Skip to Main

Ph.D. Degrees in Basic Sciences

Important Dates

Applicants must complete and submit the online application by Dec. 1. There is a ten day grace period allowed for receipt of all supporting material. The Admissions Committee will begin reviewing completed applications in November and extend interview offers to U.S. applicants on a rolling basis. The interview slots and entering class are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Jump to "A Complete Application Includes"
Jump to "FAQs"

  • Aug. 1: Applications Open
  • Dec. 1: Application Deadline
  • Dec. 10: Three Letters of Recommendation must be received
  • January–March: Interviews and offers made
  • April 15: Applicants must inform Graduate School of decision
  • Mid-August: Courses and rotations begin


Applicants must have, or be in the process of completing, a bachelor’s degree. While there are no specific course requirements for admission, experience has shown that undergraduates entering our interdisciplinary graduate programs benefit from having completed upper-level courses in biochemistry, genetics, and cell or molecular biology.

UT Southwestern’s Graduate School has no minimum GPA, but incoming students for Fall 2019 had an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6.

Admissions Q&A Webinar Sessions

Our Admissions Q&A Sessions, hosted by Assistant Dean Lisa Gardner and Associate Dean and Stuart Ravnik, covers:

Why UT Southwestern?

Ph.D. Programs and Tracks

Application Requirements & Process

How do I apply?

The application is online. Admission is granted for the fall semester only. The UT Southwestern Graduate School’s Division of Basic Science has three distinct programs and you may apply to one, two, or all three. If you receive invitations to interview with more than one program, all interviews will be conducted during one visit to UT Southwestern.

Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science Track

The Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science (MoDTS) Track is available to all applicants, regardless of the program to which they are applying.

If you wish to apply to the MoDTS Track, complete the appropriate tab in the online application.

A complete application will include:

  • Finalized and Submitted Online Application

    How do I apply?

    The application is online. You may apply for the program and find more information about the admission timeline here. Admission to the DBS is granted for the fall semester only.

    How do I apply to the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science program?

    To apply to the Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science Track, check the “yes” box where the application asks if you are applying to this program and complete the MoDTS Essay that is located in a separate tab at the end of the application. This will complete your application to the MoDTS track.

    When is the application deadline?

    The application deadline is December 1. You may apply for the program and find more information about the admission timeline by clicking here. Supporting materials, such as transcripts and letters of recommendation, must be received within two weeks after the deadline to be competitively reviewed by the committee in a timely manner.

    What is the application fee?

    There is no application fee. We want our scientific community to mirror that of the global scientific community. Therefore, we do not place financial barriers between a student and higher education.

    Where do I send additional application materials?

    We accept letters of recommendation and undergraduate and graduate transcripts electronically. There is no need for hard-copies of these documents during the review phase. Students may also upload a resume, CV, or other documents directly within the online application. Official transcripts sent by the institution will be required prior to matriculation if an applicant decides to attend UT Southwestern.

  • Unofficial Transcripts

    Do I need transcripts from all of the institutions I attended or just from the institution from which I received my bachelor’s degree?

    You must upload an unofficial transcript from every institution that you attended as part of the online application.

  • Three Letters of Recommendation

    Please have the names and email addresses of your three references before you begin the application

    How many letters of recommendation are we allowed to submit?

    A minimum of three letters is required, but you may submit up to five.

    Do my letters of recommendation need to be received by December 1?

    No. Letters of recommendation must be received no later than December 10th to be reviewed by the committee.

    When will my recommenders be notified of my request?

    While completing the application and prior to submission of your application, you will be able to send an initial request by clicking a button next to that recommender’s completed information. For any recommender that you did not send a request prior to submission, the request will be sent within two days of final submission of your application.

    After your application has been received and you have been provided access to your student self-service area of the application system, you have the ability to resend letter requests to any writers whose letters have not been received.

  • GRE Scores – Optional for BE, Not Accepted for BBS or OC

    Are GRE Scores Required?

