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The Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Graduate Program trains students studying for the PhD degree. PhD students are admitted once each year for Fall quarter matriculation.

The online application for Fall 2024 can be found here:  Application opens September 1st and close December 1st at 11:59pm PST.

For admissions inquiries, please email [email protected].


Students with backgrounds in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics and related fields, are welcome to apply, providing they have demonstrated a high level of academic proficiency (generally a grade point average of 3.2 or higher in relevant science courses). Evidence of exposure to scientific research, generally as participation in a research project during at least one summer, is regarded as an important attribute of the successful applicant. Such research experience might include an undergraduate thesis project, a laboratory internship, technician position, or summer research program in university or industry laboratories. A coherent account of such exposure is one of the key components of a successful application to the program.

The minimum requirement for application to the DSCB program is a Baccalaureate degree; a Master's degree is not a prerequisite for admission. There are no specific course requirements for admission, but courses in biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry, physics, computation, or related fields represent typical and highly appropriate preparation.

To apply to the program, complete the online application and arrange for at least three letters of recommendation to be submitted on your behalf. Scores from the GRE general test are OPTIONAL (TOEFL/IELTS scores for foreign applicants are required) and an official transcript from all institutes of higher learning attended are also required.  See institutional requirements on the Graduate Division's admissions page.

The Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Graduate Program is committed to providing access for all people with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodations as necessary. Applicants with disabilities who are invited for interviews will be offered reasonable accommodations. More information can be found on the Office of Student Disability Services website.

You may apply to only one UCSF graduate program in an academic year. It is therefore important to consider which program suits your interests and apply to only that program. Listed below are other graduate programs at UCSF in which many DSCB faculty also participate, along with a link to their respective websites. Each graduate program maintains its own admissions procedure.

DSCB shares some aspects of its curriculum with other UCSF programs due to overlapping research areas. However, DSCB is a distinct program that maintains a separate curriculum and separate admission process. If you are unsure which program may be right for you, we encourage you to review the curriculum pages on each program's respective website (linked above) to help you in your decision-making. You are also welcome to contact the DSCB Program Directors or any of our faculty members if you have specific questions. Generally, students who are committed to Developmental and Stem Cell Biology apply directly to the DSCB program; students with an interest in broader and more interdisciplinary approaches to biomedical research apply to the BMS program; and students with an interest in broader and more interdisciplinary approaches to areas including cellular and molecular biology apply to the TETRAD program. Again, DSCB coordinates many activities and aspects of its curriculum with both BMS and TETRAD.

Application Materials

Letters of recommendation: We will accept electronic letters of recommendation; instructions for submitting all letters are included with our online application.

Transcripts: We require a transcript from each institute of higher education that you have attended. High school transcripts are not required. Transcripts may be uploaded into the online application. The Graduate Division requires that transcripts from institutions outside of the US be accompanied by an evaluation from an accredited evaluation service. We recommend World Education Services (WES). You can scan the evaluation into your application along with your transcript. We only need the scanned copy of your transcript for the application evaluation process.  If you are unable to scan and upload a transcript, they can be mailed directly from the institution to the address below.  

Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Graduate Program
University of California, San Francisco
513 Parnassus Ave., Room HSE-1285
Box 0505
San Francisco, CA 94143-0505

GRE Scores: DSCB does not require GRE General test scores for admission into the program. Submission of GRE scores are OPTIONAL.  

If you plan to submit GRE scores for Fall 2024 admission, we recommend that the GRE General test should be taken no later than September 2023 to ensure delivery by the December 1st deadline.

GRE Codes: For purposes of requesting that your scores be sent to us, the institutional code for UCSF is 4840. Department code 0299 may be used, but is not required since we match your scores to your application using your registration number and name.

A non-refundable application fee ($120 for US citizens and permant residents, and $140 for international applicants) is required to finalize your application. Instructions for submitting the fee are included in the online application.  We encourage students to seek application waivers based on financial need, participation in certain programs, and universities, and other extenuating circumstances.  The Graduate Division website has full information on fee waivers.

Note that fee waivers must be requested and approved in advance of the application deadline.  Although the normal turnaround is 2 business days, it is helpful to do it as soon as you are initiating your application (up to 3 months in advance of the deadline).  Fee waivers are not seen by the BMS admissions committee and have no impact on your application.

Evaluation of Applications

Academics:  We look carefully and holistically at the academic history and experience of each applicant, including anhy challenges you faced, which can be discussed in the person statement.  "Academic history" means much more than GPA and the name of the undergraduate institution you attended.  We consider GPA, the institution and its philosophy on grading, the courses you took, your major(s), extracurriculars, work history, and other components of your academic experience across undergraduate or postgraduate education that you provide in your statements.

