BBS PhD Program


Apply NowThe BBS Program accepts applications for PhD study only. Admissions decisions are made on an annual basis; the application deadline is December 1 for admission in the following Fall semester. 

The success of the BBS Program is dependent on the quality of the graduate students enrolled.  We, therefore, take great care in the selection of potential students: the  BBS Admissions Committee reviews and evaluates all applications. Candidates come from many academic backgrounds. There are no set standards; rather we are searching for applicants who we believe can flourish in the program. Applicants are judged on the entire application package, including academic credentials, the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. Prior research experience is considered particularly useful; however, it is not a prerequisite. 

Application Requirements

An important part of your application is a personal statement/statement of purpose. This should include your academic achievements and personal background (this should be uploaded as one document). You can also apply for a diversity fellowship via a separate essay (see below). 

1. Review the Research Areas to identify at least three faculty who are doing research that interests you. You will be asked to identify which faculty member(s) are you potentially interested in working with. It is helpful if you had made contact with potential faculty rotation mentors to see if they are accepting new graduate students. 

2. Choose a concentration that most interests you.

Immunology and Infectious Disease

The concentration of Immunology and Infectious Disease has a substantial cadre of faculty members and students working in the areas of infection and immunity, cellular immunology, immune regulation, immunogenetics, and immunopathology. There are also members currently carrying out studies in the areas of immunotoxicology, membrane biochemistry, developmental immunology, immunoparasitology, and related fields.

Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Molecular and Cellular Medicine faculty and trainees are engaged in investigations of fundamental cellular processes and the mechanisms that control them in health and disease. Research projects range from molecular interactions, protein folding, and membrane biophysics to development and function of organ systems and whole animals. Fundamental research, using cutting-edge technologies, enables researchers at Cornell to make significant advances in broad scientific disciplines such as cell and developmental biology, genetics and genomics, neurobiology, pharmacology, and physiology.

Population Medicine and Epidemiology

Population Medicine and Epidemiology represents the study of health and disease in a population and the underlying factors that lead to these conditions. The goal of this research is to prevent the spread and/or future incidents of illness. As such, it is considered the cornerstone of public health, production medicine, and preventive medicine.

Translational Medicine

Translational medicine seeks to leverage basic science discovery for the development of new therapies that will improve the health of animals and humans. Basic scientists and clinicians partner in drug and biomarker discovery, stem cell and regenerative medicine, and development of imaging technology to tackle problems in reproductive biology, infectious disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other clinically relevant areas.

Zoology and Wildlife Conservation

Zoology and Wildlife Conservation integrates two broad fields of biology: animal biology and conservation biology. Opportunities exist for study and research in comparative and functional anatomy, developmental biology, and comparative and experimental embryology. The survival of threatened and endangered species requires innovative and integrative ideas and approaches to wildlife conservation, and our faculty are those innovators – conservation studies focus on individual animals, species, and ecosystems.

3. The Academic /Personal Statement of Purpose is an important part of your application and is your opportunity to tell the admissions committee more about yourself. We ask that you divide your statement into two sections to describe your academic background and your personal background. 

  • In your academic statement section, please describe your motivations for applying to graduate school. Please also be sure to include a discussion of your past research experience. You can talk about one project or several but focus on your role in each project. Briefly also describe the scientific goals of the project and its conclusions. You may also incorporate examples where you overcame particular obstacles, showed creativity, and demonstrated initiative or persistence for the project. Please also describe your potential future research interests and why you chose the BBS program for your PhD degree. If there are any faculty you find particularly interesting, please include that information as well.
  • In your personal statement section, tell us something more about yourself, and how you feel you can contribute to the scientific community at Cornell. BBS strives to build a diverse and inclusive community that strengthens our intellectual and collaborative efforts. Examples can include how you engage with others to facilitate teamwork, your service and/or leadership efforts, outreach activities, how you have contributed to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion, personal hardships you may have encountered, and examples of initiative and resilience.

4. Optional Personal Statement or Optional Personal Statement Addendum (for consideration for a Diversity Fellowship)
    The Addendum upload is the preferred mode of submission. 

For consideration for nomination for a Diversity Fellowship, students must also use the Personal Statement or the Personal Statement Addendum to indicate how one or more of the following identities and/or experiences apply to them.

  • First-generation college student (neither parent/guardian has completed a baccalaureate degree)
  • Member of ethnic and/or racial groups historically excluded from and underrepresented in graduate education – Black, Indigenous (Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Native Pacific Islanders, other Indigenous peoples), and/or Latina/o/x
  • McNair or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Scholar (the Graduate School will verify an applicant’s status as a McNair Scholar or Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow while pursuing a baccalaureate degree at a U.S. institution)
  • Other identities and/or experiences historically underrepresented and/or marginalized within graduate education including but not limited to the following:
    • Those who manage a disability
    • Being of a gender and/or sexual orientation identity historically underrepresented in your field of study
    • Those who identify as a military veteran
    • Holding DACA, TPS, refugee, or asylee status
    • Those who have experienced housing and/or food insecurity
    • Single parents

You can either upload this information as a Diversity Fellowship Personal Statement or a Diversity Fellowship Personal Statement Addendum. If you qualify under these criteria this essay in addition to the Personal statement will be used for admissions purposes and read by all application readers. While content shared via uploading a Personal Statement Addendum will be restricted and will not be available for admissions purposes. Any student who indicates an interest in a Diversity Fellowship and uploads an essay as a Personal Statement Addendum will only be read by the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement.

5. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges attended must be uploaded to online application
Applicants must have received, or be on track to receive a baccalaureate degree from a college or university of recognized standing prior to matriculation in the Graduate School. For students with foreign credentials, an equivalent international degree is required.

6. English language proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS). Minimum scores and exceptions can be found on the ELP Requirement Page.

7. Letters of Recommendation (2 letters minimum, 4 letters maximum)
Alert your recommenders of the  December 1st deadline as soon as possible. Your application will not be considered complete unless two recommendations have been received by December 1st. You will find advice on requesting letters of recommendation here

​​​​​8. Resume - uploading a resume to your online application is optional

Application Fee Waivers

In cases of extreme financial need or participants in special programs, the Graduate School will consider a request for a fee waiver. For detailed instructions, please go to:

Recruitment Interviews

Top candidates will be invited to participate in a recruitment event to be held January 29 - 31, 2023.  

Admissions Decisions

Applications are reviewed starting in December, and all admissions decisions are made by mid-February.  Admissions decisions are based on the quality of the student’s prior academic and/or professional career, the fit of his/her research interests with funded faculty in our program, and the admissions committee’s assessment of the student’s ability to successfully complete doctoral-level work.

Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services, or other paid professional assistance. The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.