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Application Deadline: Friday December 1 at Midnight

The deadline for application is for students to begin study the following September.  We begin a new cohort only once per year each Autumn.

Application Fee: $85

**Fee waivers are not available through the Department of Biology. However, the UW Graduate School offers application fee waivers to those with financial need. More information can be found here.

A message from the Graduate and Postdoc Program Committee:

It is becoming widely recognized that in order to recruit a diverse community of graduate students, admissions protocols need to become more holistic, equitable, and transparent. The Biology Department’s Graduate and Postdoc Program Committee revised the protocol to place a greater emphasis on the wide range of experiences and backgrounds of our applicants, rather than focusing on more conveniently quantitative data such as GRE scores and GPAs. The new admissions process will require a more tailored approach from our applicants, via the two-page Holistic Statement. However, a detailed description of how the information will be evaluated by the Admissions Committee has been outlined below. We look forward to hearing about your interest in the Biology PhD program, and wish you all the best on your journey to graduate school!

Application in a nutshell:

  1. Unofficial Transcripts
  2. CV (departmental specific)
  3. Holistic Statement (2 pages)
  4. References (3)
  5. A list of three (3) Biology department faculty members of interest to student 
  6. TOEFL scores (if applicable)

*GRE scores are NOT required for the Biology PhD application.

Application Materials

1. Unofficial Transcripts

If you are admitted, you will need to provide official transcripts.

The minimum GPA required by the Graduate School is 3.0. However, if an applicant is deemed admissible by the admissions committee, a petition may be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School to waive the minimum GPA requirement.

2. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Please provide an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV). A CV is essentially your academic resume and gives you the opportunity to highlight your accomplishments (academic, outreach, etc.). Your CV can include any of the items listed below, and we expect this document to be longer than one page. 

**Note: not all students will have information to put under each category. Instead, we are trying to recognize the breadth of relevant experiences.

  • Education
  • Research experience and skills
  • Publications (including conference abstracts) and professional presentations
  • Work experience
  • DEI efforts (diversity, equity, and inclusion)
  • Outreach activities
  • Teaching experience
  • Skill building (short courses, internships, quantitative courses, field stations, computational workshops) that you have taken or participated in
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Languages
  • Other relevant experiences

3. UW Biology Holistic Statement

In the UW Department of Biology, we are looking to admit graduate students who are passionate about learning and exploring the biological sciences. We encourage prospective applicants to explore the research opportunities in the department and strongly encourage that you contact faculty members with whom you are interested in working before you submit an application. Please see below in the "Should you apply?" section for additional information about contacting faculty members in the Department of Biology.

In the Department of Biology, we continue to strive for an inclusive and welcoming departmental culture that recognizes and encourages individual differences, fosters the constructive expression of ideas, and promotes shared values such as intellectual curiosity, creativity, collegiality, and a sense of mission. Traditions of inclusivity can flourish and reach full potential only with continued active nourishment and effort, and with a collective sense of responsibility and mission on the part of the entire community. We as a Biology department are committed to the continued development of our diverse and collegial community of people, ideas, and approaches through our missions of research, education, and public outreach.

Please answer each of the following questions individually. If you have identified one or more labs that are relevant for your interests, it could be helpful to discuss the connection between your interests and that lab or labs in Question 1 or 2. Your combined answers can total no more than 2 pages (12 pt Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins, single-spaced, approximately 750–1000 words), but if you choose to answer question 5, the total page length can be up to 2.5 pages or ~1250 words. These applications will be reviewed by faculty members, postdocs, and some staff members, but will not be reviewed by other graduate students. All responses are confidential.

  1. Why are you seeking a Ph.D. opportunity in Biology at the University of Washington? What knowledge, skills, and experiences do you hope to achieve from the graduate program that will be useful to your long-term career goals? Why we are asking this: The Department of Biology is broadly diverse in the areas of research we collectively pursue, and is collaborative and interdisciplinary. Graduates from our program have gone on in academic science, teaching careers, corporate careers, NGOs, science writing, and careers in policy and government.  We are looking for evidence that you are passionate about your field and also why a research-based Ph.D. in our department will help you to achieve your goals.

  2. What research topics are you particularly curious and excited about, and why? What scientific questions do you hope to address as a graduate student, and what are your motivations for choosing this line of inquiry? It would be helpful if you could provide context from your own experiences that led you to these questions. Also, in answering this, note that the Admissions Committee recognizes both that not everyone will know these details when they apply, and that research directions often change once a student enters graduate school. Why we are asking this: It is important for researchers to stay curious and be willing to question their own and others’ work in the pursuit of great science, and also to remain motivated to work hard to answer their research questions even when the going gets tough. It is also vital to be able to explain why the science you are doing is important to a broad audience.

