Ph.D. Program

Graduate Studies

The Genetics Ph.D. program provides opportunities for graduate study in all major areas of modern genetics, including identification and analysis of human disease genes, molecular evolution, gene therapy, statistical genetics, application of model organisms to problems in biology and medicine, and computational and experimental approaches to genome biology.

An underlying theme in our Department is that genetics is not merely a set of tools but a coherent and fruitful way of thinking about biology and medicine. To this end, we emphasize a spectrum of approaches based on molecules, organisms, populations, and genomes.

We provide training through laboratory rotations, dissertation research, seminar series, didactic and interactive coursework, and an annual three-day retreat.


Students receive a competitive stipend ($51,600) for the 2023-24 Academic Year), tuition, health insurance, and a dental care stipend for a full four years. We also encourage students to seek additional fellowships, including but not limited to: NSF GRFP, NIH F31, NDSEG, Stanford Bio-X fellowship, Stanford DARE, and Stanford CEHG Fellowship.

Lab Rotations

Students rotate through 3 laboratories during their first year in the Genetics Graduate Program. While most students start in Fall Quarter, students are encouraged to consider participating in the Advance Summer Institute for a smoother early transition into graduate school. There is a nomination & selection process. The department nominates, so if you are interested please let the department student services officer know. The program is not meant to be a source of summer bridge funding or simply an early rotation opportunity. There are many components to the program that require commitment of time and effort and the funding, reflects both the expectation of full participation and belief that participants should be compensated for these efforts. Office of Graduate Education does the selection for ADVANCE. There is no guarantee that if you are nominated that you will be of admitted into ADVANCE.

Rotations typically last one quarter each, but can be less and are contingent upon the faculty member agreeing to the rotation request. All Genetics students must rotate with at least 1 Genetics faculty member (primary or secondary appointment). Other rotations may be done with any Bioscience faculty.

While students may select a thesis laboratory after completing their third rotation, you can do more Selection of the dissertation research laboratory must be done with the faculty member's approval. Prior to committing to a dissertation laboratory, students are invited to discuss their selection with the Graduate Program Director. Students are welcome to join labs outside of the Genetics Department; if so, they will discuss with the Graduate Program Director whether transferring into that department would be beneficial.

Dissertation Research

Once a student selects a permanent laboratory, they begin their dissertation research that will last for approximately four years. All students are expected to publish at least one first-author paper about their research during this time period, and the work culminates with a thesis defense presentation and written dissertation. See the Genetics Student Handbook for more information.

Coursework, Qualifying Exams, and other Requirements

Students in the Genetics Graduate Program take the Qualifying Examination in the Fall Quarter of their second year of study. There are two parts to the exam, a written research proposal and an oral examination.

Ami Bhatt, Dylan Maghini, and collaborators from the University of the Witwatersrand visit with researchers and staff at the MRC/Wits Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit in Agincourt, South Africa.

Ami Bhatt, Dylan Maghini, and collaborators tour the MRC/Wits Public Health and Health
Transitions Research Unit labs and biobank facility in Agincourt, South Africa.

Service Requirement

Service and outreach are a critical component of a student’s development as a scientist, and offer unique opportunities to learn by interacting with individuals outside the Department. Students are expected to participate in a minimum of 60 hours of service and/or outreach work prior to defending their dissertation.

Supplementary Educational Activities

In addition to your courses, qualifying exams, and dissertation, the Genetics Department has arranged additional educational activities for students. These regularly occurring meetings are:

Current Issues in Genetics (CIG)
Two people from the Genetics Department give 20-25 minute presentations about their current work at this weekly Friday meeting. Students in their third year and above are expected to present their work annually. This series gives students the chance to learn about the range of science going on in the department and provides a great opportunity to give formal presentations to peers and colleagues. 

Graduate Student Journal Club
This weekly journal club is organized completely by graduate students from the Genetics and Developmental Biology Departments. At each meeting, one or two graduate students lead 30 minute discussions on their choice of a recent journal article. For the first three years of the Ph.D. program, each student presents once per academic year.

Refreshments are provided by the graduate students and reimbursed up to the current year limit. Reimbursement requires an original receipt to the Student Services Coordinator.

Frontiers in Biology 
Every week, the Departments of Genetics, Developmental Biology, and Biochemistry host an external speaker through the “Frontiers in Biology” seminar series. First year students also take a course related to this seminar (GENE 215), where they discuss a relevant paper the day before and meet the speaker after the presentation. 

Frontiers is held most Wednesdays at 4pm in Clark Auditorium.

Other Seminar Series
There are many other regular seminar series on campus that students choose to attend. Some of the most popular include:

Center of Law and the Biosciences lunchtime talks. See CLB events calendar or subscribe to the listserv

Evolgenome (organized by CEHG). See CEHG website or subscribe to the listserv

Teaching and Mentoring Academy Events. See TMA website or subscribe to the listserv

Discussing Developmental Data (3D). See events schedule

Biomedical Seminars. See events schedule or subscribe to the listserv



Important Forms

Other Important Info

Please examine the research interests and laboratory descriptions available from the Department Faculty page.

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs maintains a list of open postdoctoral positions. This site also provides useful information to those considering postdoctoral positions at Stanford.