    No, general GRE exam scores (institutional code 6686) are:

    • Optional for Biomedical Engineering
    • Not considered for Basic Biomedical Sciences or Organic Chemistry
  • Language Proficiency Exam scores – for international applicants only

    Are Language Proficiency Exam scores required for international applicants? Is there a minimum score requirement?

    Yes, International students whose native language is not English must submit Language Proficiency Exam scores. We accept the following test scores – TOEFL iBT, TOEFL Essentials, IELTS, and DuoLingo. While there are no minimum score requirements, competitive scores are typically equivalent to a TOEFL iBT score of 100 or above.  Applicants whose education medium of instruction is English but in a non-English-speaking country must still submit Language Proficiency Exam scores. In addition, a Master's degree from an English-speaking country does not automatically meet waiver criteria

    What is the school code for TOEFL/IELTS score reporting?

    Our Institutional code is 6686. No departmental code is needed.

    Can the Language Proficiency test be waived?

    Yes, Language Proficiency Exam scores can be waived upon request and review on a case-by-case basis. In general, international applicants who have completed an undergraduate degree in a country whose Official Language(s) include English, a waiver is typically granted. Applicants whose education medium of instruction is English but in a non-English-speaking country must still submit Language Proficiency Exam scores. In addition, a Master's degree from an English-speaking country does not automatically meet waiver criteria. In order to request a waiver, please follow the instructions in the application.

    My previous Language Proficiency Exam scores is expired. Can I use the previous score for my application?

    Yes, you may submit previous, even expired scores for application review. The score AND a copy of the score report MUST be submitted in the application.

Applicant Evaluation

The most heavily weighted factors are letters of recommendation and research experience(s). As far as the research experiences, not only who, what, when and where, but also how well you understood the research itself beyond just the techniques that you carried out, and ultimately, how you communicate these elements in your personal statement. When evaluating applicants, the admission committee will consider:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Research experience
  • Grade point average
  • Undergraduate curriculum breadth and rigor
  • Personal statement and motivation for a career in scientific research
  • Personal integrity
  • English language competency
  • Race/Ethnicity*
  • Socioeconomic background

*As authorized by the Board of Regents, and subject to the approval of the UT System, the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences added race and ethnicity to the broad range of criteria considered for student admission and for the awarding of scholarships and fellowships beginning with the 2006-2007 academic year.


The Admissions Committee and faculty conduct two-day interviews of the top applicants. These are candidates who have been screened from the total pool of applicants using the above criteria and deemed to be the best match for the Program. The interview day is an interactive process involving students and faculty that includes a program overview plus individual

What should my personal statement be about?

Your personal statement is a chance for us to get to know you as a scientist and potential student in our programs. A good statement tells us your science journey and story, clearly and concisely describes your research experience, and shows us your drive, motivation, passion, and maturity. We do appreciate when students are concise, typically around 1,000 words or less.

Stipend/Research Assistantship

Throughout the course of their Ph.D. studies, all students studying for a Ph.D. in one of the 10 basic science programs receive a nationally competitive stipend/research assistantship of:
$37,000 per year.

This support during the first year of graduate school is provided by the Graduate School. This support allows students to choose freely among the graduate programs and their participating faculty mentors. In subsequent years, students receive stipend support:

  • From research grants awarded to their dissertation mentors
  • From one of the institutional National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants associated with various areas of research training
  • Or through successful competition for individual predoctoral fellowships.


  • COVID-19

    If research got put on hold or cancelled due to COVID-19, would that be worth mentioning in my personal statement or sound like an excuse? I continued research as soon as possible, but I’m not sure if it matters.

    Yes, absolutely tell us about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research experience. It is important for us to understand each applicant’s circumstances, since every institution put different measures in place.

  • About the Ph.D. Programs, Tracks, and Curriculum

    What is the Division of Basic Science?

