The Department of Chemical and Systems Biology admits Ph.D. students through the Stanford Biosciences Program, which spans the Schools of Medicine and Humanities & Sciences. All applicants are required to use Stanford’s online application. The Stanford Biosciences website also provides information on specific training programs and the admissions process.

Student Spotlight

General Admissions Information

The department of Chemical and Systems Biology recognizes that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2023 about the consideration of certain types of demographic information as part of an admission review. All applications submitted during upcoming application cycles will be reviewed in conformance with that decision.

The department of Chemical and Systems Biology welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. The review process is holistic and individualized, considering each applicant’s academic record and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, prior research experience, and admissions essays to understand how an applicant’s life experiences have shaped their past and potential contributions to their field and how they might enrich the learning community at Stanford.

The Stanford Biosciences Admissions Office, not the Department of Chemical and Systems Biology, processes applications for the Ph.D. program. All materials should be uploaded electronically to the online application.

Graduate Admissions only requires admitted applicants who accept the offer of admission to submit official transcripts that shows their degree conferral. Please do not send or have sent any official transcripts to us at this time.

Dana Ramalho

Student Services Officer

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Chemical and Systems Biology Information Session Webinar

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I apply to Chemical and Systems Biology (CSB) and where can I go for more in depth information about the application process?

Please refer to this How to Apply webpage and the Graduate Admissions webpage for more information on the application process.

Please also refer to our CSB Information Session Webinar in which CSB faculty and students answer various questions about the admissions process and what it is like to be a PhD student in the CSB Department. We plan to post a new webinar every fall before applications open.

2. What does CSB look for in an application?

Please see our CSB Information Session Webinar for more in depth perspectives from our faculty and students, including research experience, research interest and fit with the CSB mission. The information session details what the admission committee looks for in an application and answers various questions regarding the application process.

3. What should I write for my Statement of Purpose?

We encourage you to reference the Graduate Admissions Statement of Purpose link and the Stanford Biosciences How to Apply link for more information.

Statements of purpose that address how you can apply scientific reasoning and rigor to your research projects, and leverage your unique interests and talents to do so, tend to fare better than those that list techniques you have mastered.

4. How many letters of recommendation do I need?

At least three letters of recommendation are required for your application. For more information, please reference the Graduate Admissions Letters of Recommendation link as well as the Stanford Biosciences How to Apply link.

We encourage you to seek out recommenders who can speak to your character, depth of scholarship, and curiosity as a researcher.

5. Who is on the Admissions Committee that reviews my application?

All Primary CSB faculty members and 2-3 student reviewers will select candidates to be invited to interview.

6. If I am invited to visit Stanford, do I need to pay for my trip?

Stanford will cover the expenses for your admissions in-person visit.

7. How do I choose a home program?

When completing the “Program Selection” section of the application, you will be asked to select a “Program Choice”. Although Biosciences applicants can apply to up to two Home Programs, at this point please select your top Home Program choice.

When completing the “Biosciences PhD Admissions Supplemental Form,” which is part of the “Supplemental Information” section of the application, you will have the opportunity to select one additional Home Program. Only select an additional program if you have a genuine interest in the field. Including a poorly matched program will not necessarily increase your chances of being accepted. You will be required to answer additional questions related to your Home Program selection(s) on the Supplemental Form. The information you provide in this section will help the Admissions Committee match you with the Home Program that seems most suited to your background and research interests.

8. Can I apply to more than one Biosciences home program?

You can choose up to two home programs when completing the “program selection,” section of your application. Please only select a secondary program if you have a genuine interest in the field. A poorly matched additional home program will not increase your chances of being accepted.

To clarify, you may apply to only one degree program at Stanford per academic year. An exception is within the Biosciences, in which you may apply to up to two of the 14 Biosciences home programs within your one Biosciences PhD application.

9. What is the application fee and is there assistance available?

The application fee is $125, is non-refundable, and must be received by the application deadline. Please review more information about the application fee here.

If you are not eligible for the Biosciences fee waiver but still need financial assistance, please email Requesting a fee waiver has no impact on the review of your application.

10. How does funding work at Stanford?

All CSB students in good standing receive a competitive stipend, as well as tuition and health insurance. Stanford guarantees your funding for the first four years coming from the Biosciences program, allowing you independence in your thesis lab choice. Your lab generally funds you for the remainder of your time as a CSB graduate student at Stanford. The department also encourages students to seek internal and external fellowships to provide additional support for their research.

11. How many faculty members are in the CSB Department?

Please refer to this link for information on CSB faculty.

12. Is there a minimum GPA score requirement?

No, there are no minimum GPA score requirements. Each application is viewed as a complete packet, and the reviewers will consider letters of recommendation, personal statements, transcripts, etc.

