Requirements for Applicants


Applicants to the Biophysics Program are required to have, or be on their way to completion of, a BA, BS, or equivalent undergraduate degree.  In most cases this entails completion of a 4-year undergraduate course of study in a relevant major.  For prospective international students, a 3 or 4-year undergraduate degree from an institute of recognized standing would be considered acceptable.  See suggested coursework and background preparation information in the section below.


December 1, 2021

All application materials: the Online Application Form (along with the application fee payment), Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Statement of Purpose, and TOEFL Test Scores (where required) need to be in by 5:00 pm, Eastern Standard Time on this date.  Late applications will not be considered.  Please see the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions page for additional information.

Applicants from the Harvard Medical School MD-PhD Program should submit a "pre-application" by October 15th, 2021, to be considered for entry in the Fall of 2022.  The application should be completed in the GSAS Application Portal and downloaded (or screenshots saved) without completing the submittal of the application to GSAS.  On receiving the "pre-application" (to be sent to the Program Administrator), the Biophysics Faculty Admissions Review Committee will read the application, and we will set up times for interviews for the applicant with members of the Admissions Committee.  Student applicants who are considered appropriate for the Biophysics Program will then be invited to submit their finalized application to the program through the GSAS Application Portal.  Decisions on whether or not an MD-PhD student applicant will be invited to submit a finalized, official application, with the understanding that they will be accepted into the program for Fall 2022, will be communicated to the student by November 15th, 2021.


The Biophysics Program no longer requires applicants to report scores from the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

The Biophysics Program does not require scores from one of the GRE Subject Tests.

Applicants to the Biophysics Program who are non-native English speakers, and whose undergraduate degree is received from an academic institution where English is not the primary language of instruction, must complete either the Internet Based Test (IBT) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System Academic Test (IELTS).  Reported scores from the TOEFL or IELTS, if required, must be no older than 2 years prior to the application deadline date.  The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will only accept the IBT TOEFL or IELTS as proof of English proficiency.

In order to ensure that test scores are received in time for the Biophysics Program's application deadline, students should register for the TOEFL or IELTS within a timeframe that allows the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to report the official scores so that they can be included in the student's application file.  Scores should be reported and sent to Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, using School Code 3451.


The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a required minimum score of 80 on the IBT TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS.  GSAS requires incoming students, whose TOEFL or IELTS scores fall within certain tiers, to meet an Oral English Language Requirement prior to being allowed to serve as Teaching Fellows at the University.  For admitted students whose English language skills might benefit from additional focus, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers the English Language Program (ELP), a residential, cultural immersion program during the summer months prior to matriculation into graduate school.  Additional follow up courses are offered throughout the year to assist students in reaching the oral English language requirement.

As part of forming a complete picture of the applicants to the Biophysics Program, we consider the standardized test scores (if required) as well as Grade Point Average information.  However, standardized test scores and GPAs are just a few of the many factors we consider when reviewing applications to the Biophysics Program, and we have no established minimum threshhold for standardized tests and GPA.  At no point in the application review process do these scores or GPA values serve to triage applications, but are instead considered in light of the whole application and the primary focus that the review committee puts on the quality of an applicant's preparation, the personal statement, and the strength of an applicant's recommendation letters.

Students interested in applying to the Harvard Biophysics PhD Program should have a strong background in the physical sciences, especially chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The list of courses below are only to give some examples of the kind of courses that would provide an ideal undergraduate course background for a student's future course work in specialized areas of biophysics.  No undergraduate major would have taken every one of these courses in college, and they are merely provided to serve as an example and reference point for the types of courses that would be considered appropriate background training for research work in Biophysics.  The Harvard University course numbers are provided for additional reference:

Mathematics Multivariable Calculus/ Linear Algebra and Differential Equations (Math 21a & 21b)
Advanced Calculus, Real Analysis (Math 112)
Complex Analysis (Math 113)
Structure and Organization of Programming (Computer Science 50)
Linear Algebra (Math 121)

Classical Mechanics (Physics 15a)
Electromagnetism and Relativity (Physics 15b)
Wave Phenomena (Physics 15c)
Introductory Quantum Mechanics I (Physics 143a)
Laboratory Electronics (Physics 123)
Elementary Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics (Physics 181)

Foundation of Chemistry (Chem 10)
Organic Chemistry (Chem 20 & Chem 30)
Physical Chemistry--Introductory Quantum Mechanics/ Statistical Thermodynamics (Chem 160 & 161)

Biological Sciences/ Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Introductory Molecular Biology (Biological Sciences 10)
Basic Principles of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (Biological Sciences 11)
Neurobiology (Biology 25)
Classical and Molecular Genetics (Biochem 42)
Physical Biochemistry (Biochem 61)

The Statement of Purpose that is part of the application to the Biophysics Program within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is an intergal piece that allows the Faculty Admissions Review Committee to learn about the specific research experiences an applicant has undertaken, the student's motivation for wanting to pursue a PhD in Biophysics, and their overall enthusiam for future work as an independent research scientist.  Every application to the Biophysics Program is read in its entirety and then discussed by the Faculty Admissions Review Committee as part of the decision-making process, so extra care should be taken to ensure that the Statement of Purpose accurately and fully reflects these aspects of an applicant's incentive for submitting an application to the Biophysics Program at Harvard.

The Biophysics Program requires Letters of Recommendation from three faculty members, or others qualified to evaluate a student's potential for graduate study.  The most useful letters are from those faculty members who have gotten to know an applicant within a scientific research setting, or have otherwise developed an understanding of an applicant's strengths and challenges beyond their getting good grades within a classroom setting.  

Recommendation letters are due at the same time as the application, although the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions Office will make every effort to allow for consideration of recommendation materials submitted after the deadline.