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Graduate Program Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Questions

What is Molecular Biosciences?
Molecular Biosciences is a multidisciplinary biological sciences department. Our laboratories utilize knowledge and techniques from the fields of Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics and Epigenetics, Immunology, Microbiology, Neurobiology, Structural Biology, and Virology.
What are the research goals of the Molecular Biosciences department?
The research goals of our faculty are directed toward uncovering novel mechanisms within cells, organisms, and complex environmental and parasitic systems that impact health, development, and disease.
What different degree programs are offered by Molecular Biosciences?
We have Ph.D. programs in Biochemistry & Biophysics; Microbiology; or Molecular, Cellular & Developmental BiologyAdditional details about each program can be found on our web pages.
What careers do your graduates pursue?
Our graduates have routinely secured prestigious postdoctoral fellowships, assistant professor positions in colleges and universities, or have successfully established careers in industry.
When do students enroll in the Molecular Biosciences graduate program, and can I enter the program at a different time?
Due to the nature of our common core curriculum, it is difficult to accommodate off-cycle students; although, exceptions can be made in rare circumstances to accommodate advanced or transfer students. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies at sjmac@ku.edu to discuss your options.

Graduate student body: Who are your students?

My undergraduate major is ______. Would your Molecular Biosciences graduate program be right for me?
Our graduate students have broad scientific interests. Most of the undergraduate majors of the students in our department include Biology, Biochemistry (including Chemical Biology or Biophysics), Biotechnology and Microbiology. Other students have majored in Bioengineering, Biomedical Research, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Genetics, Human Biology, Math, Medicinal Chemistry, Molecular Biology, or Zoology.

Undergraduate Majors of current graduate students

What nationalities are represented in your graduate student body?
While the majority of our graduate students are United States citizens, a number of international students are also included in our program. Nationalities of current graduate students include: Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, India, Jordan, Korea, Mexico, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Zimbabwe.

Map of Current Graduate Students Home Towns

Map of the world showing the home towns of our program's graduate students as of November 2015

How many students are in your graduate program?
The total number of graduate students in the Molecular Biosciences graduate program has ranged between 50 and 70 students over the past 10 years. On average, our incoming class size is around 15 students.


What is it like to live in Lawrence, KS?
Lawrence, KS is a vibrant college town with a lively atmosphere filled with restaurants, bars, galleries, shops and music venues. It is only a short 45 minute drive from Kansas City, a major metropolitan city. Lawrence, KS is affordable, safe, and experiences all four seasons. Rolling Stone named Lawrence as one of the “best li’l college towns” in the U.S., and Lawrence has appeared on multiple "Best College Towns" lists  (College Ranker, Matador Network, Thrillist, American Institute for Economic Research).
Can graduate students expect financial support?
All of our students who remain in good academic standing are financially supported for the duration of their studies. Most students receive a starting stipend of $25,081 either from a Graduate Research Assistantship or Graduate Teaching Assistantship.

Academics:Courses, Teaching, Research

What courses do graduate students take?
Incoming students have a core curriculum, which includes an introductory course covering Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cell Biology and Genetics; a course on scientific  techniques;  and a course in Scientific Integrity.   Each of the three tracks, (Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular, Cellular &Developmental Biology) has specific course requirements, and students enroll in courses that are particular to their field as early as the second semester. 
Do you have a comprehensive exam?
Our comprehensive exams have both an oral and a written component, and the exam is taken by the end of the second year.  More details about the comprehensive exam can be found on our curriculum page. After passing a comprehensive exam, students become “doctoral candidates”.
How will I choose a lab?
We have a rotation system to help each student find the best fit.  Students need not make selections for laboratory rotations before they arrive in Lawrence.   In August, all incoming students attend a series of seminars presented by those faculty who will be accepting new students.  Between September and April, first-year graduate students rotate through three labs of their choosing. After the rotation period, the selection of a final lab home is based on mutual agreement between faculty and student.  If a student is unable to select a lab home after three rotations, additional rotations may be performed, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.
What is the average time to degree?
The average time to degree is between 5 to 6 years, with approximately 70% of students completing their degree in 6 years. Our time-to-degree statistics are on par with those of similar Ph.D.-granting institutions.

