Interview Process

The first pool of selected candidates will be pre-interviewed via Zoom by admissions committee members. The final 50 selected applicants will be invited to an interview/recruitment weekend scheduled for February 9-10, 2024. Admissions decisions are made within a few weeks of the interview weekends. Individuals offered admission must notify the program of their decision by April 12, 2024. The start date for admitted students is Fall 2024.

Financial Support

The stipend level is currently $47,196 for the 2023-24 academic year. The stipend level is set annually by the P.I.B.S. Executive Committee after reviewing the cost of living in San Francisco. The program guarantees support for all of its students as long as they are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees although, in most cases, much of the support for senior students is provided by Ph.D. thesis laboratories. The program or Ph.D. thesis laboratory pays the required tuition and fees on behalf of students directly to the university.

All entering and first-year students are encouraged to apply for NSF fellowships as well as other fellowships for which individuals might qualify. United States citizens who wish to enter the Program should apply for non-university financial support at the appropriate time so that support can be activated at the time of enrollment. Information about NSF and other fellowships is available from The Fellowship Office, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418, or the websites of individual funding foundations and agencies. Foreign students should apply for support from appropriate national and international governmental agencies and foundations. In addition, University fellowships and graduate scholarships are available through the University of California. Fellowships with lower stipends than the PIBS support of $44,000 will be supplemented to this level. To facilitate the program's efforts to guarantee full support for its students, all eligible students are expected to become residents of the State of California before beginning their second year of study.

Information for Foreign Students

Foreign students, whose training has been in a language other than English, must take the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) in their home countries. Arrangements for the test may be made by writing to the Educational Testing Service. International students who have had training in English are not required the TOEFL.

TOEFL Educational Testing Service 
P.O. Box 592 
Princeton, New Jersey 08540, U.S.A.
TOEFL code: 30

Evaluation of Applications

Academics:  We thoroughly and holistically evaluate the academic history and experience of each applicant, including any challenges faced, which can be discussed in the personal statement. While considering your application, we evaluate a number of factors including GPA, your undergraduate institution and its philosophy on grading, the courses you took, your major(s), extracurriculars, work history, and other components of your academic experience across undergraduate or postgraduate education that you provide in your statements.

Personal Statement:  This is your chance to tell us about you! We want to understand your personal and scientific motivations, your academic path, why you are applying to graduate school, why you want to join our program, why you're interested in neuroscience, what faculty you would be excited to work with, and anything else you deem relevant to your career as a scientist.

The personal statement is an opportunity to explain any 'gaps' in time in your application. For example, if you took a gap year, what did you do in that time? This statement can also be used to explain career transitions. If you are moving from industry to a PhD, why? If you are switching fields, why? Try to anticipate and answer any questions your application may raise so that the admissions committee doesn't have to guess (we don't know!).  For example, we understand that it is not always possible to request a supportive letter of reference from a prior supervisor. The personal statement is the place to make candid statements about recommenders and prior experiences to help us understand your application.

The personal statement is also a space to discuss any challenges you may have encountered that impacted your academics, research experience, or other components of your application. We recognize that it can be challenging when applying for graduate school to have to discuss traumatic experiences or hardships.  We are not seeking detailed descriptions of trauma and do not try to 'quantify' this, which is impossible.  However, stating your background and the obstacles you’ve faced on your path to UCSF, at a level of detail you are comfortable with, will help us to better understand your “distance traveled” as an applicant.

Research Statement:  We consider prior research experience to be the most important part of applying to our graduate program for two main reasons: 

1) It helps us evaluate your potential as a researcher

2) It shows us that you understand how the rigorous, intensive experience of graduate school aligns with your future career goals.  

Use the research statement to describe your prior research experience, whether it was in academic labs, industry, or elsewhere. Some students have worked in multiple labs, whereas others have worked solely in one - there is no single 'best' way to have prior research experience. In the research statement, we would like you to explain what questions you attempted to answer (even if you didn't answer them), why they are interesting and important, the goals of your specific project(s), your individual contributions to project(s), information about any publications or future authorship expectations, and anything else you think may be important about your experience. Detail your independent contributions to a project, in terms of both experiments and intellectual contributions. Did you present your work at conferences? Did you present in lab meetings? Write a thesis? We want to know as much as possible.

Reference Letters:  We request that you submit at least three, up to five, letters of reference on your behalf.  These letters should ideally come from prior supervisors who can speak to your potential, independence, research experiences, and character.  Coworkers or teaching faculty can also be strong letters, but the most valuable are often from research supervisors. Encourage references from the industry to discuss their thoughts on your transition to an academic setting.  

When considering who to ask for reference letters, it is helpful to ask whether they can write a 'strong' letter on your behalf. If there are specific things you would like them to write about, ask them to include these in the letter - this doesn't mean writing the letter for them, but rather asking them to discuss something that you think would strengthen your application. Reference letters are evaluated in coordination with other application materials both as an assessment of you as a future scientist and to help us understand you better.

UCSF is committed to a diverse and inclusive graduate student population, which enhances the educational experience, the workplace, and the nature of scientific research.