These are some of the questions asked most frequently by applicants and prospective students. This page is a work in progress, and if your question isn’t answered here, please contact the graduate director.
- I’ve got a background in ____ but haven’t done any ____ for a long time – will I be able to follow this program?
- I am primarily interested in using experimental approaches. Does it make sense for me to apply to this program?
- How are students funded?
- Should I apply to the MS or PhD program?
- What is the deadline for application and timeline for admission?
- Do you have minimum GRE/TOEFL/GPA requirements?
- What is the acceptance rate?
- Where do students live?
- Is Camden safe?
- Where can I get the perspective of a current international graduate student?
I’ve got a background in _____ but haven’t done any ____ for a long time – will I be able to follow this program?
Going into an interdisciplinary program after a more traditional undergraduate program can be intimidating, but we use an approach to interdisciplinary training that embraces the range of backgrounds of our students. The Essentials Courses are a key part of this approach, as are the students themselves!
Some of our students come in with very strong math skills but haven’t been in a biology class since high school, others have spent a lot of time in a biology laboratory but have never done any computer programming and/or haven’t had math since their first year of college, some already come in with a mix of skills. No student comes in with “everything covered”, but all students have something to offer – and so we encourage and rely on students from complementary backgrounds to assist and coach each other.
Concerns about preparation are common for incoming students, but they widely report those concerns being alleviated within the first semester. Several of our current students had the program recommended to them by alumni!
I am primarily interested in using experimental approaches. Does it make sense for me to apply to this program?
Yes – definitely! About half of our students do entirely experimental research. Although CIB students do not all do computational research, they all learn how to effectively collaborate and communicate with computational researchers, including fellow students, computational PIs, or seminar speakers. This is a skill that only gets more important each year!
Funding depends upon graduate program.
MS: Domestic MS students are eligible for financial aid, and students who are not residents of New Jersey are eligible for a scholarship to cover the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. International students are eligible for the International Chancellor’s Graduate Scholarship.
It is also common for MS students to get paid an hourly wage as a part-time assistant in a research lab, but this is dependent upon the lab head (the PIs) funding and approval.
PhD: Most PhD students are provided funding which covers their tuition, fees (including health insurance), and a stipend. In exchange, the student is expected to perform duties as either a Teaching Assistant (TA) or a Graduate research assistant (GA). A typical progression is for students to TA their first two years and then get paid as a GA in their advisor’s lab for the rest of their PhD. This is not how it works for everyone, though: sometimes more advanced students TA and sometimes more junior students will be GAs.
Sometimes students choose to self-fund a PhD. In this case, tuition and fees are similar to those for MS students.
More on funding through the Graduate School is available here.
There are many differences between these two graduate programs. Some of the most important:
Time: The MS degree usually takes about 2 years, while the PhD degree usually takes between 4 to 6 years.
Funding: PhD students are usually funded by an institution invested in their research, while an MS degree is funded more similarly to an undergraduate degree.
For this reason, gaining admittance into the PhD means also gaining access to funding. Sometimes we have students who we think could do well in the PhD program but who we can’t fund in the year they originally apply. In those cases, the student has the option to a) commit to self-funding a PhD, or b) enroll in the MS Plan A, where they can work on applying for fellowships and doing so well in their research that they become a priority for funding in the subsequent years. This is frequently a good option for students who might not look spectacular “on paper” but who have something special to offer the program.
Expectations: Research expectations are substantially higher for a PhD. The first two years of a PhD are pretty similar to the MS Plan A program, but the PhD student spends several additional years devoted entirely to making a significant research contribution.
Application Process, Deadline and Response time: Any students not admitted to the PhD program are automatically considered for the MS program. However, if you apply to the MS directly, the application (and review) process is somewhat less extensive, and we are able to give a much faster response to your application (usually within a month.) Furthermore, applications to the PhD are considered once a year, while MS applications are considered on a rolling basis.
Subsequent Employment: There are many jobs you can do well with either a PhD or an MS, but a few jobs that absolutely require a PhD. A PhD is a stage along a certain type of scientific research or higher education track that you can’t skip over or go without. If you are invested in progressing down those particular research tracks, you will need a PhD.
If you aren’t invested in a career devoted to independent research, a PhD might still be a good choice for you, because it can help in other career tracks. On the other hand, it might not make sense for you.
This is a general question (not one specific to the CIB) and has been written about frequently. One good and very recent article is [Should you go to grad school? | Science | AAAS] – but like many articles, this one does not mention how useful a reasonably-priced MS degree can be if you are undecided. The MS allows you to simultaneously improve your employment prospects AND test whether a PhD graduate program is a good fit, without committing too many years of study.
Who you will be when you are done:
The simplest answer is that you will be several years older when you finish a PhD than you would have been if you’d just finished an MS.
The most meaningful answer is that your brain will be fundamentally different by completing a PhD in a scientific field. You will leave with a specific type of intellectual discipline that is hard to get any other way. This will affect how you approach problems and analyze the world around you for the rest of your life.
What is the deadline for application and timeline for admission?
With very few exceptions, PhD students are only admitted in the Spring semester for the following Fall. There are two rounds for application consideration:
Round 1 (Feb 1 deadline): Applications submitted by February 1 are automatically put in Round 1. We’ll hold brief video interviews during the 3rd and 4th week of February. The earliest you will receive a decision is the last week of February.
Round 2 (March 1 deadline): Round 2 applications may be awarded funding at a lower rate, but we still consider applications during this period! Video interviews will usually be held during the 2nd week of March. The earliest you will receive a decision is the third week of March.
Applications for the MS program are reviewed as they come in. For Spring semester, they must be submitted by December 1, while Fall semester requires submission by May 1.
Are there minimum GRE/TOEFL/GPA requirements?
We do require the GRE General Test. (The ETS does administer an at-home GRE General Test during the current pandemic. A GRE subject test will strengthen your application, but is not required. We do not have hard cutoffs for a GRE or GPA, because we consider each student individually. We would not want to miss a promising scientist who fell just below the cutoff for some reason! A low GRE score or GPA can be mitigated by other significant strengths.
The minimum TOEFL for enrolling is 70, but getting funding for a PhD through a TA line usually requires higher English proficiency than the minimum. You will have a chance to demonstrate English proficiency during your interview.
What is the acceptance rate?
Our program is young and we have been getting rapidly more selective over time, as the number of strong applicants increases. In 2020, the acceptance rate for the PhD was 8%, while the acceptance rate for the MS was 35%. Many students who are not accepted with funding into the PhD are offered admission into the MS program. If you are an excellent MS student, it is likely you will be at the top of the PhD funding list two years later!
There is on-campus housing available for graduate students. Students also live in nearby Camden apartment buildings like The Victor, just across the Delaware River in Philadelphia, elsewhere in Southern New Jersey (like Haddonfield, Cherry Hill, Collingswood), or somewhere else in New Jersey.
Yes, it is safe! The old reputation of Camden is just that – old. In 2016, President Obama and officials from other cities (including Philadelphia) visited Camden to learn about the innovative policing methods that have transformed public safety in Camden. The Rutgers-Camden campus is bounded by the Delaware Waterfront and Ben Franklin Bridge, and has its own police force, which kept the campus safe and peaceful even prior to the revitalization of Camden.
Nationally, revitalized cities are growing and have become lively, exciting, and fun places to live and work!