Graduate Admissions FAQ 

What does the department look for in a successful applicant?
Students who have majored in Biology, Chemistry or something similar with lab experience, have a high GPA and high GRE scores often do well in our program. Excellent recommendation letters and statements of purpose are equally as important. We practice holistic admissions, valuing each part of the application.

What is department like?
Our program is on the smaller side. Our students, staff and faculty all know each other and interact frequently. This fosters a close, friendly, supportive environment. Most of the graduate students know each other personally and professionally, so exchanging ideas or setting up collaborations is easy. Our MB Ph.D. students interact with the MB MS students and the Molecular Toxicology Ph.D. students on a daily bases in labs and courses. Many Ph.D. students from Endocrinology, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Integrative Biology programs do their research primarily in NST labs. We also strive to create a scientific network outside of the department to utilize the world-class resources and investigators at large, prestigious research university. Anything at Cal is at your fingertips!

What kind of financial support can I expect?
Financial support for our Ph.D. programs include an annual stipend (~$30,000 /year), and full tuition/fees/medical insurance for 5 years. Students are encouraged to seek their own funding by way of fellowship or scholarship. Extramural fellowship stipends below the departmental level are supplemented by the PI to equal the department’s stipend level. MS students are not provided full funding, but may hold a GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) position which provides a stipend of ~$8,800/semester and covers the Student Services Fee, Tuition, and Health Insurance Fee.

What is the city of Berkeley like?
Berkeley combines an attractive campus within a diverse city. There is much to do both on campus and off including many cultural, sport, and outdoor (hiking, skiing, etc.) events and opportunities. Downtown Berkeley has a large variety of restaurants with various ethnic cuisines options available.

What are my career options after graduation?
Graduates of our Ph.D. program will be exceptionally prepared for a research/teaching career in academia, government, or industry. Some students have gone on to get additional training in medicine or dietetics.

What are the requirements for the degree?
Our Ph.D. programs are fully funded by a combination of GSR (Graduate Student Researcher) and GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) appointments. The first two years you will be in NST courses, GSIing lower division NST courses, and participating in 3-4 lab rotations. You will choose a lab at the end of your first year. Once you complete the Oral Qualifying Exam at the end of your 2nd year, you will focus more heavily on research, department seminars, and optional elective courses.

Will I get into the lab of my choice?
In the MB Ph.D. program, you will do 3-4 rotations in labs of your choice and then decide in conjunction with faculty about your best fit. In the MS program, you will do 2 rotations before choosing a lab. Most, if not all students, usually get their first choice.

Will I be teaching classes?
There is one-semester teaching minimum in which you will be a GSI (Graduate Student Instructor) for one of the classes offered by the NST department. The class is usually taught by one or more professors within the department and your responsibilities might include attending lectures, leading review sessions, or holding office hours to answer student questions. There are opportunities to GSI multiple semesters within the department.

Can I afford to live in Berkeley?
The stipend you receive as a Ph.D. student adequately covers living expenses in Berkeley. While housing costs can be steep in the Bay Area, many students choose to live in a studio or a shared house or apartment in Berkeley or a nearby city. There are many public transportation options, some of which are free for students. Health insurance is included with the stipend, and food costs are comparable to other college cities. It is definitely doable!

What kinds of scholarships/fellowships are available?
While our Ph.D. programs are fully-funded, we do encourage students to obtain fellowships and scholarships. Several of our students have NSF fellowships. Graduate Division also has many financial support options for you.

What specific research areas do NST faculty members study?
Find our list here.

What kind of classes will I take?
Our courses are listed here. Our students also are free to take relevant courses in other departments such as: Chemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Public Health.

Do you have a visit/interview day?
We do! The visit will take place January 26 - January 29, 2017. The visit (by invitation only) includes a welcome presentation and dinner, one-on-one faculty interviews, departmental luncheon, current student poster presentations, campus tour, graduate student/perspective student dinner, San Francisco trip, and ample time to explore the Berkeley community.

When will you have made admission decisions?
Our goal is to have our final decisions made by mid-March.