    The Division of Basic Science, or DBS, encompasses 10 research training programs leading to Ph.D. degrees in the basic biomedical sciences. The DBS includes 270 participating faculty and offers doctoral training in: Biological Chemistry; Biomedical Engineering; Cancer Biology; Cell and Molecular Biology; Genetics, Development, and Disease; Immunology; ; Molecular Biophysics; Molecular Microbiology; Neuroscience; and Organic Chemistry. There are also special emphasis tracks in Mechanisms of Disease and Translational Science and Molecular Metabolism and Metabolic Diseases (3MD).

    Which programs are part of the Biological Sciences Umbrella Program and which are not?

    Organic Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering are not part of the Biological Sciences Umbrella Program. The Basic Biomedical Sciences umbrella program includes: Biological Chemistry; Cancer Biology; Cell and Molecular Biology; Genetics, Development and Disease; Immunology; Molecular Biophysics; Molecular Microbiology; and Neuroscience.

    How does the BBS umbrella program work?

    With a single online application, prospective students apply to the Basic Biomedical Sciences umbrella program if they are interested in any one or more of the eight listed above. Once accepted at UT Southwestern, first-year students take a core course covering major themes in the biology of proteins, genes, and cells. They also rotate through at least two labs as they narrow down their research interests and potential faculty mentors. Toward the end of the first year, students choose a lab and PhD program to join and complete advanced courses specific to that program.

    How do the curricula differ between the BBS, Organic Chemistry, and Biomedical Engineering programs?

    Please refer to each program’s specific Degree Plan for coursework schedules. Organic Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering students follow plans that differ from the Umbrella students’ but details cannot be covered adequately here.

    How many lab rotations do students have to complete?

    Students are encouraged to explore potential research areas by participating in at least two research rotations.

    What types of research experiences do admitted students typically have?

    It really depends on individuals. The committee will review all your materials, including transcript, personal essay, reference letters, CV, etc. to reach a decision.

    If you have any problems in a class, are there tutors or other classroom help available?

    Yes! The graduate school also provides tutoring for the genes, proteins, and cells courses. You can also contact the professor who gave the lecture with further questions. The professors are very willing to help with any questions.

    Does the Division of Basic Science (DBS) offer a Master’s degree?

    No, the Division of Basic Science contains only Ph.D. programs.

    Can the Biomedical Engineering students work with faculty from the Basic Biomedical Sciences (BBS) program? Yes, students in the BME PhD program can work with faculty in the BBS program.

    Regarding the possibility of the current computational biology track becoming a full Ph.D. program, would it be possible to enter a related program/computational biology lab, take any applicable coursework before the formal program exists, and change to the program later without having to retake classes? Almost like switching between related majors as an undergraduate?

    Yes, that is the plan for students who enter after Fall 2021.

    Can a BBS Ph.D. student pursue the computational biology track?

    All the courses and journal clubs for the Computational Biology track will remain available to BBS students as well as Computational Biology students. However, your student record will not show official enrollment in a Computational Biology Track.

    Do you accept transfer students into the program?

    No, we do not. For more information, please email us.

  • Application Status

    How can I check if my application is complete?

    After you officially submit your application, within about 24-48 hours, you will receive an email from UT Southwestern with instructions for logging into our student system that will allow you to check on the completion status of your application and which letters have been received. This email will also include instructions for you to be able to resend the request for a letter from one of your letter writers.

    I made a mistake on the application, but already submitted it. Now what do I do?

    Please send an email to Admissions.

    When will applicants be notified about admissions decisions?

    Admission review is conducted on a rolling basis, with invitations to interview emailed directly to the primary email address provided by the applicant no later than March 1. If an applicant has not received an invitation by this time, they are not being considered for an interview for the DBS program.

    How do I check my application review status?

    Administrative staff cannot inform you of your application status via email or phone.

    You will be notified via the primary email address you supplied if you have been invited to interview for our program. All other applicants will be contacted with a final status determination when all interview invitations have been extended.

    Would a MARC adviser be a good letter writer (in addition to research mentors)?

    Yes, a McNair, RISE, MARC, PREP or postbaccalaureate program adviser can write a strong letter, especially if they know your goals and are familiar with your research experiences.

