Admissions and Recruitment

Apply to the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology at UC Berkeley and be a part of a collaborative, diverse, and engaged community of students and faculty. Work with leading scientists on groundbreaking research at the birthplace of immuno-oncology and CRISPR genome editing. 

The Department of Molecular and Cell Biology offers only a Ph.D. program and admits students to program only in the Fall semester.  Applications are available for submission online from September 15, 2021.  The deadline for applications is 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time (ET) on November 30th, 2021.  Late applications are not accepted. Students should complete their applications as early as possible and be sure to hit the submit button before the deadline. You will need to ensure that letters of recommendation, and other supporting documentation, reach the department no later than, Monday, November 30, 2021

The Department of Molecular and Cell Biology is particularly interested in providing educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds and from ethnic groups that are currently underrepresented in the biological sciences as well as military veterans and students with disabilities.  If you have DACA status, please be advised to respond "OT"  (Other Visa Type), when you are completing the application. If you would like to talk with a current student about their experiences as an underrepresented student within the program, please contact and someone will connect you with a current student. 

For more information and to submit an application go to:

If you are looking for information about the program, please visit the program information section of our website or watch the video below for an overview. 



Application Information

Application Deadlines & Information
Graduate Application for Admission & Fellowship November 30
TOEFL and GRE Scores November 30
Institution Code 4833

Admission is based on an evaluation by a departmental committee comprised of faculty and senior graduate students. The Admissions Committee employs a holistic approach to assessing the merits of each application. This means that we review all facets of an application in order to determine a candidate’s overall potential and fit with our program, weighing many factors including the applicant's undergraduate scholastic record, prior performance in laboratory research, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores if submitted.In particular, the Statement of Purpose and Personal Statement are very important aspects of your application. Please see below for advice on how to write these statements. Review begins as soon as an applicant's file is complete and early applications are encouraged.

Admission is based not only on the online application but also upon faculty interviews.  The Admissions Committee will invite selected applicants to participate in virtual recruitment interviews on January 30 -February 1 or February 13- 15, 2022.  Faculty evaluations of interviews are used by the Admissions Committee to make final admission recommendations to the Graduate Division. Offers of admission are made from late February through mid-March, 2022.

Strong undergraduate preparation for this program would include at least one year each of:

  • calculus, physics, and general biology
  • two to three semesters of chemistry (general, organic and physical chemistry)
  • additional advanced coursework in such areas as biochemistry, biophysics, cell biology, genetics, microbiology, molecular biology, immunology and/or neurobiology
  • experience of working in a research laboratory while an undergraduate 

Letters of recommendation should be from persons who have supervised your research or academic work and who can evaluate your intellectual ability, creativity, leadership potential and promise for productive scholarship.  If lab supervision was provided by a postdoc or graduate student, the letter should carry the signature of the faculty member in charge of the research project.  Letters of recommendation should be submitted online. 

Statement of Purpose and the Personal Statement

These statements are a very important part of your application as they provide the admissions committee with detailed information about your potential as a scientist. Please see general information about the Statement of Purpose and the Personal Statement provided by the Graduate Division.

Here is some more specific advice for the MCB Ph.D. program:

Committee members will be reading hundreds of these statements. Therefore, please focus on what makes you unique and interesting. Show us that you are creative, diverse, curious and passionate about science. Discussion of experiences that are common to many people (e.g., interest in science at a young age, loss of loved ones), while impactful events, do not provide insight into an applicant’s potential if discussed generically. Focusing on the specifics (e.g. of a disease, an event in your life that led to a particular insight, etc.) should be done in a fashion that relays the uniqueness of a candidate and their creative perspective.

The Statement of Purpose is a detailed summary (1-2 pages maximum) of your research experience and overall scientific preparation for a research Ph.D. Include your overall research interests and goals and why UC Berkeley and our department would be a good intellectual fit. A mere chronological listing of multiple research experiences is not as helpful as a narrative account of these experiences that explain their trajectory: how did your research experiences help you grow as a scientist and how have they now led to your decision to go to graduate school at Berkeley? When discussing your prior research, do not merely describe what you did or what techniques you employed; instead, explain the motivation behind your research, what question you are asking, why it is broadly interesting, why you took the approach you did, and/or what questions they now raise and how you would follow up on your work. Be specific and show that you are intellectually engaged with your science and can communicate it to a broad audience. Research experience is valuable because it helps the committee see that you understand what you are signing up for in your Ph.D.; so show us you understand what it takes to succeed in graduate school. Publications are always helpful, but certainly not a requirement. We are well aware that authorship on a paper sometimes reflects only a minimal contribution, or that major contributions are not always published prior to your application being submitted. Therefore, if you are an author on a paper that is published or in preparation, let us know; but more importantly, and regardless of the publication status of your research, tell us what your specific contributions were and how they supported the overall story presented in the paper.

