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Stanford Biology PhD Preview Program

Stanford Biology PhD Preview Program: Navigating the Biology PhD application process

Program Overview

The future challenges of biology will require new generations of creative thinkers dedicated to tackling the unknown. Research has shown that teams with diverse perspectives are best suited for making progress on such challenges. This will require recruiting the next generation of excellent scientists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and strengths.

To facilitate the recruitment of the next generation of excellent scientists , we are offering a Biology PhD preview program. Our program aims to provide workshops to build on the strengths of prospective students and encourage students to apply to Biology PhD programs, as well as help students identify programs that fit their goals and interests. In addition to workshops focusing on leveraging your strengths as a scientist in graduate school, we will cover general aspects of applying to Biology PhD programs. We will also provide insight into the application process for programs ranging from cellular, molecular and organismal biology to ecology and evolution. We especially encourage students who have the potential to enhance the diversity - broadly defined -  in STEM fields to apply.

Selected candidates will be invited to participate in two days of activities intended to build upon their strengths as scientists and prospective graduate students, facilitate the application process, connect with faculty, and receive one-on-one guidance on applications and interviews. A preliminary schedule of events is available below. Note that due to the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s pilot program will be held online and will include virtual lab and housing tours. In subsequent years, our current plans for the program will be to meet in person.

Please note that participation in this preview program is not a requirement for prospective Stanford Biology applicants, nor is it a guarantee of being accepted into the PhD program.

Please direct any questions about the program or application to the Preview program committee:

Program details

The application is due September 5th, 2020 (instructions for how to apply can be found here. Successful applicants will be notified by September 20th and invited to participate in the Stanford Biology Preview program. The program will take place October 8-9th from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm Pacific time (PDT), which will include sessions  focused on navigating the application process for the three Stanford Biology tracks, one-on-one and group meetings with faculty, and academic and social meetings with graduate students in the department. Some of the material covered during the program will be recorded and available for future reference.


You are eligible to apply to the Stanford Biology preview program if:

  • you are a college graduate, or will graduate by Summer 2021.

  • you are considering applying to the Biology PhD program at Stanford.

International students are eligible to apply.

We especially encourage students from historically underrepresented groups (based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, physical and mental abilities, religion, citizenship status, and age, among others) to apply.


Program Schedule

Dates: Thursday-Friday October 8-9, 2020, 8:00AM-3:00PM PDT

Preliminary schedule for this year’s workshop 

Day 1 

  • 8-8:50 am - Welcome and orientation. Short statement and Q&A about Stanford Biology and  the three tracks with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and representatives from each track

  • 9-9:50 am - Focused workshops (student selected)

  • 10-10:50 am - Breakout session for EcoEvo/Hopkins and CMOB about discipline specific considerations on initial contact with faculty and how the application/matching process works

  • 11-11:50 pm - Students work one-on-one with graduate students on their CV

  • 12-12:50 pm - Virtual social lunch/coffee break out rooms with graduate students

  • 1-1:50 pm - Finances and grad school Q&A

  • 2-2:50 pm - Guided tour of the Stanford graduate application, highlighting sections that are especially important in review

Day 2

  • 8-8:50 am - Q&A with graduate students about life at Stanford, application process, and general grad school experiences

  • 9-9:50 am - Focused workshops (student selected)

  • 10-10:50 am - Students receive one-on-one feedback on personal statement section of their applications

  • 11-11:50 pm - Breakout session for informal discussions with faculty from different areas (TBD based on student interests). 

  • 12-12:50 pm - Virtual housing/lab tours and lunch/coffee

  • 1-1:50 pm - Practice interviews with faculty and feedback

  • 2-2:30pm - Closing meeting

Possible topics for focused workshops include:

  • Identifying and leveraging your key strengths as a graduate student

  • Mentoring up: How to evaluate a potential mentor and their commitment to your success

  •  Dealing with imposter syndrome

  • Protecting your time and success in graduate school

  • Wellness, mental health, self compassion and work life balance in graduate school

  • Science communication - designing your research elevator pitch