University of Wisconsin–Madison
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences | School of Medicine and Public Health

Prospective Ph.D. Students

  • About The Program

    The Genetics Training Program is situated within the Laboratory of Genetics at UW-Madison, but includes a wide variety of associated faculty whose labs students can join. The training program includes over 80 faculty trainers, whose primary appointments span over 20 departments. A key feature of the trainers is that they conduct genetic research, using any number of tools, and can therefore provide students with a solid foundation of genetic knowledge and experiences.  The genetics research pursued on campus provides an exceptional community. An NIH Genetics Training Grant, administered by the Laboratory of Genetics, includes the over 80 genetics trainers, thereby providing to its graduate students the greatest possible diversity and opportunities in modern genetics research. Many trainers in the Genetics program have primary appointments in the Laboratory of Genetics.

    The Laboratory of Genetics is the oldest and one of the finest centers of genetics in the nation. It is highly regarded for its research contributions in the areas of disease geneticscell biology,neurogeneticsdevelopmental geneticsgene expressiongenomicsevolutionary & population genetics, and computational biology. The Laboratory consists of two departments: Genetics, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences; and Medical Genetics, in the School of Medicine. Although administratively distinct, these two departments function as one at both the faculty and student levels.

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison ranks among the nation’s top universities. It ranks first in the U.S. among public universities in the amount of research and development funds received from all sources, and first in the U.S. among all universities in the amount of funds received from non-military sources. Its faculty and former faculty include 11 Nobel Laureates, 45 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 7 National Medals of Science, 13 Pulitzer Prizes, 33 Presidential Young Investigator Awards, and 2 Hughes Investigators.

    The UW-Madison has one of the largest university biological research communities in the world, with over 700 faculty, 1,500 academic staff, 700 postdoctoral fellows, 2,500 graduate students, and thousands of undergraduates. Biological departments at the UW-Madison that rank among the top few in the country include Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Plant Pathology, Oncology, Chemical Engineering, Genetics, Forestry, Biomolecular Chemistry, and Bacteriology. 

    UW-Madison also houses a number of internationally recognized research centers and facilities, including theBiotechnology Center and the Genome Center, the UW Carbone Cancer Center, the J. F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution,  the Center for High Throughput Computing, the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the National Magnetic Resonance Facility, and the Biotron.

    Because of the large number of excellent faculty and the unusually good interaction and communication among departments, UW-Madison provides a superb intellectual environment in which to develop and pursue a research career in the biological sciences.

    In addition:

    • The University of Wisconsin Madison is a leader in biological science research with over 700 faculty distributed over several dozen departments.
    • Genetics maintains an active and vigorous presence in most areas of modern genetics research.
    • The University of Wisconsin Madison offers state-of-the art facilities and technologies.
    • Genetics offers a competitive stipend, tuition remission, low cost of living, and comprehensive benefits.
    • Our faculty are outstanding researchers, but also dedicated teachers and mentors who are committed to training the next generation of geneticists.
    • We have a vibrant graduate student community. Students are involved on department standing communities, participate in new student recruitment, and plan our annual retreat.
    • Madison consistently ranks among the most desirable American cities in which to live offering outdoor recreation, cultural programming, sporting events, and festivals.
  • Program Structure

    In the fall semester of the first year, each new graduate student attends a comprehensive series of talks given by faculty who have space for graduate students in their research laboratories. Based on these talks, each student then spends several weeks in the labs of three or four professors whose work seems especially interesting to them. One of these professors usually becomes the student’s major professor. Arranging these lab rotations is an important first step of each student’s program.

    In the second semester, the student becomes “certified”. Certification is a planning process in which the student and a faculty committee decide the courses needed to prepare the student for a chosen field. The student and the major professor select a certification committee of three to five faculty members from fields related to the student’s research interest. This committee will guide the student through the remainder of his or her graduate training.

    Although the first year of study emphasizes formal course work, graduate students are encouraged to begin research activities in the laboratory of their supervising professor as soon as possible and to devote an increasing portion of their time to independent work as their career progresses. Students must pass a written examination (Prelim A) in their second year, and an oral examination of a thesis proposal (Prelim B) by the end of the third year. By that time,  students will also have assisted in the teaching of one or more of the general undergraduate survey courses in genetics as part of their training. A brief summary of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in genetics is shown below:

    Core course work: Integrated Advanced Genetics for Graduate Students (Genetics 701 & 702), two roundtable methods and logic courses in conjunction with Genetics Colloquium, and four seminar courses. Students are also required to take at least one additional high-level course in genetics or genomics, and can choose additional courses based on recommendation of their thesis committee.

    Minor course work: External minor or distributed minor.

    Other requirements: One semester of teaching assistant experience, Prelim A- This written prelim exam tests knowledge of genetics and the ability to solve problems using that knowledge, Prelim B- This prelim exam is an oral defense of a thesis proposal, successful oral defense of the Ph.D. thesis.

