Admissions Requirements for Bioinformatics Ph.D. Program

Thank you for your interest in the Bioinformatics & Systems Biology Graduate Program at UC San Diego. This is a full-time PhD program. Students are admitted as full-time PhD students. We do not admit "Masters-only" students.

Admission is in accordance with the general requirements of the graduate division. Candidates should have a quantitative or computational track record and a passion for working on challenging research questions in interdisciplinary areas across biology, medicine, computational sciences and engineering. The most competitive applicants have an undergraduate degree majoring in any of the disciplines in the biological sciences, the physical sciences, computer science, or mathematics, and a strong background in the complementary disciplines.

Applicants must apply online at and must submit a completed UC San Diego Application for Graduate Admission (use major code BF76). Applicants indicate their priority interest in the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Track or the Biomedical Informatics Track; please see this page for further information on each track.

Fall 2024 Application Deadline: Wednesday November 29, 2023. Applications with fee waiver requests are due a week earlier.

Please expand the sections below for more information.

UCSD offers an online application for the Bioinformatics & Systems Biology Graduate Program. Hard copy applications are not available. Apply online at (use major code BF76). The online application system opens mid-September.

Students are only admitted during the fall quarter. The Fall 2024 Application Deadline is Wednesday November 29, 2023. Applications with fee waiver requests are due a week earlier.

Please send test scores to

  • Institution Code 4836 (UC San Diego)
  • GRE Department Code 0224 (Bioinformatics)
  • TOEFL Department Code 69 (Engineering, other)

For further admission information, students should see the Admissions FAQ or contact the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology graduate coordinator via e-mail at or at (858) 822-0831.

To check the status of application materials that you have submitted, please email the Graduate Coordinator with your Name, Date of Birth, and Email Address used on your application. An email containing the status of your application will ONLY provide information verifying receipt of supplementary materials (transcripts, letters, etc.). Official notification of admission is distributed directly from the campus-wide Graduate Education office (GEPA).

Admission review will be on a competitive basis based on the combined elements of the application, which include:

  • Undergraduate / graduate transcripts (unofficial transcripts suffice for the application; English translation must accompany transcripts written in other languages)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores (optional for Fall 2024 admissions cycle; see notes below)
  • TOEFL scores (required ONLY for international applicants whose native language is not English and whose undergraduate education was conducted in a language other than English)
  • Statement of Purpose
  • 3 Letters of Reference from individuals who can attest to the academic competence and to the depth of the candidate’s interest in pursuing graduate study
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Short answers to questions
  • Additional Educational Experience (optional; categories include: Community Involvement, Leadership, Overcoming Adversity, Personal or Professional Ethics, Research, Social Justice Experience, Other). These responses will also allow you to be considered for Graduate Division Fellowships.

All applications will be screened and evaluated by the Admissions Committee with input from program faculty. Important factors in the holistic review of the application include:

  • Nature and quality of the undergraduate program
  • Undergraduate track record and other scholastic achievements
  • Preparation in quantitative and biomedical subject areas (see for example)
  • Proficiency with computation
  • Previous research experience, if any
  • Publications, if any
  • Evidence of qualities needed for success in graduate programs such as motivation, initiative, independence, commitment, and career plans
  • Interest in the program faculty
  • Additional educational experience
  • Interviews

Strong applications will demonstrate aptitude for critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, computational and/or research experience, community engagement, motivation, initiative and perseverance.

  • Due to the impact of COVID-19, GRE General Test scores are optional for applications for Fall 2024 admissions. We encourage applicants to use GRE scores to the best effect for their applications. For our program, GRE General Test scores are considered as evidence of quantitative and analytical reasoning abilities. We encourage reporting of scores that provide support for this. Further context can be provided in the Statement of Purpose.
  • The application form for Fall 2024 admissions includes an optional COVID-19 Personal Statement section to address any impacts due to COVID-19.
  • For applicants who are required to take the TOEFL iBT or IELTS, we have added additional options for applications for Fall 2024 admissions: the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition; and the IELTS Indicator. See more info here.

Are you an undergraduate who (i) is interested in learning about research as a career, or (ii) already has a passion for research and wants to learn more about the PhD path? If so, students of the UCSD Bioinformatics and Systems Biology PhD program are putting on a student-led info session aiming to:

  1. Encourage undergraduate students to consider PhD programs as one of the fastest paths to leadership positions in academia or industry. We go over common requirements for (i) most STEM PhD programs, (ii) typical requirements of Bioinformatics PhD programs, and (iii) the specific requirements of the UCSD Bioinformatics PhD program.
  2. Raise awareness of the benefits of the PhD path. We want students to know that (i) you are paid a living wage as a PhD student, (ii) you typically don’t pay tuition for most Bioinformatics PhD programs, (iii) what the day-to-day life of a PhD researcher is like.
  3. Provide mentorship (limited availability) to undergraduates who are interested in applying to the UCSD Bioinformatics PhD program. This includes either a one-on-one meeting with a current UCSD Bioinformatics and Systems Biology PhD student and/or a review of application materials. If the student doesn't have the experiences or the classwork yet, we will advise them how to gain those experiences so they can have a competitive application next year.


How do I sign up?

  • The live info session will be held on Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 3pm PDT.
  • One-on-one appointments and application advising will be available through mid-November 2023.
  • Please fill out this Google form to
    • sign up for the info session;
    • sign up for a mentoring session;
    • request an application review;
    • or submit a question about the application process to current students.


Past info sessions