Data Science Insitute
Center for Computational Molecular Biology

Application Information

Academic performance, letters of recommendation and previous research experience are crucial in our selection process. We also consider TOEFL scores (if relevant), motivation, work experience, awards, honors, prizes, and other accomplishments. In more detail, we are looking for:

  • Academic Performance: The GPA is not the only criterion. Grades in disciplines relevant to computational biology count more than grades in other areas. Also, we take into account the fact that at some very competitive schools it is very difficult to achieve a high GPA.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Letters must give a detailed, factual, and candid evaluation of the applicant's capabilities. Rankings and comparisons with other students are very useful. Ask your recommender to follow these guidelines. If your recommender is sending the letter directly, check to make sure the deadlines are met. We routinely find ourselves unable to admit potentially qualified students because their letters of recommendation have not arrived in time.
  • Research Experience: Research experience, although not required, can boost your chances of admission considerably. If you have worked on a research project, please tell us about it and ask at least one of your recommenders to comment on it. If your work is part of a joint project, the recommender should indicate your specific contribution to the project. Include abstracts or reprints of any papers you have published in journals or presented at conferences.
  • Personal Statement: Applicants will be asked a series of short form questions regarding their interest in computational biology, their research experiences, and their goals for the future.
    • Describe the life experiences that inspired you to pursue a career in science.
    • Describe at least one research experience you have had that prepared you intellectually/ scientifically for a career in computational biology.
    • Explain at least one challenge you have overcome in life or research to pursue a scientific career and what you have learned from this experience.
    • Discuss any broader impacts that you have had on your community (e.g. family, educational institution, or broader community).
    • Why would you like to pursue your PhD in the Brown CCMB program? (Include at least two faculty members who you would like to work with at Brown and why.)
  • TOEFL and IELTS Scores: Applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received a college degree from an institution in an English-speaking country must take the TOEFL exam. Additional evidence (e.g., certificate of completion of an English course) may also be submitted. We generally do not consider applicants who have scored below 620 (PBT) or 260 (CBT) or 105 (IBT), and prefer scores higher than that. The corresponding minimum IELTS score is 7. More info on TOEFL scores can be found here.
  • Work Experience: Please describe your work experience in the application and, if related to computational biology, mention how you think it will help you in graduate school.
  • Awards, Honors, and Prizes: Unless they are well known (e.g., NSF fellowship or graduation with honors), please give details about them (how many candidates? how many awards? what were the selection criteria?). This is especially important for foreign applicants. If these awards are really important, we would expect your recommenders to mention them.

Our PhD program assumes the following prerequisites:

  • Mathematics through intermediate calculus
  • Linear algebra and discrete mathematics
  • Demonstrated programming skill
  • At least one undergraduate course in chemistry and in molecular biology

Exceptional strengths in one area may compensate for limited background in other areas, but some proficiency across the disciplines must be evident for admission.

  • Applications open: September
  • Deadline: December 1
  • Review: Applications are reviewed in a multi-step process by the Admissions Committee for the Computational Biology program. The committee is selected from our multi-disciplinary faculty each year and the overall process is generally completed by the end of February with offers being extended by March each year.

The application process to the CCMB graduate program is run through the Graduate School.

  • Applications open in September and the application deadline is December 1st
  • Please read the Prospective Student FAQ.
  • Please do not email or call the Center to check on the status of your application. All decisions will be communicated in writing.
  • If you have questions about the application itself, contact
  • Only materials submitted via the Graduate School online application portal will be considered.