A student conducting research in the Melinda Larsen Lab.

Doctor of Philosophy


Program Concentration

The doctoral program in biology at UAlbany has a Molecular, Cellular, Developmental and Neural Biology (MCDN) concentration

The MCDN concentration focuses on research concepts like cell-cell signaling, the regulation of bacterial gene expression, RNA folding, cancer drug discovery and brain function.

You will be encouraged to apply for fellowships, contribute to major scientific studies, and present your findings at conferences and symposiums. You will also have the opportunity to teach for at least two semesters with support to help develop your communication and presentation skills.

Additional Information

For more information about the PhD program in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental and Neural Biology, contact Cheryl Andam at [email protected], Chair of Admissions or Dr. Melinda Larsen at [email protected], Director of Graduate Programs.

See the Graduate Bulletin for details.


Note: Admissions to the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology concentration for the PhD Biology program have been suspended effective August 2020.

Program of Study
Qualifying Examination Part I – Written

Qualifying Examination Part II – Oral defense of research proposal

Full-Time Study in Residence

Sample core courses:

  • Cell Biology I and Cell Biology II
  • Biochemistry and Biomolecular Structure 
  • Advanced Molecular Biology

Research Tool Requirement

Demonstrated proficiency in one research tool can be fulfilled by the first-year Biochemistry course.

Teaching Requirement

At least two semesters during your graduate tenure.


Representing a significant and original contribution to knowledge in your field of specialization.


The main component of your PhD in Biology program studies will be research-based. With access to our collaborative Life Sciences open laboratories as well as to institutions in the region, such as the Wadsworth Center and the New York State Department of Health, you will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to conduct your research.

You will have a strong mentoring relationship with our faculty enabling you to engage on all aspects of scientific investigation from discovery to effective data dissemination. Biological Sciences Faculty Research Interests

Biology students discussing research in front of a computer monitor.
Career Outcomes

With a PhD in Biology you will have the credentials to pursue career opportunities for conducting research and development in private companies, applying your expertise and skills in government agencies or sharing your knowledge through teaching positions or journalism. Possible career titles include: Professor, Life Scientist, Microbiologist, Environmental Scientist, Teacher, Science Writer, Biotechnology Research Scientist.

Paolo Forni investigating neurological disorders

“Both the faculty and the students of the MCDN PhD program have become like a second family to me throughout this journey. I am truly amazed at how much I have grown both professionally and personally with their support over the years. Through extensive collaborations and interdisciplinary research within the department, I have matured into a stronger scientist. The program empowered me to be independent and explore diverse career options, which landed me an industry internship that turned into a research position at a leading pharmaceutical company."

- Cathleen Schiraldi

International Students

This degree is designated as a STEM program. International students maintaining F-1 status are allowed to apply for up to 12 months of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) following completion/graduation from their degree program. Currently, this degree program is also designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an eligible degree for the F-1 STEM OPT work authorization extension; students who secure qualifying employment may be eligible to apply for the STEM OPT extension for a cumulative total of up to 36 months of F-1 OPT work authorization.

Admissions Requirements

Departmental Assistantship Consideration

  • Fall: January 15
  • Spring: October 1
  • Summer: Not Available

 No Departmental Assistantship Consideration

  • Fall: June 15
  • Spring: December 1
  • Summer: Not Available
Required Application Materials
  • Transcripts from all schools attended
  • Three letters of recommendation from professors in biological sciences, with at least one addressing research aptitude and experience
  • Statement of goals

The statement is generally one to two pages discussing what you have to offer the program and what you wish to get out of the program. It should include a brief description of the applicant's field of interest, related background, desired area of study and research emphasis or career goals. Be sure to include mention of professors in the Department of Biological Science that you would consider as mentors for your thesis work.

The GRE is NOT required.

Special Notes

The GRE is NOT required

Late applications will be considered until all departmental assistantships have been filled.

A TOEFL minimum score of 600 (paper) or 100 (internet based) is required to receive a teaching assistantship.

A C1 ranking from EF (Education First) which can be fulfilled with an alternative test:

  • IELTS of 7
  • PTE score of 70
  • Duolingo score of 120 (for tests taken after July 15, 2019).

The Duolingo English Test can be taken online in 1 hour or less and results are available in less than two days.

Student Learning Objectives

Learning objectives that UAlbany students are expected to attain through their course of study within their academic program.

  1. Obtain general knowledge of representative fields in biology such as molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, and neurobiology, with a detailed knowledge of one or more areas of interest.
  2. Read and understand primary scientific literature to keep abreast of major developments and to synthesize and integrate the literature in their chosen area of expertise.
  3. Integrate factual knowledge and problem-solving skills.
  4. Recognize a significant scientific problem and propose experiments that would make a significant contribution to its solution.
  5. Designing experimental protocols and conducting self-directed research to contribute to the solution on an important scientific problem.
  6. Demonstrate oral and visual communication skills.
  7. Demonstrate written communication skills.
  8. Understand scientific ethics as practiced in Western societies, including the topics of human subjects, animal use in research, and plagiarism.