  3. Describe an example of how you have shown resilience and/or perseverance in the pursuit of your goals (academic or otherwise) and what of these lessons will be valuable as you pursue a graduate degree. Why we are asking this: The graduate student experience will involve a range of challenges, such as research setbacks, grant or paper rejections, etc. Being able to overcome these difficulties and persevere in the face of challenges is key to being a successful graduate student.

  4. Describe experiences that have given you life skills that prepare you for graduate school, or how your experiences (academic or otherwise) would enhance our departmental environment. Why we are asking this: Graduate school requires not only academic preparation but also experiences that hone and strengthen your life skills. Your examples could include non-academic work/volunteer experiences, for example, those that demonstrate commitment, a strong work ethic, leadership ability, teamwork, ability to work independently, etc. You could also use this section to describe non-research skills that might be relevant to your planned graduate work.

  5. Optional: Please include anything that puts your application in a broader context of your lived experience (you can use an additional ~250 words or ~½ page if you choose to respond to this prompt). Why we are asking this: We are actively working to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in our department. People who apply for advanced degrees come from a diversity of backgrounds and world experiences. You may have already discussed your experiences in the answers above, but if you have anything that you would like to add you are welcome to include it here.

4. List of Three (3) Biology Faculty

Please list three faculty members with whom you share research interests. This should include core faculty members in Biology who are accepting graduate students. For more information about faculty members and their labs see our department website where core faculty are listed first, and adjunct and affiliated faculty are listed further down.  You should not list only three adjunct or affiliated faculty. It is common in our field that you contact faculty of interest prior to applying, however some faculty may choose to wait until applications are submitted to engage in a conversation.

Why we are asking this: These names are used to direct your application to those faculty with primary appointments in Biology whose research programs most closely align with your interests. In the first year of our program students participate in either rotations or tutorials with three (or more) faculty members at UW, so these may be people with whom you would be interested in interacting through these experiences or who could eventually serve on your committee.

5. Names and Contact Information for Three (3) References

Three letters of recommendation that speak to your potential for academic success. We are requesting that you obtain three letters from individuals who have worked with or supervised you in research (field or lab) settings, employment opportunities, or class, because they can provide candid evaluations of your aptitude for research, training, motivation, scholarly promise, teaching talent, and ability to express yourself orally and in writing. Detailed comments are much more useful to the Admissions Committee than broad generalizations, and this means that you should focus on asking recommenders with whom you have interacted closely. If you have had prior research experience it is useful to hear from the people who have supervised you directly (ie. a graduate student or postdoc) perhaps in combination with the PI of the lab.

Professors or other academic supervisors who know you are generally a good choice, because they have experience writing letters for graduate school positions and usually already have an idea of what type of information Admissions Committees are looking for. It is helpful to contact potential letter writers well ahead of the application deadlines, share the description of what we are looking for from above, and offer to meet with them in person or online in order to communicate your strengths/abilities for graduate school, and to get their advice on your career plans. You will be asked to enter contact information into the online system; recommenders will then be notified by email about how to submit their letters directly to the university. Applicants also have the option to waive their right to read the submissions. Letters of recommendation are due by the application deadline, December 1st.

6. TOEFL scores (if applicable)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduate School is temporarily accepting official test scores for both the Duolingo English Test and the TOEFL ITP Plus For China to assist international students with remote testing options. 

Visit the Graduate School's website at for more information on English language requirements. Official scores must be received by the December 1 deadline.

For International Applicants

Should you apply?

Typically, entering students have completed undergraduate biology or related program that includes college-level courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The Department also welcomes applications from promising students with less traditional backgrounds. Most entering students have substantial prior research experience and a record of high academic achievement.

While it is not required, we strongly recommend that you contact several faculty in your areas of interest to inquire further about their research and your potential fit within their lab. This process demonstrates your interest in the program, in addition to helping you assess whether UW Biology is a good choice for you before applying. Even if you are not focused on a specific lab, we advise that you reach out to several faculty of potential interest beforehand. Browse our faculty by research interest here.

Minimum Requirements for Admission

  • Baccalaureate (BA or BS) degree from a college or university in the United States or equivalent (may be pending at time of application)
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
    • However, if an applicant is deemed admissible by the admissions committee, a petition may be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School to waive the minimum GPA requirement.
  • Submission of TOEFL scores (if required) that meet the Graduate School's minimum requirements

For additional questions, please contact the Graduate Program Manager at


Non-Discrimination Policy

The University's admission policy provides for a selective admission process with the objective of attracting students who demonstrate the strongest prospects for high quality academic work. This selective admission process shall assure that the University's educational opportunities shall be open to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or veteran status. The process of admission shall be mindful of the need for diversity in the student body and for highly-trained individuals from all segments of the population. This policy can be read in full here.

The Graduate and Postdoc Program Committee, the Undergraduate Admissions Committee, and all search committees will review this policy and partake in discussion of Implicit Bias counter-measures before beginning deliberations and reviewing applications for admissions or employment.



Date last changed Mar 14th, 2024 @ 14:09:02 PDT