CMB PhD Program Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I choose the UTSA Cell and Molecular Biology PhD program?

The UTSA Cell and Molecular Biology PhD program includes over 50 different labs to choose from in academic, clinical, military, and biotechnology settings. PI's individual labs are well equipped plus there are multiple research cores with state-of-the-art instrumentation and multiple centers promoting strengths in Microbiology & Immunology, Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine, Brain Health, Drug Discovery & Vaccine Development, and Neurosciences, among others. The curriculum is structured to ensure thorough and efficient student progress as well as training in current, cutting-edge methodologies.

When during the year do you admit new students into the program?

New students are admitted into the CMB PhD program once per year, at the beginning of the fall semester.

How do I apply for admission into the program?

Applications for admission into the CMB PhD program are submitted online to the UTSA Graduate School at

What is the deadline for submitting my application?

The final deadline for online submission of your application is December 1st for consideration for admission in the following fall.
For example: the final deadline for submission of applications for admission into the CMB PhD program in the fall of 2021 will be December 1, 2020.

The deadline for online submission of applications for early consideration is November 1st for admission in the following fall.

What needs to be included with my application?

The complete application must include and/or be accompanied by:

  • All information requested on the application form.
  • A personal statement indicating why you wish to pursue a PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology and what you hope to do with the degree once you receive it.
  • A resume summarizing past education and work experiences, particularly any previous experience conducting research in an individual laboratory.
  • Official transcripts from previously attended institutions showing your GPA in each case.
  • GRE scores – there is no minimum GRE score required, but a score from a GRE taken within the past 5 years is required.
  • Three letters of recommendation. Preferably sent by individuals who know you well and have observed you working in a research setting.

Note: The online application must be submitted by the December 1st deadline; however, supporting documents will be accepted for up to two weeks after the deadline.

Do I need to identify and/or communicate with a specific professor before I apply for admission into the program?

No, you do not need to identify or communicate with any of our program faculty prior to submitting your application. Selection of a PI lab for the dissertation research project is made at the end of the first year in the program following completion of three 10-week lab rotations.

However, if you have previously worked with one or more of our program faculty, or if there are faculty associated with our program with whom you think you might particularly like to work, you should note that in your personal statement and/or your resumé.

Do CMB PhD students receive financial support during their tenure in the program?

Yes. CMB PhD students receive an annual stipend (currently $28,000) paid in monthly allotments.

Is tuition paid by the program?

Yes. Tuition and fees are paid by the program and do not need to be paid by the student.

Is health insurance paid by the program?

Yes. CMB PhD students are reimbursed (in addition to their stipend) for the cost of health insurance.

Will I be trained in effective scientific teaching, and/or will I be required to teach or TA during my tenure in the program?

All CMB PhD students must complete a core course in teaching techniques which may include an exemplary teaching experience (e.g. one lecture).

There is no other mandatory teaching or TAing requirement of CMB PhD students. However, students wishing to gain additional teaching experience and/or those who wish or need to offset departmental support for tuition or a stipend may be required to TA.

Will I be trained in effective scientific writing?

Yes. All CMB PhD students must complete a core course in scientific writing during the fall semester of their 2nd year in the program. During the course, the student will prepare the dissertation project proposal which will form the basis for the oral qualifying exam that will be taken in the following (spring) semester of the 2nd year.

Will I be trained in effective scientific oral presentation skills?

Yes. CMB PhD students receive instruction and experience in oral presentation skills in a variety of settings including a 1st-year student presentation event, participation in 10 colloquia requiring oral presentations, presentations during the semi-annual symposium, presentations during each meeting of the dissertation committee twice per year, a final 1-hour seminar in either the CMB or STCEID seminar series, and defense of the dissertation.

How will I select a lab for my doctoral dissertation research?

CMB PhD students progress through three 10-week lab rotations during their first year in the program and select a PI following those rotations. The selected PI must have resources to support the student's stipend, tuition, health insurance, and dissertation research project. The Graduate Advisor of Record for the CMB PhD program and the Chair of the Department of Neuroscience, Developmental and Regenerative Biology will advise 1st-year CMB PhD students to assist them in selecting a dissertation PI.

Can I enter the program while still working at an outside location?

No. Student participation in the CMB PhD program is considered a full-time activity. Students are expected to devote 100% effort to the program. Thus, students cannot take on or continue working elsewhere while enrolled in the CMB PhD program. This is to ensure efficient student progress through the program.

Can I continue to receive a salary from my current job and also receive the stipend associated with the program?

No. A CMB PhD student must choose to receive the standard stipend OR to receive financial support from an external source during the student's tenure in the program, but a student may not receive the stipend if s/he is receiving external financial support.

Can I join the program on a part-time basis?

No. The CMB PhD program is designed to be a full-time program and has been shown to require full-time effort and participation by the student. There is no part-time option associated with this program.

What are the requirements to earn the PhD degree?

The detailed CMB PhD program curriculum can be found under the Program tab of this website. In brief, the requirements include:

  • Completion of required course work:
    • 19 hours of core course work
    • 9 hours of elective course work
    • 10 hours of colloquia
    • 5 hours of Doctoral Research
    • 36 hours of Doctoral Dissertation
  • Passing the written and oral components of the qualifying exam
  • Proposing, conducting, and completing a doctoral dissertation research project
  • Preparing and defending a doctoral dissertation
Will I have the opportunity to become trained in modern, cutting-edge techniques of Cell and Molecular Biology?

Yes! The individual PIs' labs are very well equipped, plus there are 10 Research Cores equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation in areas like Flow Sorting, Microscopy, Genomics, Epigenomics, Proteomics, Stem Cells, Drug Discovery, and Behavior.

There are also multiple centers or institutes specializing in areas of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Regenerative Medicine, Brain Health, Neuroscience, and Drug Discovery & Vaccine Development.

Will I have the opportunity to publish my dissertation research?

Yes! CMB PhD students are expected to conduct original, publication-quality dissertation research projects which typically yield at least 2-3 first author publications in prestigious journals and sometimes as many as 5-8 publications.

Will I have the opportunity to attend relevant national or international research conferences?

Yes! CMB PhD students are strongly encouraged to attend and present their dissertation research at at least one national or international scientific conference each year. Multiple sources of support for student travel and meeting expenses are available from the student's PI, the department, the College of Sciences, and the University.

How long will it take for me to complete the program?

The CMB PhD program is designed to be completed in 5 years and this has been the normal time required for a majority of our graduates to complete the program.

Can I complete the program in less than the normal 5-year period?

Yes, if all requirements of the program have been met (see above) and if the student's PI and dissertation committee agree that the dissertation research project has been completed and if the student successfully defends the dissertation, the student can complete the program in less than 5 years. Some students have completed the program in 4 years. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to complete the program in less than 4 years. Some students have required up to 6 years to complete the program but that is the maximum time a student can remain in the program.

What types of positions have previous students in the program obtained after graduation?

Graduates of the CMB PhD program have moved on to a wide variety of prestigious positions. Most commonly, CMB PhD graduates take up a postdoctoral fellowship at another university. CMB PhD graduates have conducted postdoc fellowships at UC San Francisco, UCLA, and PENN among many other institutions. Other graduates have taken up a position associated with military research or in the biotechnology sector. Still other graduates have taken up teaching positions.