General Information on the PhD Programs

Learning Objectives

Graduate school provides a wonderful opportunity to develop fine skills in the following areas:

Research, Critical Thinking, Content Knowledge

Critically apply theories, methodologies, and knowledge to address fundamental questions in your primary area of study. Pursue research of significance in the discipline or an interdisciplinary or creative project. Students plan and conduct this research or implement this project under the guidance of an advisor while developing the intellectual independence that typifies true scholarship.


Demonstrate a mastery of skills and knowledge at a level required for college and university undergraduate teaching in their discipline and assessment of student learning.


Demonstrate, through service, the value of their discipline to the academy and community at large.


Demonstrate skills in oral and written communication sufficient to publish and present work in their field and to prepare grant proposals.

Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Interact productively and pro-actively with people from diverse backgrounds as both leaders/mentors and team members with integrity and professionalism.


Follow the principles of ethics in your field and in academia.

Find Your PhD Mentor

The PhD mentor plays a key role in the success of your PhD. For this reason it is important that you do some research and familiarize with their fields of expertise. If you get the opportunity to meet a prospective mentor in person, then do so. Let them know that you’re interested in doing a PhD in his/her area and make an appointment to discuss common topics of interest. Make a shortlist of mentors you are interested in and check their availability for laboratory rotations during your first year as a PhD student in Biology. The Department of Biology offers ample room to let you explore a wide variety of research areas, through which you can strengthen your research skills and boost your creativity in new topics that you did not explore during your undergraduate studies. A list of current full-time faculty in the Department of Biology can be found here and a list of potential mentors for Ph.D. students is here.

Research Opportunities

There is a broad array of research opportunities available with top researchers for PhD students in Biology at the University at Albany.

Researcher Research Topics
Marlene Belfort One research project relates to intron dispersal under cell stress, and to the structure and function of a catalytic RNA that is related to mammalian introns and retrotransposons. The second project researches inteins as biological sensors of cell stress, and their role in infectious disease and biotechnology.
Haijun Chen Ion channel function and human diseases
Daniele Fabris Structural determinants of HIV 1 5’- UTR in virions and infected cells
Paolo Forni Projects in our lab focus on molecular signals defining cell identity and neuronal migration during embryonic development. Research opportunities are available for graduate students interested in developmental biology, molecular biology, imaging and use of genetically modified animal models.
Gaby Fuchs Ribosomes, translational regulation, genome editing and single-molecule fluorescence
Melinda Larsen The Larsen lab studies organ development and regeneration using the salivary gland as a model. Opportunities are now available to study salivary gland organ development using organoids and salivary gland regeneration in an in vivo regeneration model using transgenic animals
Pan Li Single molecule study of alternative folding of a retroviral untranslated RNA
Gregory Lnenicka Current projects include the role of postsynaptic calcium in synaptic plasticity and homeostasis, the role of the postsynaptic SK channel in regulating synaptic strength and the effect of Pb on synaptic development.
Cara Pager Projects in our lab examine the interactions and mechanisms by which RNA viruses such as hepatitis C virus exploit host microRNAs and RNA granules to promote infection.
Prashanth Rangan We want to define a dynamic RNA regulatory network for germline development by determining structures of 3'UTRs in vivo and how they change during development.
Morgan Sammons Projects in our lab focus on understanding the role of chromatin structure in controlling the p53 tumor suppressor across different cell lineages.
Annalisa Scimemi We are interested in understanding how the brain functions, using a variety of experimental and theoretical approaches including: electrophysiology, imaging and optogenetics, computer modeling and behavioral approaches. We currently have three main areas of active investigation: (1) Determine the biophysical mechanisms that regulate synaptic transmission in the brain; (2) Study the function of neuronal circuits implicated with neuropsychiatric disorders; (3) Determine how stroke affects the functional properties of brain cells
Hua Shi RNA aptamers and their application to protein modulation in health and disease
Ben Szaro Research projects in the lab relate to embryonic axon development and the successful repair and resistance to neurodegeneration after traumatic injury to the central nervous system using an animal model system that successfully does it, namely the frog Xenopus laevis.
Wendy Turner The Turner lab studies the ecology and evolution of wildlife diseases, with a focus on environmentally transmitted infections.
Alex Valm The mouth microbiome
Ing-Nang Wang Phylogeographic dynamics of a vector and pathogen in a natural environment

What Alumni Say

“The Graduate Programs at UAlbany provided me with world class training and the tools to excel in my field. I was lucky to be a part of it!” - Dr. Thomas Begley (Class of 1999), Associate Professor of Nanobioscience and Associate Vice President and Director of the Systems Toxicology Laboratory at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, SUNY Polytechnic Institute (NY)
"The biology PhD programs at SUNY Albany provide a well-rounded education: challenging classes, hands-on mentoring in the research lab, flexible research mentorship, and an opportunity to teach undergraduates. The SUNY Albany campus also provides many opportunities to present your research and build on your teaching and grant writing skills – all critically important for a career as a scientist. The breadth of opportunities and training available to me as a graduate student allowed me to focus on my specific career goals. Those opportunities coupled with an amazing mentor helped me land my dream job! " - Dr. Elise Gervais (Class of 2015), Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences, University at Albany

"The excellent training and mentorship I received during my time in the biology graduate program helped prepare me for life as a postdoctoral fellow and faculty member." - Dr. Kurt Gibbs (Class of 2010), Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Chemistry at Morehead State University (KY)
"The Biology Graduate Programs provided access to nationally recognized research programs and cutting edge technologies which prepared me for entry into the biomedical research arena and future success in academic medicine. Many of my graduate peers and faculty remain close colleagues and friends and have been instrumental in my career advancement. I treasure the time I spent there." - Dr. Andres Melendez (Class of 1992), Professor and Associate Head in the Nanobioscience Constellation at the College of Nanoscale Engineering and Science, SUNY Polytechnic Institute (NY)

Logistics of the PhD Program


Currently, the University at Albany does not offer housing for graduate students. The Department of Residential Life maintains a Housing Registry, however, that can help with your search for off-campus housing (click here for more information).

