Frequently Asked Questions
Don’t see your questions below? Contact the Program Coordinator for more information.
Q: What scores are the faculty review committee looking for on the GRE general exam?
A: GRE scores should be in the 45th percentile or above in the verbal and quantitative sections and 4.0 on the analytical writing section. Don’t be discouraged from applying if your scores are lower, however — often a lower score can be offset by a high GPA, strong letters of recommendation, a strong goals statement, or a combination of these.
Q: What type of background is needed to apply to the Bioinformatics & Computational Biology programs?
- A bachelor’s degree in biology, computer science, biotechnology or related science
- Undergraduate coursework or experience in higher-level programming languages to include JAVA, C++, R and Perl
- Integral calculus and one additional advanced level math course, such as multivariable/vector calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, probability/statistics, or discrete math
It is recommended that applicants have strength in one or more of the following areas: Molecular biology, Biochemistry or Physical chemistry.
Q: What background is needed to apply to the M.S. Biology or Ph.D. Biosciences programs?
A: A college degree in biology or one of the life sciences such as microbiology, biochemistry, biomedical sciences, or environmental science.
Q: What if I don't have a degree in Biology or Life Sciences?
A: Those who have a degree in an unrelated field may be admitted provisionally and be required to take additional undergraduate courses to build a background needed for successful graduate study. This would include coursework in cell biology, genetics, microorganisms, molecular biology, and biochemistry with associated labs. Alternatively, you may decide to take undergraduate courses as a non-degree student at Mason or at a local community college. These prerequisite courses would not be transferable to the graduate degree programs.
Q: Does the program accept applications after the published deadline?
A: Yes. The School of Systems Biology considers applications after the published deadlines, however applicants are not considered for possible department funding. Students whose application file becomes complete too late for the term may request to be considered for admission in the following semester. No additional application or fee is required. Applicants are able to request a change of term by email to the Graduate Admissions office.
Q: Can I apply for spring admission to the PhD programs?
A: You may request permission to apply to the PhD programs for spring admission by contacting the Program Director. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Deadlines would be one month ahead of the published MS application deadline for spring semester. Spring applicants are not considered for department funding.
Q: What kind of department funding is available?
A: Financial support is highly competitive. PhD programs are able to nominate one qualified applicant each fall semester for a Presidential Award scholarship. A limited number of competitive Graduate Teaching Assistantships carrying a tuition waiver and a stipend are available each year for PhD students with biology backgrounds. Other types of student funding are available through Mason’s Financial Aid office. Applications for the PhD program must be complete by February 15 to be considered for funding. Department funding is not normally available for MS or Certificate students.
Q: How long does it typically take to finish the MS or PhD programs?
A: If you are a part-time student (less than 9 credits per semester), your time to complete the degree will vary according to the number of credit hours you are able to take each semester. A full-time student in the MS program should finish in two to three years. Completing the MS program in one year is highly unlikely. A full-time PhD student with a previous MS degree in a related field should plan on three to four years, and a student with no previous M.S. degree should plan on five to six years to complete the PhD degree.
Q: Do I have to have a faculty member agree to be my research advisor at the time I apply?
A: No, but it is recommended that applicants contact two or three faculty members to discuss their ongoing research and determine if they are accepting new students. Faculty support for your application is often a key deciding factor in the application process, so be sure to name the faculty you would like to work with on a research topic in your goals statement. Check the Faculty Research listings for more information.