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PhD Admits to UC San Diego Fall 2018 and Prior

During the first year, all students in the general program pursue a rigorous academic course of study consisting of a sequence of graduate core courses and several elective courses. 

Most students participate in the Cell, Molecular, Genetics curricular requirements, but students may also choose more specialized training. See the sections below for more information on curricular requirements.

Find course descriptions, instructors, and schedules:

BioSci PhD Program (General)

Standard Cell, Molecular, Genetics, Neurobiology Training Curriculum

Required Courses

  • BGGN 200 – Graduate School Fundamentals, Grad Launch II  
  • BGGN 208 – Biological Sciences Grad Launch I  
  • BGGN 220D, E, F – Graduate Molecular Biology Sequence  
  • BGGN 222 – Graduate Cell Biology  
  • BGGN 223 – Graduate Genetics 

Elective Courses

Students must enroll in at least 2 elective courses from the following:

  • BGGN 212 – Introduction to Quantitative Evolutionary Biology
  • BGGN 213 – Foundations of Bioinformatics
  • BGGN 214 – Introduction to Quantitative Biology
  • BGGN 216 – Graduate Biostatistics
  • BGGN 225 – Graduate Immunology
  • BGGN 227 – Graduate Plant Systems Biology
  • BGGN 228 – Graduate Developmental Biology
  • BGGN 231 – Current Concepts in Stem Cell Biology
  • BGGN 237 – Quantitative Methods in Genetics
  • BGGN 238A – Integrative Microbiology I
  • BGGN 238B – Integrative Microbiology II
  • BGGN 248 – Molecular Mechanisms of Neural Development
  • BGGN 249A – Basic Neuroscience I
  • BGGN 249B – Basic Neuroscience II 
  • BGGN 249C – Basic Neuroscience III 
  • BGGN 262- 3D Electron Microscopy of Macromolecules and Cells
  • BGGN 264 – Structural Biology of Viruses

BioSci PhD Program (EBE)

Those admitted as Ecology, Behavior and Evolution students will take BGGN 203 and/or BGGN 204 each quarter of the first year.

Electives are drawn from the advanced graduate courses and undergraduate elective courses. EBE students should consult their First-Year Advisor and Section Chair to determine the most appropriate courses to take the first year.

Required Courses

  • BGGN 200 – Graduate School Fundamentals, Grad Launch II  
  • BGGN 208 – Biological Sciences Grad Launch I  
  • BGGN 298 – Laboratory Rotations

Elective Courses

  • BGGN 203 – Topics in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution 
  • BGGN 204 – Topics in Community and Population Ecology 
  • Other graduate level or undergraduate level courses as recommended by faculty advisor

Specific requirements for the EBE academic program.

Specialization in Quantitative Biology (qBio)

Quantitative Biology is a new Specialization at UC San Diego.  Students are admitted through their home program (Biological Sciences, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Physics, or BioEngineering) then request admission to the Q-Bio Specialization.  Quantitative Biology refers to the use of quantitative approaches, both experimental and theoretical, to discover the organizational principles of living systems. The goal is to establish a quantitative understanding of the physiological behaviors of biological organisms in terms of the molecular parts. 

Learn more informationon the new Quantitative Biology Specialization.

The expected course sequence is:

Required Courses - Year 1

  • BGGN 200 – Graduate School Fundamentals, Grad Launch II 
  • BGGN 208 – Biological Sciences Grad Launch I 
  • BGGN 220D, E, F – Graduate Molecular Biology Sequence  
  • BGGN 222 – Graduate Cell Biology  
  • BGGN 223 – Graduate Genetics  
  • BGGN 214 – Introduction to Quantitative Biology  
  • PHYS 270A – Experimental Techniques for Quantitative Biology
  • PHYS 270B – Quantitative Biology Laboratory
  • BENG 235 – Molecular Imaging and Quantitation in Living Cells

Required Courses - Year 2 (based on qBio track selected)

Basic Concept Track

  • BNFO 284 – Nonlinear Dynamics in Quantitative Biology
  • BENG 226 – Foundation of Biomechanics

Quantitative Microbiology Track

  • PHYS 275 – Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • PHYS 276 – Quantitative Molecular Biology
  • PHYS 277 – Physics of the Cell

Quantitative Cell Biology Track

  • PHYS 275 – Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • MAE 263 – Mechanics Inside the Cell
  • CHEM 220 – Signaling Circuits in Cells

Advanced Theory Track

  • PHYS 275 – Fundamentals of Biological Physics
  • PHYS 273 – Information Theory and Pattern Formation in Biological Systems
  • PHYS 274 – Stochastic Processes in Population Genetics

Specialization in Bioinformatics

Currently unavailable, pending curriculum updates.

Specialization in Multi-Scale Biology

Students who select the interdisciplinary Specialization in Multiscale Biology track must satisfy the requirements for both the Division of Biological Sciences and the UCSD Interfaces Graduate Training Programs.

Interested Biological Sciences PhD students must first complete the program’s General, EBE or Microbiology curricular requirements, then complete the Multiscale Biology course requirements. 

Learn more about the UC San Diego Interfaces Multiscale Biology program requirements.

Specialization in Anthropogeny

A transdisciplinary graduate specialization in Anthropogeny is available for Ph.D. students in the Biological Sciences and other disciplines.  Information on requirements for this specialization is available through the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). The specialization provides students an opportunity to specialize in research and education on the origins of humans.  Top areas include:

  • Human and Primate Genetics and Evolution
  • Paleoanthropology and Hominid Origins
  • Mammalian and Primate Neurosciences
  • Primate Biology and Medicine
  • Language and Cognition
  • Nature-Nurture Interactions in Explaining Language and Cognition
  • Human and Primate Society and Culture
  • Comparative Developmental Biology or Primates
  • General Theories for Explaining Humans

Interested Biological Sciences PhD students must first complete the program’s General, EBE or Microbiology curricular requirements, then complete the Specialization in Anthropogeny’s course requirements. 

Learn more information on the UC San Diego Specialization in Anthropogeny.

Specialization in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (PIER)

A graduate specialization in Interdisciplinary Environmental Research (PIER) is available for select doctoral students in biology. Students in the Program for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research seek solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

The Ph.D. specialization is designed to allow students to obtain standard training in their chosen field and an opportunity to interact with peers in different disciplines throughout the duration of their doctoral projects. Such communication across disciplines is key to fostering a capacity for interdisciplinary “language” skills and conceptual flexibility.

Specialization Requirements

  • Complete all course work, dissertation, and other requirements of the biological science doctorate
  • 16-unit interdisciplinary boot camp (summer, SIO 295S–295LS)
  • 8 units from a secondary field (outside the home department)
  • 6 units (3 quarters) Interdisciplinary Environmental Research Forum (SIO 296)
  • At least one chapter of the dissertation will be broadly related to environmental research and will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Students are advised to begin PIER in their second year upon completion of core biology course requirements.

Interested students should contact the program via