Prospective students

grad students sitting around table

Our mission

Educating students to become the innovative biomedical scientists of the future.

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at Sanford Burnham Prebys in La Jolla offers a Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Sciences.  With state-of-the-art technology and an entrepreneurial mindset, we are dedicated to educating the next generation of outstanding biomedical scientists, who will drive future cutting-edge basic and translational research. Led by world-renowned research faculty, our innovative and highly personalized program focuses on scientific rigor and communication, thus preparing graduates to become the next generation of leading biomedical scientists.


About the program

Our innovative admit-to-fit approach matches each prospective student with a faculty mentor as a prerequisite for acceptance to GSBS. Therefore, entering doctoral students are admitted directly into their laboratories, without laboratory rotations, to immediately begin their thesis research. Applicants are required to identify and contact potential faculty mentors as part of the application process. We offer a competitive student stipend and a high professor-to-student ratio, maintaining up to ten openings per year. Our program’s time to degree averages 4.7 years, earlier than most other schools. GSBS Ph.D. graduates publish in high impact journals and acquire doctoral-level positions in academia and industry.

Our graduate program prepares students for careers in basic and translational research through laboratory research and courses. The curriculum is highly personalized and tailored to the individual student’s research interests. In the first two years, students complete six multi-disciplinary core courses, six focused tutorials, and at least one elective course, as well as numerous written and oral reports. This curriculum is designed to complement the extensive practical laboratory training under the supervision of the faculty mentor.

All GSBS students receive an annual stipend, which for the 2023-2024 academic year is $45,000/year. Students have access to the same medical, dental, and vision insurance plans as all faculty and staff at Sanford Burnham Prebys. Furthermore, students are each allocated up to $500 annually for allowable educational support purchases.

Course Catalog & Student Handbook

Where are they now?

We invite you to meet some alumni from the Graduate School.

We reunited with five alumni from our Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences to learn where they are today and their favorite memories from the program. Hosted by Guy Salvesen, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School.

Application requirements

The 2023 application period will open on September 1, 2023, and will close on December 4th at 11:59 pm PT. Admitted students will begin the program in early September 2024.

It is expected that applicants communicate with multiple prospective faculty mentors during the admissions process. Mutual interest between applicant and faculty is required for admittance into the program. The GSBS considers both domestic and international applications.

All applications are reviewed by the Admissions Committee, and interviews will be scheduled for February 2024.

Application prerequisites & documentation

  • CV / Resume
    Candidates are encouraged to highlight current and previous laboratory research experience.
  • Education
    An undergraduate and/or graduate degree and/or significant experience in the biological, medical, chemical, physical, or computational sciences is required for consideration to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
  • Personal statement of interest
    This statement should discuss your reasons for pursuing a doctorate in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Sanford Burnham Prebys. Statements should be ~1,000 words and should address your research experience(s), scientific interests, and career goals, as well as obstacles and challenges you had to overcome in your academic and/or scientific journey. We encourage applicants to discuss both strengths and weaknesses, providing specific examples, if possible.
  • Letters of recommendation
    At least three letters of recommendation are required. As part of your application, you will enter the contact information for each of your referees; upon submission of your completed application, a request will automatically be emailed from our Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Referees should be positioned to speak to your strengths and weaknesses as a potential graduate student. Recommendation letters should be on official letterhead and must be received by December 4th, 2023.
  • TOEFL/IELTS scores
    Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores are required for all foreign students whose first language is not English, or who have obtained their previous degree in a country where teaching is not in English. TOEFL scores must be sent by Educational Testing Service to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Program Office. All tests must be taken within the last two years. Successful applicants generally score at or above 100 on the TOEFL or 7 or above on the IELTS. The TOEFL School Code for Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute is 2718.
  • Transcripts
    All undergraduate and graduate transcripts must be received no later than December 4th, 2023. An unofficial transcript may be uploaded with application materials, but in order to be considered for acceptance, an official copy must be submitted either by mail or electronically, to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: Grades must be reported on a 4.0 scale.
  • GRE Scores (optional)
    GRE scores are not required for admission to the Graduate School. However, applicants may opt to send GRE scores from exams taken within the past five years. Any GRE scores must be sent by the Educational Testing Service to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Program Office. The School Code for Sanford Burnham Prebys is 2718.
  • Application fee of $95 USD
    Applicants may pay via PayPal at the end of the application or submit a check or money order drawn from a US bank made payable to "Sanford Burnham Prebys".


Our application for admittance in Fall 2024 is now open. For general inquiries about our Ph.D. program, please contact our Admissions office.

