Biological Sciences

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Location(s): Foggy Bottom - Main Campus

Program Overview

The department’s graduate program is highly interactive, and students move easily between fields within the department and interact with other programs and institutions. Graduate research is generally in one of three areas: cell, molecular and developmental biology; systematics and evolution; or ecology. The department is involved in special graduate programs, taking advantage of other researchers, faculty and facilities at GW and elsewhere in the Washington area. These include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Ph.D. program in cell, molecular and developmental biology covers many topics, but most are linked through common interests in organism-organism interactions, such as comparative immunology. Research projects involve well-studied model systems and comparisons among organisms, and often include active collaborations with biologists at GW’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, NIH, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Ph.D. program in systematics and evolution is one of the few in the world specializing in the principles and methods of systematics and comparative biology. It puts GW at the forefront of biodiversity studies. The program is enhanced by a formal agreement with the National Museum of Natural History, enabling curators to co-advise students and facilitating access to its extensive collections.

The Ph.D. program in ecology emphasizes the accumulation of baseline data and assessment of potential biological indicators of ecosystem disturbances. Both field and laboratory-based methods are used to assess the degree and impact of natural and human-generated changes in a variety of habitats.

The M.S. program has a thesis or non-thesis option, allowing students to pursue laboratory or classwork-only research in one of the three areas described above.


The Ph.D. and M.S. in Biological Sciences are STEM-designated programs.

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:

Fall - December 1 (Ph.D.); January 15 (M.S.)

Standardized test scores:

GRE general test (institutional code 5246). Waived for applicants who hold a JD, MD, or PhD.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction. 

Minimum scores for the PhD and M.S. program are:

  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0; or
  • TOEFL: 600 on paper-based or 100 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 68; 

Recommendations required:

M.S. - One (1) recommendation
Ph.D. - Three (3) recommendations

Prior academic records:

Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.

If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.

Statement of purpose:

In an essay of 250 – 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field. Include your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans. Also discuss your related qualifications, including collegiate, professional, and community activities, and any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned on the application. If you are applying for an assistantship or fellowship, you should also describe any teaching experience you have had. 

Applicants are required to establish correspondence with one or more potential research advisors in the Biological Sciences Department prior to submitting your application. You should mention these individuals in your statement of purpose, explain how your interests match their research program(s). Applicants who have not discussed with faculty their interests in the program are unlikely to be admitted.

International applicants only:

Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW, and English language requirements.

For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 107
Washington DC 20052

Contact for questions:
[email protected] ~ 202.994.6210 (phone) ~ 202.994.6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday