other requirements is available on the International Student Applicant page. Due to COVID-19, we are also accepting Duolingo test scores as well as TOEFL Home Edition scores for Fall 2021 admission; more information is available in the FAQ below.
Area of Interest and Faculty of Interest
Applicants should specify the research area(s) of interest on the application:
Applicants are encouraged to contact one or more faculty with whom they might wish to pursue their dissertation research. This is especially important for students interested in the Ecology, Behavior & Evolution and Marine Biology program areas, where applicants are typically admitted to work specifically with one or more faculty members. The Cell & Molecular Biology and Neurobiology program areas require laboratory rotations during which students can explore their interests, but it is often useful to contact a faculty member.
Not sure if our programs are right for you? Please review the information located on the rest of this page and be sure to explore some of BU’s related interdisciplinary programs: Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry (MCBB), Neuroscience, and Bioinformatics.
3 Reasons to Apply
1. Benefit From Our World-Class Facilities
BU Biology students are provided access to training and research facilities such as the Biology Research Building; the Biological Science Center; the Life Sciences & Engineering Building; the Metcalf Center for Science & Engineering; and the Science & Engineering Library. You’ll find teaching and research laboratories at these facilities, as well as departmental common facilities including the Aquarium Room; Stable Isotope Laboratory; the Electron Microscope and Confocal Imaging Facility; and the Biology Media Center.
The close proximity of these facilities allows for a highly collaborative environment between students and faculty within, and outside of, the Department. Students also enjoy access to the Graduate Student Lounge, seminar rooms, and conference rooms.
2. Experience the Advantages of Boston
BU Biology students experience the unique advantages of obtaining an education in Boston—a hub for the scientific and medical community. Students collaborate on research with the world’s top scientific and medical minds, have access to outstanding professional development events, and network with local professionals from both academia and industry. Many graduates of our programs choose to stay in the Boston area, providing a rich base of local almuni available for Departmental events, networking, and mentoring.
3. Become Part of the Boston University Community
We value diversity and inclusion
The Biology Department and Boston University are strongly committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment in which our students can learn and grow—both inside and outside of the classroom. BU is proud to be home to the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground (HTC), a space where students of all races, religions, orientations, and ethnicities come together to engage in courageous intercultural dialogues. Many of our Biology graduate students also join groups such as Graduate Women in Science & Engineering (GWISE), which strives to create a community to support and promote women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.
We are innovators
From capturing the first-ever image of a black hole, to making leaps in our understanding of why Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) hits some people harder than others, our faculty and students are on the cutting edge of new discoveries. BU has become a leading global research institution—propelled forward by over $579.4 million in research awards in FY2019. In fall 2012, BU was invited to join the Association of American Universities, an elite organization of 61 other leading research universities in the United States and Canada. Explore our pioneering research.
We cultivate future leaders
In 2014, BU became one of only 17 Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) schools chosen by the National Institutes of Health. BU’s BEST provides opportunities for career exploration and skill development, and aims to enhance biomedical career development curricula for PhD and postdoctoral trainees in a way that explores careers both inside and outside standard academic research.
Boston University is one of 8 universities selected to participate in the AAU PhD Education Initiative and Biology is one of 6 BU departments participating. This initiative “aims to change the culture surrounding doctoral education at AAU member institutions so that graduate education is more student-centered, placing greater emphasis and focus on students as individuals with diverse educational and professional interests, needs, and challenges.” The Initiative’s objective is to make the full range of PhD career pathways visible, valued, and viable for all students. Learn more about the long-term goals here.
In addition to university-wide events, the Department of Biology hosts a number of professional development and social events just for our graduate students. Many student groups also offer professional development and social opportunities relevant to our Biology graduate students.
Heather Hook, PhD program, Siggers Lab “The most compelling factor that made me choose BU was the faculty. Every faculty member that I have engaged with is open, ensures that I am getting the most out of my time at BU and becoming a better scientist. I also liked how the department is collaborative. Many of the faculty members do joint research projects, which helps you get exposed to techniques or certain areas of research that are outside the scope of your lab. Not only are the faculty collaborative, but the graduate students are as well. Graduate students in the Biology Department never hesitate to help one another out. This help can range from just sharing an aliquot of a reagent that you just ran out of to troubleshooting your experiment. The Biology Department really is one strong knitted team.”
Johnny Elguero, PhD program, McCall Lab “From a research standpoint, there are so many opportunities for collaboration here. For example, one of my thesis committee members is over at Harvard, and I am easily able to go over to their lab to use their equipment. There are also incredible professional networking opportunities due to Boston being a hub for the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. I have found that, just by virtue of being in Boston, my social circle includes many biologists in a wide variety of careers, which has been very helpful in figuring out my own career plans.”