Time to Ph.D. Defense

Former Graduate Student Profile, from Jan 2009 – Aug 2014

How many semesters will I be teaching?
Each student is required to hold a Graduate Teaching Assistant appointment for two semesters. This is often done in the first year. Additional semesters of teaching are not required by the department, but are possible, depending on the interests of the students and the needs of their laboratory. After the first year, teaching requirements are negotiated between student and mentor.
To earn a Ph.D., how many papers must I publish?
You should aspire to communicate your scientific accomplishments by publishing your findings. Standards vary from lab to lab, but in general, publication of at least one major paper will be required in order to receive a Ph.D.
Do graduate students in your program have good publication rates?
Yes, our students publish 3 to 4 manuscripts, on average, based on their graduate work.
How many faculty are available for mentoring graduate students?
There are more than 40 research laboratories in our department and affiliated departments.
Is it possible to have more than one mentor?
In general, there is only one mentor for each student. However, there are many examples of collaborative research projects between labs with significant input from two or more faculty members. Students also receive input from other faculty members who serve on the student's graduate committee.
How many different research areas are there?
We have 13 different research areas represented by the faculty in the department.
In addition to GTA and GRA positions, are other sources of funding or graduate fellowships available?
Yes, there are multiple competitive graduate student fellowships available for outstanding students.
Do graduate students have many opportunities to present their work?
Yes, our graduate students frequently present their findings in local, national, and international conferences.  In addition, we require students to present their research annually in one of two specialized departmental seminars (Cellular & Molecular Proteins and Genetics of Development).
Are there opportunities for funding travel to scientific conferences?
Yes, the department and the university can offer funds to students who would like to present their findings in conferences. Such funding is competitive. Research mentors also fund conference participation.


How do I apply?
You can apply using our online application. Supporting documents should also be uploaded into the application system.
When is the deadline to apply?
Applications are due by December 1st.
Does it cost anything to apply?
Yes, there is an Application Fee of $65 for domestic applicants and $85 for international applicants. Fee waivers are possible under special circumstances (if interested, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies at azumay@ku.edu).
What is the Departmental GRE code?
The University of Kansas GRE and TOEFL code is 6871.
Will I be able to verify the status of my application?
Yes, we strongly advise students to use the online submission site to ensure that all parts of the application have been submitted, including letters of recommendation and official test scores and transcripts.  Prospective students should also ensure that their contact information is up-to-date.
Is an interview required for admission?
A committee of faculty will interview qualified prospective students before admission.  In-person interviews, as well as Skype interviews, are conducted.
Can I visit your campus?
Campus visits are a great way to meet faculty members and see our facilities. A limited number of applicants will be invited for campus visits. We also sponsor selected minority students for pre-application visits; if you are interested in this program, please email molbiograd@ku.edu.
What is the average GRE scores for admitted students?
The average quantitative GRE score for admitted students is 157.3.
What are the requirements for admission into your program?
Prospective students must fulfill all the requirements for their undergraduate degrees before they can matriculate into the program. Specific details regarding grades and test scores can be found on our Graduate Admissions page.
When will I know if I've been accepted?
The University of Kansas recognizes the April 15 date set by the Council of Graduate Schools (pdf) as the date by which offers of acceptance and financial support must be finalized. Thus, admissions decisions are typically finalized in mid-April. Signed letters from the Department and the University Graduate Program constitute an official acceptance.
Do you have a program leading to a Master's Degree?
The department is not actively recruiting Master's students at this time. However, we do accept students seeking a Master's under exceptional circumstances. Contact the Director of Graduate Studies at azumay@ku.edu if you would like to explore your options.

For International Applicants

What are the minimum TOEFL requirements for admission to the Molecular Biosciences graduate program at KU?
We require a minimum of 22 on the speaking TOEFL. All other parts of the exam must have a minimum score of 20. TOEFL scores cannot be more than 2 years old. An IELTS score of 8 or above is required for admission, and the IELTS score cannot be more than 2 years old.
My government will not support my doctorate unless I have a conditional acceptance. Can I send you a transcript for a provisional acceptance?
No. A complete application is required in order to be considered for admission.
I am an international student with a degree from a university where English is the language of instruction. Am I required to take the TOEFL exam?
Yes. TOEFL scores are required in order for students to fulfill their teaching requirements.
Am I required to provide documents describing my personal finances in order to be admitted into the graduate program?
No. However, proof of financial support may be required later by our office of International Student Services in order to help administer your VISA. You may provide such documents post-admission.
Where can I turn for assistance with adjusting to life in the U.S.?
In addition to the assistance you can find within our department, our International Student Services and other international societies offer assistance with immigration issues, social activities, trips to local attractions, and friendly support for our international students.

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