Requirements for Applicants

 

PREVIOUS EDUCATION

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.

APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR ENTRY IN FALL 2018

December 1, 2017

All application materials: the Online Application Form (along with the $105 fee payment), Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, Statement of Purpose, GRE Test Scores, 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.

STANDARDIZED TESTS (GRE General, GRE Subject, TOEFL, MCAT)

The Biophysics Program requires applicants to report scores from the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), taken within the past 5 years prior to the application deadline date.

In addition, the Biophysics Program encourages applicants to consider completing, and reporting scores from, one of the GRE Subject Tests, particularly in a field in which the student feels most well-versed.  GRE Subject Tests are recommended, but are not required.

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 the Internet Based Test (IBT) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  Reported scores from the TOEFL, 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 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 and/ or GRE test(s) 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.

For students enrolled in the MD-PhD Program at Harvard University, the Biophysics Program will consider the student's MCAT scores as part of their application, in lieu of the GRE General test scores.  MCAT scores submitted as a substitute for the GRE General test scores should have been taken within the past 5 years prior to the application deadline date.

MINIMUM and AVERAGE SCORES: 

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a required minimum score of 80 on the IBT TOEFL.  GSAS requires incoming students, whose TOEFL 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 require the GRE General Test scores 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 the GRE 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. 

For reference, the average GRE General Test scores for students admitted to the Biophysics Program for the past year were as follows:

Verbal: 164 / 94%          Quantitative: 168 / 95%          Writing Analysis: 5 / 93%

SUGGESTED COURSEWORK and BACKGROUND PREPARATION:

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 to give 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, of course, and they are merely provided to serve as a guide and reference point.  The Harvard University course numbers are provided as additional reference:

Mathematics

MathematicsMultivariable 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)

Physics

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)

Chemistry

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)

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

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 discussed by each member of 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.

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS

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.