Graduate and Professional Student Center

Big Red Barn Graduate and Professional Student Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a typical class size and who are typically enrolled?

The Field enrolls on average about 12 PhD students per year.  Successful applicants come from a wide variety of backgrounds – from small liberal arts colleges to Ivy League universities to large state universities; some straight from their undergraduate program, others from an MS program, still others from related jobs in industry or academia. Matriculating students commonly will have majored in one of the many areas of biology, and it is not uncommon for entering students to have backgrounds in computer science or mathematics.

Do you accept international students?

Yes!  We strike to maintain a balance of about 75% United States citizens / permanent residents and 25% international students in each matriculating class.

What makes a competitive applicant?

We are searching for applicants who we believe can flourish in the program.  The selection committee pays particular attention to strong prior experience in research and academic performance.  The median undergraduate grad point average of admitted students is roughly 3.5 to 3.7.

Are there particular criteria that the Admission Committee look for?

Each application is evaluated as a whole rather than on just one aspect of the package. Applicants are judged on academic credentials (GPA and relevant course grades), their statement of purpose and, especially, on letters of recommendation. Prior research experience and strong recommendation letters from research mentors are considered to be particularly important.

Why does GGD no longer require applicants to submit the GRE scores?

In our opinion the GRE is not a strong predictor of success in graduate school. Considering the cost of taking the test and sending scores to graduate programs we decided to stop requiring the GRE for admissions.

What do students typically accomplish before graduation?

The average GGD student will have co-authored at least two publications in top journals by the time they finish their Ph.D.  Students need to have contributed substantially to at least one major published or submitted paper.

What do students typically do after graduation?

A majority of GGD students go on to post-doctoral positions in top labs around the country/world though we are increasingly seeing our graduates start their professional careers (e.g. biotech, teaching, public policy) immediately after completing the Ph.D..  For students who have pursued post-doctoral studies many become faculty at major research universities or small teaching colleges, some become researchers at pharmaceutical or biotech companies, some take positions at research institutes like the NIH, some become science writers, and some use their training in jobs in law or business or policy.

Do students get guidance on career options?

Our students are encouraged to explore a variety of career paths based on their individual goals and missions. Career Development mini-courses and workshops are held regularly to provide opportunities for career explorations. Many GGD students participate in Cornell’s BEST program (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training).  Also, many of our graduates return to Cornell to discuss their careers and often serve as informal career mentors for our students.