The Personal Statement (1-2 pages maximum) should describe how your personal background shaped your interests and decision to pursue a graduate degree. Include any familial, educational, cultural, economic or social experiences that have affected your decisions to pursue a career in scientific research. If there are weaknesses in your academic record, this is an opportunity to explain them. Describe your leadership skills, interests, and how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity in the biological sciences. Note that perseverance and determination are important characteristics required to succeed in graduate school. Therefore, the committee not only evaluates your accomplishments but also measures these accomplishments against what you had to overcome to achieve them. We recognize that not everyone has had major difficulties to overcome, so don’t feel obliged to exaggerate. Instead, you can discuss how you have seen the struggles of others and how this and/or other factors motivate you as a scientist. At the end of the day, the committee is looking for future scientific colleagues. So, provide us with evidence that you are interactive, engaging and that you will contribute to a diverse and stimulating environment at Berkeley.

Exam Requirements

The department has decided to make the submission of GRE score both for the general and subject-specific exam optional. However, we will still consider GRE scores if they are submitted, and such scores may be helpful for students with gaps or weaknesses in their prior academic records. If you choose not to take the GRE or report your GRE score, this will have no negative impact on your application assessment.

Applicants whose native language is not English, and who have not received a degree from an English language institution, are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) receiving a minimum score of 570 for the paper test, 233 for the Computer Based Test (CBT) or 90 on the Internet-based test (IBT). You are not required to take the TOEFL if at the time of application you meet at least one of the following: 

  • you have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a U.S. university
  • Have a basic degree from a recognized institution in a country where the official language is English.
  • Have completed a basic or advanced degree at an institution, in the United States or a United States institution abroad, where the language of instruction is English and the institution is accredited by one of the United States’ regional accrediting agencies.
2021 Entering Class Profile
  Total Matriculated           49
  Men 35%
  Women 63%
  Declined/Trans/Non-binary 2%
  Students from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds 37%
  International Students 16%
  California Residents 47%
  Average Age 25 (range: 20-37)


Frequently Asked Questions

When is the admission application deadline for the Ph.D. program?

Our application deadline is November 30th preceding the August for which you are seeking admission.  We admit for the fall semester only.

Do you accept applications after the November 30th deadline?

No. Applications and all supporting documents (transcripts and letters of recommendation) must be received by the November 30th deadline. 

Where should transcripts be sent?

Electronic copies of transcripts should be uploaded with your admission application. If admitted into the program, you will be required to submit a hard copy of your official transcript upon your acceptance of the admission offer.

What are the test(s) required to apply to your program?

For all International Students, the TOEFL or IELTS is required, unless one of the above exemptions is met.  For Fall 2022, TOEFL or IELTS tests taken before June 1, 2020, will not be accepted even if your score was reported to Berkeley.

For more information on English language testing requirements and possible exceptions please go to

Why is the GRE not required?

The department has decided that there is significant evidence that GRE scores disadvantage certain populations and benefit others. The department also believes the GRE may be a potential barrier to certain populations due to the cost associated with taking the test. The admission committee will make no assumptions if a GRE score is omitted from an application but the inclusion of a good score may improve the application of a candidate that has deficiencies in other aspects of their application. If you choose not to take the GRE or report your GRE score, this will have no negative impact on your application assessment. 

What codes should I use to report scores to UC Berkeley?

The UC Berkeley institution code for GRE and TOEFL is 4833.  Dept code to be used for the GRE is 0206 (cell/cellular biology) and the department code to use for the TOEFL is 74.

Have you received my GRE and/or TOEFL scores?

Scores are sent directly to the university and matched to your online application before being downloaded to the department. 

If you list UC Berkeley as a school to receive your scores, they will be automatically uploaded to our system. 

How do I calculate my major GPA?

Your major GPA is based upon all coursework taken for your major and includes both upper and lower division courses.  There are some on-line GPA calculators you can find with a Google search.

How many letters of recommendation should I submit?

Three online letters of recommendation are required.  It is recommended that you stay within this requirement.

My recommender cannot submit their letter online, what do I need to do?

If your recommender is not able to submit their letter online through the campus admissions program, they may send a copy directly to our department.  To expedite the review of your application they can either email or fax the letter to us. Email letters may be sent to us at and the subject line should contain the applicant name and "LOR". 

Am I required to contact the faculty prior to applying?

You are not required to contact the faculty but you might find it worthwhile to do so particularly regarding specific research questions.

Do I have to provide a list of faculty in whose research I'm interested? Why?

