Ph.D. Programs - University of Houston
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Ph.D. Programs

The Department of Biology & Biochemistry offers Ph.D. degrees in Biochemistry and in Biology. The Ph.D. program in Biology has two degree tracks: the Cell and Molecular Biology degree track, and the Ecology and Evolution degree track.


Faculty and graduate student research focuses on biochemical processes at the subcellular and macro-molecular levels and encompasses a variety of fields and methodologies. Areas of study include macromolecular structure and function as elucidated by nuclear magnetic resonance; X-ray crystallographic and spectroscopic techniques; enzyme reaction mechanisms; genomics; computational methods in molecular biology; computational biochemistry/biophysics; computer-aided drug design; signal transduction; neurochemistry; ion channel structure and function; the role of RNA in molecular evolution; the structure and function of virulence factors; and biotechnology.

Cell and Molecular Biology

The faculty and students in this program share common interests in understanding the molecular mechanisms which drive both fundamental cellular processes and the developmental processes of morphogenesis, cell differentiation and gene regulation. The strength of the program is the diversity of the biological systems under study, which stimulates extensive exchange and collaboration between the various groups. Faculty expertise spans the disciplines of cell and developmental biology, molecular biology, physiology, microbiology, neuroscience, immunology, and genetics.

Ecology and Evolution

This program blends knowledge and methodology from diverse biological disciplines to better understand ecological and evolutionary processes operating at multiple scales—from molecules to individuals to societies to communities. Current research programs include experimental evolution, evolution of development, evolutionary genetics, behavioral ecology, community ecology and evolutionary bioinformatics in systems ranging from bacteria to ants, from protists to grasses. Faculty conduct studies in natural habitats including the Colorado plateau, and coastal salt marshes, and in artificial systems such as petri dishes and theoretical models.

The Department of Biology & Biochemistry believes that high-quality graduate studies require a commitment to high-quality research. As a result, our graduate students receive financial support sufficient to provide a modest standard of living that enables them to make a full-time commitment to their graduate training. Some of the types of financial support available to students are listed below. Additional financial assistance may also be available from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the University of Houston Graduate School.

Teaching Assistantships (TAs)

TAs are the main source of support for first-year students but are available in subsequent years for students not supported by grant funds. TAs will be provided a salary of $2,194.66/month (U.S. $26,335.92 per year). This level of support is sufficient for international students to obtain an F1 visa.

Research Assistantships (RAs)

RAs are the main source of support for students after their first year in the program. RA support is provided through grants to the lab the student joins to conduct graduate research. RA support is currently $2,194.66/month (U.S. $26,335.92 per year).

Graduate Tuition Fellowship (GTF)

Students supported as TAs or RAs are eligible for tuition fellowships to cover their mandatory tuition and fees. These fellowships provide the students with approximately $20,000/year to pay for mandatory tuition and fees. See more information on eligibility criteria.

Non-resident Tuition Waiver

Out-of-state students and international students employed as TAs or RAs receive a waiver of the additional tuition charged to non-residents.

Presidential Fellowship

All applications submitted for admission to the Biology & Biochemistry Graduate Program are reviewed by our Graduate Recruiting and Admissions Committee. This committee is comprised of a group of faculty from each division of the department. Once admitted to the program, accepted applicants are further evaluated for the Presidential Fellowship. The criteria for evaluation are as follows:

  1. Appropriate academic coursework in the major
  2. Outstanding grades in previous university coursework
  3. Demonstrated research ability or potential for research excellence.

If awarded, the student receives $2,000/per year for the first two years. This fellowship is in addition to the monthly stipend and Graduate Tuition Fellowship given to all students admitted to our graduate program. Students must meet minimum full-time enrollment (9 hours) and a cumulative 3.00 GPA to maintain the fellowship each semester it is held.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to outstanding students enrolled in our graduate program. The maximum award is $2,000/year. Recipients must be Texas residents and citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Students apply annually on the UH Foundation website.

Medical Insurance

In addition to their stipend, graduate students employed as TAs or RAs receive $150/month for health insurance. For more information about the student health insurance plan endorsed by and designed especially for the University of Houston, please see Student Health Insurance.

Cost of Living

Houston has a relatively low cost of living compared to most major U.S. cities and many low-cost apartments and houses are available.