13. How do I submit my official TOEFL scores to the Stanford Biosciences Program?

Applicants will need to use recipient number 4704 to communicate their official TOEFL to the central Biosciences Graduate Admissions Office at Stanford.

14. Can I apply for a fellowship?

Students are highly encouraged to apply for outside fellowships, and our trainees have historically been very competitive for the most prestigious predoctoral fellowships. Students are therefore expected to apply for outside funding if eligible (e.g. National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowships, Hertz Graduate Fellowships, and Ford Foundation Fellowships. Matriculated students can also apply for internal funding opportunities at Stanford, including Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowships, Bio-X Fellowships, DARE Doctoral Fellowships, and Gerald J. Lieberman Fellowships.

15. Is there a teaching assistant requirement?

Chemical and Systems Biology Ph.D. students are not required to teach or serve as teaching assistants (TAs). Nevertheless, many students in our program are considering academic careers, and they have found TA positions helpful in assessing their interest in and aptitude for teaching. TA positions also provide some extra income to students, and they are regularly available through the numerous undergraduate- and graduate-level courses at Stanford.

16. How do I join a research laboratory?

First-year graduate students are required to rotate in three laboratories before selecting a faculty advisor, spending one quarter in each laboratory. The purpose of the rotation system is to broaden the students’ research experience, to familiarize them with ongoing projects, and to find a laboratory that matches their needs both intellectually and culturally. The fall and winter rotations are performed within the Department of Chemical and Systems Biology; the spring quarter rotations may be within the Department, or alternatively, students may arrange to rotate with faculty in other programs. After the laboratory rotations are completed, students can approach faculty members about dissertation research opportunities under his/her guidance. These discussions guide the final matching of students and faculty advisors.

17. What courses should I take?

Course requirements for The Chemical and Systems Biology Ph.D. program are provided in the Chemical and Systems Biology Student Guide.

18. What are the requirements for graduation?

Students receiving a Ph.D. in Chemical and Systems Biology must complete the following requirements. More information on these requirements are available in the Chemical and Systems Biology Student Guide.

  • Qualifying Exam
  • “Admissions to Candidacy” application
  • Dissertation Reading Committee selection
  • One or more peer-reviewed research publications
  • “Terminal Graduation Registration” petition
  • University Oral Examination
  • Ph.D. Dissertation

19. What opportunities are there at Stanford as a CSB student?

We encourage eligible, incoming students to consider ADVANCE.

We encourage our matriculated CSB students to check out the Molecular Pharmacology Training Program for funding and activity opportunities.

Other Stanford programs are available for students interested in translational medicine, biotechnology, and entrepreneurship. These include the Stanford SPARK Program, the ChEM-H Chemical/Biology Interface Training Program, and courses available through Stanford Ignite.

The Department of Chemical and Systems Biology organizes several events and programs to enhance graduate student training, such as the Cutting Lectures, a vibrant seminar series throughout the academic year, that allows students to hear from and interact with internationally renowned scientists. Other opportunities include the Sterling Visiting Lectureship and workshops from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

The Department also hosts an annual three-day retreat at an off-site location, typically near Santa Cruz, Monterey or Lake Tahoe. The retreat is held at the beginning of the fall quarter and allows new trainees to rapidly acquaint themselves with ongoing research within the department and to meet current faculty, students, and postdoctoral fellows.

20. Do graduate students get a chance to share their research with the rest of the CSB department?

Graduate students have regular opportunities to share their research discoveries with the Chemical and Systems Biology community. Throughout the academic year, the Department convenes each week for Science Circle Pizza Talks and Think Tanks, during which students and postdoctoral fellows present their work and receive feedback.

21. What are some university resources available to CSB graduate students?

22. What are some CSB community events and/or groups?

  • Summer lab-hosted happy hours
  • Monthly birthday celebrations
  • Friendsgiving
  • Winter party
  • Bagel fridays
  • CSB Alumni Panel and BBQ
  • CSB Peer Mentoring Program
  • Women in Chemical and Systems Biology
  • CSB DECIDE (Diversity, Equity, Community, Inclusion, DEliberate action)

23. Can I speak with current CSB students?

Please feel free to reach out to the students below.

Laura Keller –
Christy Luong –

  • Christy is a graduate student in the CSB program that is co-mentored by Howard Chang and Joanna Wysocka. She is interested in researching epigenetics, gene regulation, RNA biology, and early development. She went straight to graduate school after pursuing her undergrad at UCLA where she did research on the mechanisms of X-chromosome inactivation.

Becca Rodell – – she/her

  • Becca is a graduate student (matriculated Fall 2021) in the CSB program. Her research interests are in molecular mechanisms and RNA biology. Before joining the CSB department, she did her undergrad at Cornell University, majoring in biology, and spent two years working as a research technician at Washington University in St Louis, studying DNA repair mechanisms.