    Are letters of recommendation from Ph.D.'s who work in the (pharma/biotech) corporate sector accepted equally to those from Ph.D.'s who work in academia?

    Yes, as long as the writer knows your aspirations. The writer should know of your work directly.

    What is one common mistake that you see in the Personal Statement or the Application overall?

    Proofreading errors are common. Some applicants do not describe their research in their personal statement, or are vague about why they would like to pursue a Ph.D. Letters of recommendation (LORs) that do not come from scientists who supervised an applicant in the lab are less helpful; LORs should be written by credentialed scientists who know your work in the lab. Take the time to write an essay that allows the review committee to paint a picture of who you are and understand why you are a good match for UT Southwestern.

    How many students typically apply each year, and what percent do you typically accept? Among accepted students, is deferral permitted for a year?

    The statistics differ by citizenship status. We typically receive about 450 applications from U.S. citizens or permanent residents and accept approximately 130. We receive over 500 applications from international students and accept about 35. Yes, deferral, after acceptance of our offer, is permitted for a maximum of one year before it is necessary to reapply.

    How much of our personal story should we include?

    Your personal statement should be your personal scientific journey – it should focus mostly on your professional life. You should mention any challenges you faced on your path to graduate school and explain how you were able to overcome these challenges.

    What if we just have just one lab we have worked with? Does adding a professor or professional we have worked with help us?

    A single research experience could be sufficient if your research has been hypothesis-driven. If you have conducted meaningful research for a significant period, that is fine. If you have specific questions, please email Dr. Gardner or Dr. Ravnik

    Can we submit unofficial transcripts when applying?

    Yes, an unofficial transcript from each institution you have attended must be uploaded to your application before you will be able to submit it.

    Does it count against me if I have submitted an application already but send in an updated CV?

    Not at all. In fact, you can log back into the portal yourself and upload the updated CV under the document tab.

    Can I apply for two programs?

    Yes, you can apply to more than one program. The three Ph.D. programs available are the Basic Science Umbrella program, the Biomedical Engineering Program, and the Organic Chemistry program. Each program will make an independent admission decision.

  • GPA and GRE

    Is the GRE exam required?


    Is there a minimum GPA requirement for your program?

    UT Southwestern’s Graduate School has no minimum GPA, but incoming students historically average a GPA of 3.6 on a 4-point scale. We consider each applicant holistically when reviewing for admissions. Individual programs and tracks may have one or more additional requirements specific to the area of training. Additional requirements or considerations can be found in descriptions of individual programs.

    What is the average GPA of a student at UT Southwestern?

    Our average GPA is 3.6.

  • International Students

    My institution does not use the 4.0 GPA scale, how do I calculate my GPA?

    The section for entering GPA in the application offers you the opportunity to enter the information in the appropriate score format.

    Do I need to use an international transcript translation service to submit my grades?

    No, you can submit the transcripts or copies of the transcripts in their original format.

    I am currently in the U.S., but not on an F-1 Visa. What kind of visa is needed to be a graduate student at UT Southwestern?

    Our International Office requires that graduate students hold an F-1 Visa which provides the maximum flexibility for your graduate studies and transitions to employment after graduate school. We will help you transfer visa types as applicable.

    I received a request to submit a secondary application with additional questions. What is the purpose of the secondary application and is it required?

    Students who accurately and completely submit the initial admissions application may be requested to submit a secondary application. Because of the very diverse nature of international institutions, we request this information to help us better review and assess your application. Submission of the secondary application materials is required if you wish your full application to be reviewed further.

    Do you interview international applicants?

    All international applicants are interviewed. Typically, if an international applicant has received a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. institution and is currently living in the U.S., an in-person interview will be offered. All other international applicants who receive an offer to interview are interviewed via video conference.

    What is the school code for TOEFL score reporting?

    Our TOEFL institutional code is 6686. No departmental code is needed.

  • Stipend, Tuition, Fees & Insurance

    In terms of funding, do you apply for it or does the department find that for you?