    Course offerings in genetics are numerous and varied. Beyond our graduate core curriculum, Genetics courses include:

    Animal Developmental Genetics, Human Genetics, Clinical Genetics,
    Biology & Genetics of Filamentous Fungi, Prokaryotic Molecular Biology,
    Advanced Microbial Genetics, Regulatory Mechanisms in Plant Development,
    Evolutionary Genetics, Evolutionary Genomics, Population Genetics,
    Evolutionary Systems Biology, Genomic Science, Cancer Genetics,
    Genomic and Proteomic Analysis and Human Cytogenetics.

    Further courses in areas such as molecular and organismal biology, quantitative genetics, and bioinformatics are offered by allied departments, in addition to a wide array of seminar series.

    For more details, see the Graduate School’s statistics about the Ph.D. program in Genetics.

  • Admission Requirements

    For admission to graduate study in genetics, the student should have earned a grade average of B or better and completed a B.S. or B.A. degree in a recognized college or university. There are no specific requirements in supporting fields, but students are encouraged to acquire adequate background in mathematics, physics, and biology. There is no formal language requirement for the Ph.D. in genetics. The GRE is required.  However, we note that the Graduate Program Admissions Committee takes a holistic approach to reviewing applications and does not rely heavily on GRE scores in deciding acceptance.  The GRE Biology subject test is not required, but applicants may provide scores if available. Official GRE scores should be sent to UW- Madison, use code 1846.  If your native language is not English or your undergraduate instruction was not in English, you are also required to submit TOEFL scores. Undergraduate research experience is also strongly recommended in order to be competitive.

    Complete Applications must be received by December 1, although early submission is encouraged. Midyear admissions are not considered. Most students admitted are selected during February and March.

  • How To Apply

    Application components include:

    1. Personal, Academic and Background Information
    2. Statement of Purpose/ Reason for Graduate Study

    Please discuss your experience and prospective research areas as specifically as possible so that we may relate your background and interests to our department.  You may find it helpful to refer to the Research area of our website when writing your statement.

    1. Three  Letters of Recommendation

    The three letters should be from research mentors and professors and should address your potential to perform Genetics research at the PhD level, in addition to your aptitude and performance in intellectual and creative pursuits pertinent to scientific research.

    1. Unofficial transcripts

    Unofficial transcripts will be accepted for the admissions process. However, if you are offered admission you will be required to send official transcripts to the department.

    1. Resume/CV

    Please include in detail your research experiences including number of months worked, work experiences, publications and posters, honors, awards, and interests.

    1. Test Scores

    The GRE is required and the GRE subject test (biology or biochemistry) is recommended. Official scores will need sent to UW- Madison, use code 1846.  If your native language is not English or your undergraduate instruction was not in English, you are also required to submit TOEFFL scores.

    1. $75.00 Application Fee

    If you would like to request a fee waiver, please email your request to Martha Reck . Include the following information.:

    1.  Are you a U. S. citizen or permanent resident?
    2.  Do you identify as an African American, Hispanic American, and/or Native American?
    3.  Do you have any financially extenuating circumstances that would be aided by a fee waiver?
    4.  How many months or years of biological research have you conducted thus far?
    5.  What is your undergraduate GPA?




    Steps to complete your application:

    1. Review the UW- Graduate School Admissions requirements.
    2. Complete the online application and pay the application fee.
    3. Request letters of recommendation.
    4. Submit your official GRE and TOEFFL scores to institution code 1846.
  • Funding

    Students accepted into the Ph.D. degree program initially receive financial aid from either an NIH training grant or graduate school fellowships. In later years, support may be derived from a research assistantship. Genetics students also receive funding from competitive fellowships such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and from cross-disciplinary UW training programs that include Genome SciencesComputation and Informatics in Biology and MedicineBiotechnology, and the Biology of Aging and Age-Related Diseases. Support is awarded on a continuing basis, subject to availability, provided that satisfactory progress is maintained toward completion of the Ph.D. requirements. Limited financial aid is available to foreign students

  • Diversity

    We strive to maintain an inclusive, supportive, and diverse community that enables our world-class education, research, and collegiality.  We care about our students, and we make every effort to see that they develop both intellectually and personally during their stay with us.  Furthermore, we instill in our students a value of our community and in supporting each other during graduate school.  We strongly believe that such collegiality fosters and supports diversity – in our student body, creative ideas, and scientific innovations.

    The UW-Madison Genetics Training Program invites applications from students of diverse backgrounds who are interested in genetic research and training.  We especially seek qualified underrepresented minorities to the program and campus.  Beyond simply recruiting students, we aim to provide diverse mechanisms of support to ensure that students are empowered to express and develop to their full potential.  Please contact Martha Reck for questions you might have about our program and initiatives.

  • Contacts

    If you would like to check your application status you may do so by logging into My UW.  Every effort is made to check documents off of your application checklist in a timely manner, however, please allow 3-5 business days for updates to occur. If you have forgotten your NetID or password, assistance is available here.

    If you have specific questions about the program  please contact Martha Reck at .