Nicola Kriefall, PhD program, Davies Lab “There’s a ton of fascinating and diverse research happening in the Biology department so I am constantly learning from the people here. In addition, we have a great community of graduate students who are always ready to support each other.”
Frequently Asked Questions
When does the application become available?
Applications for the upcoming fall admissions period become available in early September each year.
What are the application deadlines?
Application deadlines for Fall 2021 admission are December 2, 2020 at 11:59pm EST for the PhD program and January 15, 2021 at 11:59pm for the MS program.
Do you accept international students?
Yes – we welcome applications from all over the world.
What are the application requirements?
Transcripts; Three recommendations – We consider letters of recommendation a very important part of your application. Letters from individuals who can address the applicant’s research experience and aptitude are particularly valued for those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track; Personal statement/statement of purpose – A thoughtful personal statement is important and should include information on your motivation for attending graduate school. Those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track should also include any research interests and any prior research experience; Curriculum Vitae; Additional requirements for international students – Information for international students on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and other requirements is available on the GRS Academic Admissions page and on the International Student Applicant page.
Is there a minimum GPA for admission?
The Biology Department does not have a minimum GPA for admission. We consider the full application when reviewing applicants.
Is the GRE required for admission?
No, the GRE is not required. However, if you feel that your scores will strengthen your application, you are welcome to submit them. The admissions committee fully recognizes that there are many components to your application and that GRE scores have a limited scope of predictive power in the evaluation of a candidate for their long-term success as a student.
Are there minimum scores for the TOEFL or IELTS?
Yes, the minimum scores are strictly enforced by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Your most recent test scores will be used to determine if you have met the English proficiency requirements. You cannot combine sections from different test dates and you must meet the minimum score for every section of the test to be considered for admission. The minimum score requirements for the TOEFL are below.
paper-based test: 550
Reading section – 21
Listening section – 21
Speaking section – 21
Writing section – 21
In addition to the TOEFL, the IELTS is also accepted as proof of English proficiency. The band score of 7.0 is required for admission.
Please note that we do not accept the TOEFL “MyBest” scores.
Due to COVID-19, we are also accepting Duolingo test scores as well as TOEFL Home Edition scores for Fall 2021 admission. Duolingo scores must be a minimum of 105; please select “Boston University Graduate and Professional Programs.” TOEFL Home Edition scores have the same requirements outlined above.
Can the TOEFL or IELTS be waived?
The TOEFL or IELTS requirement is waived if you meet any of the criteria listed on the GRS website; see “English Proficiency Requirement”.
Do I have to submit all of the required documents by the application deadline?
All applications must be complete by the deadline; any application materials received after the deadline may not be reviewed by the Department.
Are application fee waivers available?
Applicants who would like to request an application fee waiver must follow the fee waiver instructions on the GRS website. Note that you must be a US citizen or a US permanent resident in order to be eligible to apply for a fee waiver. Non-US citizens are not eligible to apply for a fee waiver through GRS.
In exceptional circumstances, applicants who are non-US citizens may be granted a Department fee waiver; please contact the Graduate Program Specialist to inquire.
It is past the application deadline. Can I still apply?
- PhD applicants – Generally, we do not accept applications for submission after the deadline has passed.
- MS applicants – For full consideration, applications must be received by January 15th. Late applications may also be considered if space in the cohort permits.
Please contact the Graduate Program Specialist to find out if your application can still be submitted.
Do you offer spring admission?
Generally, the department does not accept new students for the spring semester, although in special circumstances this may be arranged for students in Ecology, Behavior & Evolution (EBE).
Are there any pre-requisites or any courses that I should take before applying? What kind of degree(s) do I need to have?
Applicants to the MS or PhD programs must have completed a bachelor’s degree in biology or a closely related field. While a degree in biology is not required, it is suggested that you at least have completed biology and chemistry courses before applying. Statistics would also be useful. Depending on your specific interests and the program to which you are applying, the most relevant courses will vary. If you are applying for the PhD or MS with research thesis track, prior research experience will also make your application more competitive.
Some BU courses may be available for non-degree students if you would like to take courses before applying. Please contact the Graduate Program Specialist for more information.
A master’s degree is not needed to apply to our PhD program. Students who apply with a master’s degree may have an opportunity to transfer credits towards the program. Admission into the program is competitive and we favor applicants with strong academic records, as well as a demonstrated aptitude for research for those applying for the PhD or the MS with research thesis track.