Personal Statement:  This is your chance to tell us about you!  We are curious about your motivations, how you ended up where you are apply from, why you want to go to graduate school, why you're interested in biomedical science, what faculty you are excited about working with, and related.  Use this statement to explain 'gaps' in time in your application when there are not clear activities.  For example, if you took a gap year what did you do in that time?  Also use this statement to explain career transitions.  If you are moving from industry to a PhD, why?  If you are switching fields, why?  Try to think about any 'unknowns' in your application and shore them up so that the admissions committee doesn't have to guess (we don't know!).  For example, we understand that sometimes it is not possible to request a supportive letter of reference from a prior supervisor.  The personal statement is a good place to make candid statements about recommenders and prior experiences to help us understand your application.

Also use the personal statement to discuss challenges you may have experienced that affected your academics or research experience or other components of your application.  We recognize that it can be challenging when applying for graduate school to have to relieve prior traumatic experiences.  We are not seeking detailed descriptions of trauma and do not try to 'quantify' this, which is impossible.  However, stating the challenges that may have affected your path to UCSF, at a level of detail you are comfortable with, will help us understand your experiences.  Please note, this is sometimes also referred to as a Statement of Purpose.

Research Summaries and Research Statement:  The research summary sections should focus on the specific work you are doing/have done in one specific lab/research environment, and the research statement should be more of an overview of your experience and cover the content below. It is okay if there is some overlap between the summaries and the statement. The summaries should indeed be summaries, 1-2 paragraphs max. Please keep your research statement to 2 pages at most.

Research Statement Prompt: We consider prior research experience to an important part of applying to our graduate program for two main reasons: 1) it helps us evaluate your potential as a researcher, and 2) it shows us that you have an understanding of how the intensive experience of graduate school aligns with your future career goals.  Use the research statement to tell us about your prior research experience, whether it be in academic labs, industry, or elsewhere. Some students have worked in multiple labs, whereas others have worked solely in one or concentrated primarily on independent study - there is no single 'best' way to have prior research experience.  In the statement, we would like to know what questions you attempted to answer (even if you didn't answer them), the goals of your research, your specific contributions to projects, information about any publications or future authorship expectations, and anything else you think may be important about your experience.  It is important to indicate what your independent contributions to a project where, both in terms of experiments and intellectual contributions.  Tell us about what your lab experience was like.  Did you go to conferences?  Did you present at lab meetings?  Write a thesis?  We want to know as much as possible.

Reference Letters:  We request that you submit at least three, up to five, letters of reference on your behalf.  These letters should ideally come from prior supervisors who can speak to your potential, independence, research experiences, and character.  Coworkers or teaching faculty can also be strong letters, but the most valuable are often from research supervisors.  Encourage letter writers from industry to discuss their thoughts on your transitioning to an academic setting.  

When considering who to ask for reference letters, it is useful to ask if they can write a 'strong' letter on your behalf.  If there are specific things you would like them to write about, ask them to include these in the letter - this doesn't mean writing the letter for them, rather asking them to discuss something that would strengthen your application.  Reference letters are evaluated in coordination with other application materials both as an assessment of you as a future scientist and to help us understand you better.

Dates and Deadlines

Applications for Fall 2024 will open Sept. 1

Applications are accepted for admission in the Fall quarter only. For Fall 2024 admission, all application materials (application, letters of recommendation, transcripts) must be received by the application deadline, December 1st 2023 at 11:59pm.

For Fall 2024 admission, we recommend that the required GRE general test be taken no later than October 2023 (though not required).

Review of applications starts on December 2nd.  We expect to notify applicants where they have been invited to interview by no later than late December 2023.

Financial Support

All students admitted to the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program are guaranteed a stipend to cover living expenses, plus payment of tuition and fees. To make the available funds go as far as possible, all students who are admitted will be considered for fellowships administered by the UCSF Graduate Division, a major source of support for incoming students. In addition, students are encouraged to apply for support from other sources, such as predoctoral fellowships from the National Science Foundation or Ford Foundation. If outside fellowship support is not obtained, or if partial awards are made, other funds available to the program will be used to supplement the awards up to the guaranteed level of support.

The Financial Aid Office provides information and applications for other forms of financial support such as loans and work-study programs. Address inquiries to Financial Aid Office, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0246, or call (415) 476-4181.

Fellowship Information
Once students enter the DSCB program they will be strongly encouraged to apply for graduate fellowships from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other sources. Fellowship awards benefit both the program and the students, and often include additional funds for the student's computer expenses, journal subscriptions, and travel to scientific meetings. Eligibility for graduate fellowships depends upon a student's background and research interests.

The online application will be available in August. Initial application is due in mid/late October. You may find more information at NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  We strongly recommend you apply!

Other fellowships for graduate students include:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) F31
  • National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG)
  • Porter Physiology Development Fellowship Program for underrepresented ethnic minority students
  • Dept. of Homeland Security Scholarship and Fellowship Program

Please see the UCSF Graduate Division website for additional resources.