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The Department of Biological Sciences offers research and training that leads to the M.S. and Ph.D. degree. Graduate students, in consultation with Major Advisors, design programs of study that include cutting edge research, courses that support their particular interests, and at least one semester of a teaching experience in consultation with their research sponsor and a faculty advisory committee. Opportunities for research span the biological disciplines from molecular biology to ecosystem ecology and include computational, experimental, empirical, theoretical, and/or applied approaches. Our faculty members encourage graduate students to reach their full creative and scholarly potential. We take a holistic approach to graduate education by promoting both research skills and the ability to communicate effectively with professional colleagues and undergraduate students. In addition to their research program, graduate students may elect to earn a graduate certificate in "The Future Professoriate," which includes mentored classroom teaching. In short, our program fosters individually tailored programs that lead to successful careers in research and education. We encourage prospective students to visit the department's website to learn about research focus areas and associated interdepartmental programs, and to explore the research programs of potential Major Advisors by perusing faculty web pages. Contacting individual faculty members and their students prior to formal application provides an opportunity to explore mutual interests.


Plan of Study 

The Department of Biological Sciences offers research and training that leads to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in a wide range of disciplines that are usually included in departments of biology; botany; zoology; evolution, ecology and behavior; microbiology; and genetics. The department has strengths in molecular and cellular biology; computational biology and genomics; aquatic ecology and microbiology ecology; genetics, systematics and evolutionary biology; integrated organismal biology and behavior; and microbiology and immunology.  In addition, the department participates in interdepartmental graduate programs in molecular plant sciences; genetics, bioinformatics and computational biology; microbiology; and interfaces of global change. Opportunities for cooperative research are available with other departments or units in the university (e.g., the Department of Biochemistry, Entomology, Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science).


Interviews with potential research sponsors in the department are recommended. The department sponsors a recruitment weekend in spring when applicants are able to meet faculty and graduate students. The department pays the travel expenses of highly qualified applicants for visits during the recruitment weekend (or at other times as well).


Financial Aid

All applicants are considered for financial aid in the form of graduate teaching assistantships (GTA's), graduate research assistantships (GRA's), and fellowships offered by the department and by the Graduate School. Financial aid is typically from a mix of GTA and GRA support. GTA's, GRA's, and fellowships include tuition waivers and health insurance benefits. All graduate students are required to teach at least one semester.


Living and Housing Costs

A wide variety of living accommodations is available off campus. Apartment rent begins at about $500 per month for one-bedroom units. Meals may be taken at the student cafeterias. The university maintains a limited amount of graduate student housing.

See the off-campus housing web site at Virginia Tech for more information.



The university is located in Blacksburg, a town of almost 43,000, in scenic southwestern Virginia. The campus lies on a plain at an elevation of 2,000 feet between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. The area is noted for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. Virginia Tech's proximity to woodlands, aquatic systems, and other diverse habitats makes it an ideal location for field studies. Numerous cultural attractions, such as concert series, Broadway stage presentations, film series, music ensembles, and performances by other groups, provide a rich program for the campus community. Roanoke, the commercial and aviation hub of the area, is 38 miles east of the campus and is easily reached via four-lane highways (U.S. 460 and Interstate 81).


The University

Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 as the land-grant college in Virginia. It is now a comprehensive university consisting of eight colleges, the Graduate School, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and many interdisciplinary research centers. Graduate degrees are offered in more than eighty programs. The University is on a semester system.