Join the Stanford Genetics Ph.D. Program!

The Genetics 2018 Cohort gathers during downtime at the annual departmental retreat in Monterey

Looking to apply in the future?

The Stanford Genetics department is always interested in training up-and-coming scientists from all backgrounds. Whether you are thinking about applying to the Ph.D. program in the future, currently in school, or taking some time after college before applying, there are some general tips for beginning your scientific training at every stage:

Gain research experience

Getting into a lab for hands-on experience is the best way to know whether you enjoy working as a research scientist. Previous research experience is one of the top things that admissions committees look for in Ph.D. applicants. As research is a core component of a Ph.D., a strong record helps to demonstrate that the applicant is committed to this type of work and ready for a research-intensive Ph.D. program.

If you are an undergraduate student looking for research experience, one option is to reach out to faculty and see if you can work in their lab for a semester. Many labs don't advertise openings, but would be happy to take on interested students! Some colleges even offer credits or payment for this work.

In the event that your college or university does not offer many research opportunities on campus, there are many summer programs available (such as the Stanford Summer Research Program), post-baccalaureate programs, and master’s programs in sciences. Other successful Ph.D. applicants gain this experience after college by working 1-3 years as a technician in a research laboratory.

Complete science coursework 

While there are no specific required classes, it is helpful to have a transcript that reflects your interest in science. Most successful Ph.D. applicants will have a strong record of science coursework (such as genetics, chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, statistics, etc). 

It is not necessary to have completed coursework in the specific field you are applying to (such as completing Genetics courses prior to applying to this department). However, completing field-specific courses can help to demonstrate a strong interest and commitment to that field, which is beneficial in the application process.

If you are unable to complete science coursework, a strong research record can compensate. Alternatively, many successful Ph.D. applicants have leveraged their non-traditional academic record by describing why it is relevant to their new field of interest, and giving examples of the unique perspectives their background will provide.

Get to know faculty

A lot of faculty enjoy engaging with students through the coursework they teach, in addition to serving as research mentors. Get to know your professors through attending office hours, participating in class discussions, or through research experiences in the laboratories. Many professors have a strong commitment to education and mentoring, and are more than happy to answer questions from students. They often provide invaluable personalized advice about careers in academia, Ph.D. programs that would be especially good fits, help navigating the application process, and more.

Stanford (and most other Ph.D. programs) requires three letters of recommendation, so getting to know faculty well helps them to write fantastic personal letters on your behalf.

Gain speaking and presentation experience

Sharing results is a critical component of science! Not only can presentations provide an opportunity for feedback from colleagues, they help you get more comfortable talking about your work with different audiences. Look for conferences, poster sessions, symposiums, and other forums to share your research.

Scholars present their final research projects at the Stanford Summer Research Program Symposium.

Applying

People interested in a Ph.D. in the Genetics Department apply through the Stanford Biosciences program, which has more information and frequently asked questions. Below, we will highlight just a few components that are of particular interest to the Genetics Department.

We believe everyone should have the equal opportunity to apply to Stanford Genetics. There is a Graduate fee waiver program for financially eligible individuals.

The key to selecting a successful graduate program is identifying the right research environment for you. In  to ensure the Stanford Genetics program is the appropriate Home Program within Stanford Biosciences for you, we recommend ensuring that your scientific interests align with those of the department and our faculty. Take the time to explore what ongoing projects are taking place across our department, and feel free to reach out to faculty or graduate students to ask additional questions.

If Genetics is your top choice of department, be sure to list it first on your application to the Bioscience program. While the application allows you to list 3 Home Programs, each Home Program makes independent admissions decisions. Many Home Programs will look at the applicants that list them as first choice, and only go to the applicants who listed them second/third after those initial decisions.

While your application should generally reflect the experiences mentioned above (such as research experience and strong letters of recommendation), here are a few other aspects the Genetics admission committee looks for:

Statement of purpose
     *This is a great opportunity for us to get to know you better. Be sure to highlight any experiences or challenges you faced along your scientific journey. This is also an opportunity to address anything unique about your application.
     *What are the experiences and perspectives that you will bring to our community?
     *What are your research interests? Specifically, address the research you have conducted and how your interests are aligned with the Stanford Genetics department and/or the Genetics faculty.

Optional short essay: Describe an unsolved biological problem
     *This is a chance for us again to see what you are interested in and how you would approach tackling a scientific problem of your choice.
     *It does not need to be related to your own research experiences, but can be a good place to demonstrate how your research interests align with those of the department.

Optional short essay: Diversity statement
     *This is a chance to share unique, personally important, and/or challenging factors in your background.
     *While optional, this section is especially recommended for students who are coming from a unique background or who have had a nontraditional route to graduate school

Be sure to submit all of your application materials on time. If anything is going to be late, reach out as soon as possible. This includes your three letters of recommendation, so be sure your recommenders know when and how to submit their letters on your behalf.

Interviewing

All applicants who are offered an interview will be welcomed to come to the Stanford campus for four days in early March. Flights, accommodations, and meals are all provided by Stanford. These recruits will spend time engaging in faculty and student talks, interviewing with faculty, getting to know current students (especially their student host) and other members of the recruitment class. There is also time devoted to walking around the medical and undergraduate campus, touring housing options, meals with faculty and students, and spending the final day in the broader Bay Area.

A few recommendations for recruits at the interview stage:
     *First and foremost, be yourself! We are very excited to get to meet you and want to make sure this is an environment and community in which you can thrive as a graduate student.
     *This is also your chance to interview us. Come with any questions you have about specific research projects, the research environment, program details, the broader Stanford Biosciences community, and/or other opportunities outside of research such as volunteering, teaching, outreach, etc.
     *Be able to discuss the significance of your research, and engage with the faculty about their research.
     *Demonstrate fluency with disciplinary jargon and ease in discussing technical details.
     *Highlight how your research interests align with the Genetics Department and faculty.
     *While not required or expected, feel free to send a follow up email to any faculty members with whom you had an especially good conversation.