Data Science Insitute
Center for Computational Molecular Biology

Prospective Student FAQ

Considering applying? Please review the Prospective Student Presentation and the Frequently Asked Questions below!


  • 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.

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.

The University and the Graduate School have dropped the GRE requirement for the Ph.D. program in Computational Biology.

Our Ph.D. program assumes the following prerequisites: mathematics through intermediate calculus, linear algebra and discrete mathematics, demonstrated programming skill, and 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. 

While we will process incomplete applications, we do make our financial support decisions early in the year. Therefore, late applicants significantly hurt their ability to get financial support. Note that we need a complete application, including letters of recommendation and OFFICIAL SCORE REPORTS, before we can make admission and financial support decisions. Therefore, please give your letter writers enough time to write and mail your letters of support!

All Ph.D. students must enter the program at the same time at the beginning of the Fall semester, in September. The application deadline for Fall 2024 matriculation is December 1, 2023. 

The Graduate School maintains a web page with information regarding the Application Fee Waiver process. Please reach out to us at with any questions.

No, admission and funding are handled independently. We admit all Ph.D. students (including international students) with financial support. Incoming doctoral students receive five or six years of guaranteed financial support, including summers, a stipend, tuition remission, a health-services fee, and health and dental insurance. You can read more about Brown's funding guarantee here.

No, we do not require you to pick an advisor prior to entry. You have the first year to find a PhD advisor, which you do through courses, research rotations, seminars, group meetings and other contact. In contrast, some of our competitors force you to align with a particular advisor, whom you may have never met and whose work may not entirely interest you, before you begin.

Do note, however, that your graduate application will be stronger if you have some idea of what you want to do. If you do have such plans, please discuss them in your application statement. Try to be specific; simply listing the names of lots of professors, without providing concrete reasons for why you are interested in their work, is not likely to help your case.

No, the Graduate School only accepts online applications.

Photocopies and faxes are acceptable only as place-holders in the initial application. If you are offered admission to the program, original documents are required to complete your application. Please send all documents to the Graduate School, not the Center for Computational Molecular Biology.

Contact information is provided on the Graduate School website.

Please refer to the online application system which will indicate if your letters of recommendation have been received.

Please send supplemental materials to: Brown Graduate School, 47 George Street, Box 1867, Providence, RI 02912 or

Please note the best practice is to upload all items to your application in the system itself. If you are having difficulty the above email will contact an admissions officer who will assist with your application. Additional information can be found here.

Admissions are granted by the Graduate School of Brown University. Operationally, the CCMB evaluates your application and makes recommendations to the Graduate School, which normally adopts our recommendations. Therefore, you are generating your application (in particular, your statement) to be read primarily by faculty of the Center.

If you have questions about the Computational Biology Ph.D. program itself, please email and your question will be answered as soon as possible. 

If you have questions about the online application system or uploading documents, contact the Graduate School at