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Programs of Graduate Study in the Basic Biological Sciences

The Division of the Biological Sciences offers a variety of graduate programs leading to the Ph.D. degree. Graduate programs are offered under the aegis of divisional departments as well as interdepartmental committees composed of faculty members with a common interest in a broad but definable area of advanced study. Some programs are organized into larger groups called clusters, a structure that provides cohesion across programs through shared retreats, common curriculum, and shared administrative duties.  A few programs offer unique training opportunities and are not organized into a cluster.  Joint programs also may be devised in other divisions of the university, such as with chemistry in the Division of the Physical Sciences and psychology in the Division of the Social Sciences. The fundamentals of graduate education in the division are not altered by these provisions. Students complete their degree in individual graduate programs.

The University’s hallmark emphasis on interdisciplinary research and collaboration, coupled with access to the latest technology and to three major affiliated laboratories, offers the opportunity to enrich human life in Chicago and around the globe through basic, translational, and clinical research.

The goal of the programs is the creation and dissemination of fundamental knowledge of life processes and the education and training of outstanding young scholars in these disciplines. To this end, the Division of the Biological Sciences has assembled a dedicated and talented faculty, strong in research and teaching, and has developed laboratory and other facilities of the first rank that allow the faculty and graduate students to pursue their goals at the highest level of excellence.

The programs of study leading to the Ph.D. degree are organized by cluster below.

Biomedical Sciences: Cancer, Immunology, Microbiology and Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition

  • The Committee on Cancer Biology
  • The Committee on Immunology
  • The Committee on Molecular Metabolism and Nutrition
  • The Committee on Microbiology

Darwinian Sciences: Ecological, Integrative, and Evolutionary Biology

  • The Department of Ecology and Evolution
  • The Committee on Evolutionary Biology
  • Graduate Program in Integrative Biology

Molecular Biosciences: Biochemistry, Genetics, and Cell and Developmental Biology

  • Graduate Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics  
  • The Committee on Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology
  • The Department of Human Genetics
  • The Committee on Genetics, Genomics, and Systems Biology
  • Graduate Program in Cell and Molecular Biology

Neuroscience: Computational Neuroscience, Neurobiology and Integrative Neuroscience

  • The Committee on Computational Neuroscience
  • Program in Integrative Neuroscience (Psychology)
  • The Committee on Neurobiology

These degree granting units have not entered into a cluster arrangement and provide separate admission. They are:

  • The Department of Public Health Sciences (M.S. and Ph.D.)
  • The Committee on Medical Physics
  • Graduate Program in Biophysical Sciences (Joint with the Division of Physical Sciences)

Admission Procedures

The following requirements and procedures apply to those students wishing to follow a course of study leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the division. Students may apply to a single cluster and as many as four individual units, indicating their choices in order of preference.  According to their own schedules, the units applied to will communicate directly with the student as needed. Final decision letters are issued by the BSD Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (OGPA).

Application Materials

Information about graduate programs and application materials is available at


Applications are due December 1st. Late applications will be reviewed only at the discretion of the Dean for Graduate Affairs. Incomplete applications will be evaluated on the basis of materials received at the time of the regular review process. Interviews are often required and students will be invited to attend formal recruitment weekends. Responses by applicants to offers of admission are due to OGPA by April 15.


An applicant who holds an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution is considered for admission on the basis of:

  1. An excellent undergraduate record
  2. A demonstrated interest in a research career
  3. Three letters of recommendation addressing the scientific abilities and potential for graduate studies of the applicant
  4. Proof of English proficiency for foreign students whose native language is not English; either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Certain programs require additional credentials. These additional requirements may be ascertained by contacting the individual program.


The typical BSD graduate student working toward the Ph.D. degree is fully funded (regular tuition and fees and prevailing competitive stipend). Funds for this support are derived from numerous sources, including federal or private training grants, institutional funds, endowed funds, research grants and individual awards to students. During a student’s course of study, support mechanisms may vary. Funds for international students are limited to institutional sources.  Funding is guaranteed for five years, subject to maintaining satisfactory progress.