Yes, we ask that you provide the names of between 1-3 faculty (of ~ 90 total faculty) with whom you are interested in conducting research or performing rotations.  In choosing faculty whose research interests match your own the Chair of Admissions will be able to direct your application to the appropriate sub-committee for review; and, second, it assists the staff in arranging for appropriate faculty interviews and student hosting should you be selected for an interview visit. Please be aware that you will have an opportunity to list additional faculty should you be invited for an interview. 

Where and how do I list my research experience?

Prior research experience is a very important part of your application.  In addition to describing your research in your Statement of Purpose, please list all research experience in the Research Experience section.  You will be asked to include the Institution/Employer, Faculty Mentor/Supervisor, Position Title, Dates of Employment, and Title of Research Project.  

I want to study Neuroscience, where can I learn about my options?

Berkeley offers several PhD programs, including MCB, in which students can receive training in neuroscience and conduct neuroscience research. You can learn more about these programs here:

How can I check on the status of my application?

Due to the high volume of inquiries we receive, we may not be able to respond to each request individually.  However, if your application is missing any supporting documents, you will be notified.  Please wait one week beyond the application deadline before making inquiries to allow time for processing of all documents for all applicants.

When will I hear whether or not I'm invited for an interview visit?

Applicants invited for an interview visit will be contacted by mid-January. 

When are the recruitment visit dates?

The recruitment dates are January 30- February 1 or February 13-15, 2022. 

If I'm invited for an interview visit, when will I hear the final admission decision?

All admission decisions are finalized by mid-March following the recruitment visits.

If this information did not answer your question please feel free to contact us at 510-642-5252.

More Information on the MCB Graduate Program may be requested from:

MCB Graduate Affairs Office
University of California
Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
299 Weill Hall #3200
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3200
Tel. (510) 642-5252

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Financial Support

We provide five and a half years of financial support to all students (including international students) maintaining satisfactory academic progress. With the approval of the dissertation committee, this support can be extended for an additional semester  (the end of the sixth year). The Department provides a competitive stipend and coverage of all fees and non-resident tuition. Graduate student fees cover the cost of comprehensive health and dental insurance throughout the doctoral program.   Support for the graduate program is provided by training grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), federal, state, and private funds as well as university and extramural fellowships.  Students may also be appointed as Graduate Student Researchers (GSR) and Graduate Student Instructors (GSI).

The MCB Department administers four NIH training grants (T32) in the following research areas:  Molecular Basis of Cell Function (David Bilder / Elçin Ünal, Co-Program Director; NIGMS GM007232); Genomics (Daniel Rokhsar/ Michael Eisen, Co-Program Directors; NHGRI HG00047); Immunology and Pathogenesis Program (Ellen Robey/ Gregory Barton, Co-Program Director; NIAID AI100829); and Genetic Dissection of Cells and Organisms (Jasper Rine/ Iswar Hariharan, Co-Program Directors). 

California Residency. U.S. citizens who are not residents of California are expected to take the steps necessary to gain residency during their first year. Some examples of what is required to obtain residency in California include: Registering to vote and voting in California elections; filing California state income taxes; registering your car in and obtaining a driver's license from the State of California; designating California as your permanent address and establishing and maintaining active bank accounts in California and closing all out-of-state accounts. Nonresident tuition for the period during which students are establishing California residency (first year) is also covered by the department.  Residency is handled by the Office of the Registrar and further information can be obtained at their website:


Berkeley and Chancellors Fellowships – awarded to outstanding applicants to doctoral programs in all fields;

The University allocates a small number of fellowship nominations to each department, which enables Ph.D. programs to nominate outstanding candidates applying for admission for a fellowship award. Each department nomination is read by two members of a 25-30-member faculty review committee that is appointed by the Academic Senate. The University Faculty Review Committee meets after the initial review to discuss scores and then submits a final ranking to the Graduate Division based on that discussion. The awarding is based strictly on the University Faculty Review Committee’s final ranking. The Graduate Division administers the fellowships competition for the Graduate Council, and the awarding decisions of the University Faculty Review Committee are final and cannot be appealed.

Fellowship Amount (Berkeley, Chancellor’s)

Two years of funding: $34,000 annual stipend ($29,000 academic year, $5,000 summer) plus tuition/fee coverage. MCB students that are awarded a Fellowship receive a supplemental award from the department to ensure they receive the current $39,000 annual stipend (as of the 21-22 academic year). The Department guarantees that all students receive the same base level of funding throughout their studies. 

All prospective students are urged to apply for any extramural predoctoral fellowships for which they may be eligible, including those from the National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, Department of Defense and, private and corporate fellowships. 

International Applicants

The Curci International Graduate Student Fellowship is available for promising international students. This fellowship covers all tuition and fees, including non-resident tuition and healthcare, plus the annual MCB stipend. International students will be considered at the time they apply for admission to MCB.

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