Apply Now

Contact Us


Supporting documents

Please arrange to have official college/University transcripts, GRE scores (optional), and if applicable, your TOEFL scores sent to us via mail or email (preferred).
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Sanford Burnham Prebys
10901 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla, CA 92037

List of fields for the application:

  • Contact Information: name, address, email, phone etc.
  • Academic History: schools and dates attended, GPA, degrees earned
  • GRE Results/Subject test scores (not required, but you may opt to send)
  • TOEFL/IELTS Score (if applicable)
  • Related experience
  • Names and institutions of your three recommenders.
  • Prior research experience
  • Areas of research interest (up to four)
  • Names of faculty members you are interested in training with and why (up to five)
  • Demographic information

Admission FAQs

  1. What are the admissions requirements?
    Students are required to submit the application, official undergraduate (and graduate, if applicable) transcripts, TOEFL scores for those applicants whose first language is not English, a written personal statement, three recommendation letters and the $95 application fee.
  2. Who is eligible to apply?
    Any student who has an undergraduate degree, preferably in the Biological, Chemical, Physical, or Computational Sciences, or a medical degree, is eligible to apply. Prior scientific research experience is a key component in evaluating applications.
  3. What is the application deadline?
    The application deadline is December 4th.
  4. What is the application fee?
    The application fee is $95.
    Applicants requesting a fee waiver must meet one or more criteria listed here. To obtain a waiver, you must first contact Fee waivers must be approved in advance from the Graduate Office in order for your application to be reviewed.
  5. Do you require the GRE test?
    The Graduate Program does not require GRE scores for applicants. Applicants may choose to submit their scores from tests taken within the last five years for consideration. Any GRE scores must be sent by the Educational Testing Service to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Program Office. The School Code for Sanford Burnham Prebys is 2718.
  6. Do you Require the TOEFL/IELTS test?
    TOEFL/IELTS scores within the last two years are required for those applicants whose first language is not English. Applicants who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English are exempt from submitting a TOEFL/IELTS score report. Generally, successful applicants score at or above 100 on the TOEFL or 7 or above on the IELTS. The TOEFL School Code for Sanford Burnham Prebys is 2718.
  7. What if my transcripts are not in English?
    Official translations are required to accompany all foreign documents.
  8. May I submit unofficial transcripts and/or GRE and TOEFL scores?
    Applicants may submit unofficial documents in advance of official documents. Official documents should be received by December 6th.
  9. Do you accept fee waivers?
    Yes, the Graduate Program accepts fee waivers for students involved in programs such as MARC, McNair, Gates Millennium, AmeriCorps, IRT, LSAMP, etc or for those who have an economic hardship which prevents them from paying the application fee. Fee waivers are restricted to U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents. Please email the Graduate Office at for more information and the form.
  10. How many students does the program accept every year?
    The Graduate Program maintains 8 openings each academic year though the actual acceptances may be less. We only accept the most qualified candidates that have matched with our faculty.
  11. Does the program admit international students? Do you offer student visas?
    The Graduate Program accepts international students and issues the F1 student visas to accepted applicants.
  12. Does the program have an interview day? Who is invited to interview?
    The Graduate Program holds an interview day in late February. Interviews can be conducted in-person or via video conference, depending on individual circumstance. Applicants must have faculty interest to be invited to interview. Therefore, we recommend that applicants contact faculty before and during the application process to discuss the possibility of joining their lab.
  13. Do you offer video interviews for applicants residing outside the U.S.?
    Yes, the Graduate Program conducts video interviews for applicants residing outside the U.S. Applicants within the US, Canada, and Mexico may interview in person or via video conference depending upon location – each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis.
  14. What is an Admit-to-Fit Program?
    Our Graduate Program is Admit-to-Fit, which means an applicant must have secured a commitment from a faculty member to join their lab along with a favorable review by the Admissions Committee before they will be offered admission to the program. Applicants are accepted directly in to a faculty mentor’s lab and do not do rotations.
  15. Do applicants need to contact prospective faculty mentors in advance?
    Yes! Only applicants with faculty interest will be invited to interview or be accepted into the program. We recommend that applicants contact faculty during the application process to discuss the possibility of joining their lab.
  16. Do students do rotations?
    No, students do not do rotations and enter their thesis lab on day one. Applicants must secure a faculty match during the admissions process.
  17. How do I contact the Graduate Program?
    You may contact the Graduate Program by phone at (858) 646-3100 or by email at
Antidiscrimination Policy

Sanford Burnham Prebys does not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, marital status, race, color, national and ethnic origin or non-disqualifying handicap in regard to all activities associated with the Graduate School. Handicapped access is provided.