Biological Sciences

Program Category: PhD Programs
Chair: Harmen Bussemaker
Directors of Graduate Studies: Iva Greenwald, and Ron Prywes
Degree Programs: Full-Time: MA, MPhil, PhD

Please visit to learn more about the Biological Science PhD program.

Outstanding research opportunities
Conduct cutting-edge fundamental research in:

  • Cancer & Disease Biology
  • Cell, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology
  • Evolutionary & Population Genetics
  • Genome Organization, Maintenance & Expression
  • Microbiology
  • Neuroscience 
  • Structural Biology 
  • Biophysics, Biochemistry & Chemical Biology
  • Systems Biology

Build on our history as a birthplace of Model Organism Research, Evolutionary Genetics, and revolutionary advances in Imaging. Program faculty present research talks to first-year students and are eager to host students for rotations. The PhD program provides advice, broad training, social events and financial support.

Embracing diversity with connectivity
We have students, faculty and research personnel from all over the world, with backgrounds ranging from mathematics and computation through chemistry, physics and biology. Diversity of all kinds is valued and promoted through inclusion and cohesion in our Program, and with the greater Columbia University community and New York City. Community is fostered through common meeting places and discussions, overlapping intellectual exposure in lab rotations and courses, and collaborative research.

A training program with breadth, depth, opportunity, and flexibility
A multi-tiered menu of graduate courses allows students to broaden perspectives and delve deeply into chosen specializations. Presentation skills are further honed via a highly acclaimed writing course, short student presentations preceding a weekly social hour, annual retreats, and graduate student symposia. Teaching skills are supported and developed through program resources, a Lead-teaching fellow program and collaboration with faculty as teaching assistants. Presentations from former students representing diverse career paths in career workshops and from invited biotechnology industry professionals provide opportunities to explore diverse biomedical careers. All rules, guidelines, and major resources for students in the Program can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Students in our program are highly valued and supported
All students receive an annually adjusted stipend, full funding of tuition costs, health insurance and fees, and access to discounted housing within walking distance of the Morningside campus, a safe and friendly enclave within a vibrant city. Students have always been major contributors to the research enterprise here. Our priorities are to facilitate outstanding thesis research and provide holistic training, with special attention to scientific rigor, ethics and communication. Program Directors, Administrators and Faculty Committee members provide personal guidance for each student to help navigate research, training, and work/life conditions. Regular feedback and new ideas are sought through a Graduate Student Council and other channels to continually improve and adapt to student needs or new scientific and societal opportunities.

Special Admissions Requirements: 
Undergraduate training in one of the natural or physical sciences is required. It is also desirable that students have had at least a year of calculus, as well as courses in organic and physical chemistry, physics, genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology. Limited deficiencies in this background may be made up while in graduate school.

Acceptance to the program is determined by a student’s academic background as well as consideration of prior research experience. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required.

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, and three letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

Additional Information:
All applications submitted prior to the deadline will be evaluated. The most promising applicants will be invited to the first (late January) or second (late February) open house.


All students in the program receive a funding package consisting of a generous stipend and coverage of tuition and fees. These fellowships are awarded in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. While training in research is the focus of the graduate program, teaching experience is also an important component and students are therefore expected to serve as teaching assistant for two semesters during their tenure in the program.