Campus Locations

Currently, the University at Albany offers coursework at three campus locations in New York’s Capital Region: Uptown Campus, Downtown Campus and East Campus.

Interactive Virtual Tour

If you have never visited the Campus, do not miss the opportunity to take an interactive virtual tour. There is a lot to see, do and be part of! If you are ready, click here.


FAQ ("Frequently Asked Questions") about the Graduate Program

Is an MS degree necessary before I apply to the PhD program?

No, a BS degree is required. Students interested in receiving a PhD should apply directly to the PhD program.

What are the minimum application requirements/pre-requisites for the PhD programs in Biology?

  • BS degree from an accredited institution
  • GPA of 3.0
  • Undergraduate preparation should preferably include
    • 18 credits in biology
    • 2 courses in mathematics (at least 6 credits)
    • 2 courses in physics with laboratories (at least 6 credits)
    • 4 courses in chemistry with laboratories of which 2 courses must be in organic chemistry with laboratories (at least 12 credits)
  • For MCDN: Applicants should have taken Biochemistry and Genetics
  • For EEB: Applicants should have taken Ecology, Genetics and Evolution.

What GRE scores are needed for graduate school?

Only the GRE General Test scores are required. Other tests such as GMATs or MCATs are not applicable or accepted.

What are the English Proficiency requirements and policies for international students?

  • TOEFL is required for ALL international students except for students that have completed 2 semesters of coursework in English.>
  • While admission of non-native English language students to the University’s Graduate Programs requires a TOEFL minimum score of 550 (paper) or 79 (internet based), there are additional requirements to be eligible for a Teaching Assistantship. You must have either:
    • A GRE Verbal score greater than or equal to the 40th percentile with a TOEFL minimum score of 620 (paper) or 105 (internet based), OR
    • A GRE Verbal score greater than or equal to the 60th percentile with a TOEFL minimum score of 600 (paper) or 100 (internet based) to receive a Teaching Assistantship
  • All international students whose TOEFL scores are below 650 (paper score) or 114 (internet based) are required to take the Speak test. You must take the Speak test prior to the start of your second semester. The test is administered by the Intensive English Language Program, located in the Science Library at the University at Albany. A student must score at least:
    • 50 to continue as a Teaching Assistant in a lower division course
    • 45 to continue as a Teaching Assistant in an upper division course
    • A student who scores below 45 must be supported by a grant or non-Teaching Assistantship funds
    • All students are encouraged to take ZESL 001 (Oral Communication for International Students) and/or other courses offered through the Intensive English Language Program during their first year of study to improve upon their English.

What are the GRE and TOEFL Codes for the UAlbany Biology Department?

  • The GRE institution code is 2532.
  • The TOEFL institution code is 2532 (same as above).

How many credits are required to complete the doctoral program?

A total of 60 credits are required for the doctoral program.

Can I transfer credits to your graduate program?

Yes. For the PhD program, which is a 60 credit program, at least 50% of the program requirements must be completed while in residence.

How can I get an application?

All applications are handled by the Office of Graduate Education. Please follow the instructions on How to Apply. All applications must be submitted online.

How much is the application fee?

The current processing fee for MS and PhD applications is $75 and must be paid for an application to be considered complete and reviewed by the department. There is a fee of $20 to process applications for Non-Degree status.

What type of financial support is available?

Stipends for the first year of study in the PhD program are at a minimum of $23,750 (FYI 2017-18: $19,250 for the academic year and $4,500 for the summer). Tuition scholarships are also available for these supported students. International graduate students must comply with the department English proficiency requirement to receive a teaching assistantship. MS students can be hired as part-time lecturers, but there are no assistantships available. See Financial Support for Biology PhD Students

What type of research is available?

Go to the "Research Opportunities" tab (above) to view labs with openings for students. Also try selecting keywords that interest you and peruse the research interests of the Faculty.

How are admissions decisions made?

Once an application is complete [application form, fee paid, 3 letters of reference, all prior transcripts, statement of goals] the file is transmitted to the department office. The entire file and all required components are reviewed by a committee of faculty and a recommendation is sent forward to the University Graduate Admissions Office. Students should expect at least 2 weeks for a file to be reviewed once the file is received in the department office.

Where do I submit my application?

Please follow the instructions here. All applications for graduate programs at the University at Albany are submitted online. DO NOT submit materials to the department office. This will significantly delay review of your file.

What type of housing is available?

The University at Albany does not offer on-site housing for graduate students. However, the Department of Residential Life maintains a Housing Registry that can help with your search for off-campus housing (click here for more information). Off-campus apartments are the most popular choice for graduate students and are available in a variety of urban, suburban and rural settings.

What are the deadlines for application?

I want to make a visit to the department, whom do I contact?

Please contact the Admissions Committee Chairperson Dr. Marlene Belfort

Can prospective graduate students admitted to the available programs for the Spring semester?

Although Spring admissions are not typical, there may be opportunities to do this. Please contact the Admissions Committee Chairperson, Dr. Marlene Belfort, for additional information.

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