    Your stipend is paid by the graduate school for the first year. Once you join a lab, your PI will fund you for the remaining time you are in school. We also highly encourage our students to apply for external fellowships. Additionally, some programs have NIH-funded training grants that can support a subset of students. So there are definitely no worries regarding your funding at UT Southwestern.

    Are graduate students in the DBS guaranteed funding?

    Yes, funding is guaranteed provided students exhibit satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. degree. All students studying for a Ph.D. in the 10 basic science programs receive a nationally competitive stipend of $37,000 per year throughout the course of their Ph.D. studies in addition to full support of tuition and fees.

    This support during the first year of graduate school is provided by the graduate school and allows students to choose freely among the graduate programs and their participating faculty mentors. In subsequent years, students receive financial support from research grants awarded to their dissertation mentors, from one of the institutional National Institutes of Health (NIH) training grants associated with various areas of research training, or from individual predoctoral fellowships obtained through an external competition such as NSF or HHMI. Many of our students have been awarded the NSF-GRFP fellowship, Gilliam Fellowship, and the Ford Fellowship.

    How much is your stipend?

    Graduate students at UT Southwestern receive nationally competitive research assistantships/stipends; our current stipend is $37,000 per year plus funds to cover tuition and student service fees.

    Do you waive tuition?

    Tuition and fees are paid by the institution. There is no need for a waiver.

    Is health care paid for by the institution?

    Health insurance coverage for the student is provided at no expense for the duration of PhD studies. Additional coverages are available for purchase through the University of Texas System Blue Cross Blue Shield plan during any benefits enrollment period.

    Who do I contact with additional questions?

    Please email us.

  • Timing Questions

    When do I take program-specific coursework?

    Each program requires and offers advanced coursework during the late fall and spring to provide more in-depth knowledge of specific topics. All didactic coursework is completed in the first year.

    When do I have to choose my permanent lab and mentor?

    During the first year, each student chooses a research topic, mentor, and specific Ph.D. program. During the second year, students take qualifying exams to be admitted into candidacy and form dissertation committees that will monitor their progress through completion of the degree. The remainder of their time is spent focused on their dissertation research. Our students average 5.5 years to complete their Ph.D. degrees.

    How many years will it take to finish the program?

    Completion time varies for each student. Our average time to degree completion is 5.5 years.

    Do I need to contact the professor whom I’m interested in prior to or during my application?

    It is not necessary for you to contact the professor you are interested in. Contacting them will not reflect on your application. However, if you would like more information on their research and are interested in seeing if they will take any students, then it would be a good idea.

    Do most of your graduate students start their work immediately after undergrad, or do students generally take time off?

    The vast majority of our students enter directly after finishing their undergraduate degree. Students who have taken time “off,” usually haven’t actually taken time “off.” Time between degrees, when it comes to graduate school, is used by students to compensate for some aspect of their application that they perceive as inadequate. If someone has grades that are not high enough in science courses, they will enter either a Master’s or a Post-Baccalaureate program to remediate those classes and bring in better grades. If a student has not had significant research experience or they have had clinical research experience and they want to enter a basic science graduate program, they will seek out a research experience that fills the gap. If a student is not 100% sure that they want to pursue a career in science that benefits from a Ph.D., then the best way to answer that question is to get a job as a research technician, and judge whether that type of experience ignites a passion in them.

    Do you accept students for Spring entrance into the program?

    No, the DBS only accepts students for fall admission.

    Some schools require students to take their courses during their first year and second year. How about at UT Southwestern?

    At UT Southwestern, all required coursework is completed in one year. There may be mini-courses that are offered on an elective basis that can be taken at any point in a student’s career.

Contact the Graduate School

Lisa Gardner, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean

Phone: 214-648-0718

Lisa Gardner, Ph.D.

Stuart Ravnik, Ph.D.

Associate Dean

Phone: 214-648-0733

Stuart Ravnik, Ph.D.

Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

Phone: 214-648-2527

Arnaldo Diaz Vazquez, Ph.D.

Deborah Evalds

Administrative Coordinator

Phone: 214-648-0007

Deborah Evalds