Prospective Graduate Students

We provide a wide variety of opportunities to students interested in graduate study in biology. Below are some items you may want to consider in deciding whether our program(s) match your interests and goals.

Choose a Degree Program

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 

This is a research-intensive degree leading to a dissertation based on high-quality, original research. Average time to completion is between five and six years.

Master of Science (M.S.) Plan A

This is a research-intensive degree leading to a thesis based on high-quality, original research that is more restricted in scope than a Ph.D.

Master of Science (M.S.) Plan B

This is a coursework intensive degree that does not require a thesis but does require a one-semester independent project involving original scholarship.

Find an Advisor

We only admit applicants who have been formally sponsored by a member of our faculty. To assure consideration of your application, you must contact those faculty members whose interests match your own. Do this before you apply. You can find out about faculty members' research programs in our directory and review a list of our faculty actively recruiting graduate students.

Feel free to contact more than one member of the faculty, either by e-mail or by phone. Be prepared to send a curriculum vitae and a statement of your research interests and career goals. Ask the faculty member(s) whether he or she is planning to accept new students for the coming year. Most of us have a limit to how many students we can advise at the same time, and so it may not be possible for a given individual to sponsor a new student even if that applicant is very accomplished. However, you do have an opportunity to convince that faculty member why you would be a good addition to his or her lab.

Consider an Interdisciplinary Program 

Nora Lewin working under a fume hood

We are well positioned to help students prepare for careers in the increasingly interdisciplinary world of modern biological science. Most of our faculty members have a strong interdisciplinary component to their research programs and maintain collaborations with scientists in other MSU departments. Most graduate students working with our faculty also complete the requirements of one or more of the interdisciplinary graduate programs. Depending upon the program, this may lead to a stand-alone degree or to a joint degree in addition to the Integrative Biology degree.

Financial Support

Most of our graduate students receive some form of support to cover living expenses and tuition during their studies. Doctoral students are guaranteed 5 years of support, and Masters of Science Plan A students are guaranteed 3 years of support. Masters of Science Plan B students are not guaranteed financial support but are eligible for graduate assistantships if available.

Besides living expenses and tuition, you will need funds to cover research costs. Funds are often available from faculty research grants, but you are encouraged to apply for research funding once you start the graduate program. Learn more about financial support for our graduate students. We also encourage you to discuss funding options with your prospective advisor(s).

Julie Turner kneeling next to a hyena.

Undergraduate Preparation

The following undergraduate preparation in mathematics, chemistry, and physics is required:

  • Mathematics through the first-semester calculus plus either a second calculus class or a statistics course
  • Chemistry through the first-semester organic chemistry plus either second-semester organic chemistry or biochemistry
  • One semester of college physics

Should a student matriculate at Michigan State University without this undergraduate preparation, it will be necessary to correct shortcomings while here. Be advised that courses taken to correct shortcomings might be at the undergraduate level and not earn graduate credit. Every effort should be made to be completely prepared prior to matriculation.

Prepare to Apply

Below are the steps you should follow to prepare for your application to graduate program in Integrative Biology.

  • Study the list of faculty interests and contact prospective faculty advisors to see if they will accept new students for next year. Only applicants sponsored by an Integrative Biology faculty member can be considered for admission (August-November).

  • Take the GRE exam; only the General Test is required.

  • Consider the options for interdisciplinary programs, and consult with your prospective advisor about whether you should apply to one of these programs as well as to Integrative Biology. 

  • Line up strong letters of support and prepare strong essays.

  • Consider making a visit to campus to meet with your prospective advisor and other members of the department before applying.

  • Submit application materials by December 1st to apply to our graduate program.