Do I need to contact faculty prior to submitting my application?
applicants interested in applying to our MS (Coursework Track or Scholarly Paper Track) do not need to contact faculty before applying. It is recommended that PhD and MS (Research Track) applicants contact one or more faculty with whom you might wish to work. This is essential for students interested in the Ecology, Behavior & Evolution and Marine Biology program areas, in which applicants are typically admitted to work specifically with one or more faculty members. Please visit the Ecology, Behavior & Evolution page for more information about contacting faculty and to see a list of faculty members currently seeking graduate students. The Cell & Molecular Biology and Neurobiology program areas require laboratory rotations during which students can explore their interests, but it is often useful to contact a faculty member. We do not provide a list of faculty members who are currently seeking graduate students in the Cell & Molecular and Neurobiology program areas.
Where can I find more information about the research opportunities that are available to Biology graduate students?
Do I need to submit more than one application if I want to be considered for more than one area of interest within Biology?
No – you can list more than one area of interest on your application. You do not need to submit multiple applications.
Can I schedule a visit to the BU campus?
Yes, prospective applicants can contact the Graduate Program Specialist or any faculty member with whom they may wish to work to schedule a time to visit. The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences does not offer tours of the campus however, prospective students can sign-up for tours with undergraduate admissions.
How long will it take before I receive a decision on my applications?
Cell & Molecular (CM) and Neurobiology applicants: Selected applicants currently in the continental US will be invited to visit the campus for “Recruitment Weekend” in late February for individual interviews with faculty and to learn more about Boston University, the surrounding area, and to meet with many of the faculty and current students within the department. Admission decisions are usually sent out the week following this visit to campus (early March). Selected applicants outside the continental US and internationally may be contacted in early March for Skype Interviews with faculty members and can expect to receive admission decisions in mid-March.
Ecology, Behavior & Evolution (EBE) and Marine Biology applicants: Individual faculty often schedule Skype interviews as the next step after reviewing applications, or based on initial email communication. Selected applicants will be invited to visit the campus individually, on dates that are convenient for their prospective advisors. Most prospective students visit during January and February; some may visit in December or March. Admission decisions are sent on a rolling basis, generally after the last applicant seeking entry to a particular lab has visited.
What is the cost of attendance? Do you offer financial aid?
Tuition and mandatory fees for the current academic year can be found on the GRS website.
The Biology Department guarantees support for five years for all PhD students, contingent on satisfactory performance in the program. This includes tuition, a stipend, and health insurance. You can learn more about the different fellowships that are offered on the GRS website.
The Biology Department does not guarantee financial support for MS students, although limited partial scholarships are available, and there are often Teaching Assistant positions available for MS students that provide $6,000 per semester. If interested in these opportunities please indicate this in your application. Some resources are available on the GRS website for MS students seeking financial aid.
Are there Department awards and fellowships available?
Yes. The Department of Biology offers several competitive awards and fellowships that are available to graduate students.
How long does it take to earn a graduate degree in Biology
MS students must complete the degree within 3 years, though most of our students complete this within 2 years. PhD students must complete the degree within 7 years, though most of our students complete this within 5-6 years.
How many credits can be transferred in towards my degree? Will this shorten the time to degree?
MS students can transfer a maximum of 8 credits from other universities. PhD students can transfer a maximum of 32 credits. Your coursework would be reviewed by faculty to determine what is appropriate to transfer based on the program and what credits you would still need to take moving forward. This could certainly decrease the time to degree, but PhD and MS with research thesis track students would still need to complete research credits and the length of time for completion can be different depending on the research projects that you take on and the progress of your dissertation/thesis. More information about the transfer of credit policy can be found online.
What classes will I need to take?
Will I be required to teach?
The department requires a minimum of two semesters of teaching during a student’s graduate career as part of the PhD program. During the first semester of teaching, students are required to enroll in our first-year seminar course, GRS BI 697 A Bridge to Knowledge. The course provides guidance and training on pedagogy and other aspects of graduate school.
MS students are not required to teach but there are sometimes opportunities for MS students to teach if interested.
Can I take classes part time?
It is possible to take classes part time if you are in the master’s program or if you want to take a class or two before officially enrolling in the program. However, we do not offer evening courses, so if you have a full time job and are interested in taking one or two courses, this may not be a good fit for you. The PhD Program is a full time program.
For additional information, please contact:
Jen Correia & Christina Honeycutt
Graduate Program Specialists