The minimum entrance criteria for doctoral graduate studies in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry are as follows:

  1. Completion of a baccalaureate degree (B.S.) with a major in Biology, Biochemistry, or an equivalent discipline. You can apply to our programs before you complete your degree, provided you graduate before you enter the program. (NOTE: A prior M.S. is not a requirement to apply to our Ph.D. programs.)
  2. Grade Point Average ≥ 3.0 / 4.0 (overall or for the last 60 hours of coursework completed).
  3. The GRE is no longer required by our Ph.D. programs. If you decide to submit GRE scores, UH's Institutional Code is 6870.
  4. Informative, coherent and well-written statement of purpose.
  5. Three strong letters of recommendation.
  6. English Language Proficiency Requirement. All applicants, regardless of citizenship status, must demonstrate proficiency in English to obtain admission. To fulfill this requirement, applicants must satisfy one of the following criteria:
    a) Bachelor's degree (or higher) earned from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or at an institution at which English is the medium of instruction in the following countries: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Bahamas, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Jamaica, Liberia, Trinidad, the Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Turks and Caicos, and English-speaking Canadian provinces.
    b) TOEFL. The minimum TOEFL score required is 79 for the internet-based test. The minimum TOEFL score for the new revised paper-based exam is: Reading 20, Listening 20, and Writing 20. TOEFL scores must be received directly from Educational Testing Service (ETS). UH's Institutional Code is 6870.
    c) IELTS. The minimum IELTS score required is an overall score of 6.5. The testing agency should mail the official results directly to UH. No electronic IELTS are accepted. 
    d) Duolingo. A minimum score of 105 is required.

Use the online application to submit all your documents electronically. Your references will be automatically contacted to submit their letters of recommendation. Please follow the instructions on the UH Graduate School Application page.

What We Look For

We seek to admit students who show a strong record of academic achievement and a high level of motivation and interest. Your record of academic achievement and ability is conveyed by your transcripts, GPA, and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, as well as your letters of recommendation. Your level of motivation and interest is conveyed by your personal statement and letters of recommendation. We will evaluate your application on the basis of your transcripts, test scores (GRE scores for everyone, TOEFL/IELTS scores for foreign students), your personal statement, and the letters of recommendation.

Transcripts and GPA

Successful applicants to our program generally have GPA's of 3.00 or higher. However, a student with a high GPA and a transcript with lots of non-rigorous courses may not be viewed as favorably as a student with a somewhat lower GPA who has taken courses that are essential preparation for graduate work (such as Genetics, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Evolutionary Biology, etc.). It is not essential to have all of these" foundation" courses before you start graduate school, but if you do not have most of them, you will not be well prepared for graduate school.


The GRE provides information regarding your overall academic ability. You are more likely to do well on the GRE if you prepare for the exam. Preparation guides and practice tests are available at most college bookstores.

Your school may provide assistance in preparing for the GRE; check with your career or academic counseling office.


This exam is required for all applicants who have not obtained a prior university degree from an institution where English is the medium of instruction (see list of exempt countries and English Language Proficiency Requirements). These scores must be officially reported to the University before we can admit you to the program or offer financial support.

Statement of Purpose

Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell us why you want to join our graduate program and what your long-term goals and interests are. You do not have to know exactly what you want to do, or what scientific questions you want to pursue, but you should tell us what excites your interest or curiosity. Be specific. Your statement is also a chance to discuss any aspect of your application (such as academic history) that you feel warrants further explanation.

If there is a reason for your low GPA (a bad semester due to personal difficulties, for instance), you can provide a brief explanation in your personal statement. High GRE scores can make up for a low GPA, and a high GPA can balance out low GRE scores. In some cases, research experience and strong letters of recommendation can make up for low grades and low GRE scores.

Letters of Recommendation

You will need 3–4 letters of recommendation. Most or all should be from your professors, and the letters should come from people who know you personally as well as your academic performance. Make sure your letter writers know your academic record, reasons for wanting to go to graduate school, and long-term goals.

Contacting Faculty

You can contact individual faculty members in our department whose research is of interest to you, either before or after sending your application. Faculty interests and contact information are available on this Faculty Profiles webpage.

Find more information about the application process on the How to Apply page on the NSM website.

Apply Now


  • Spring
    • Open for Applications: June 1
    • Early Deadline: September 1 (apply by this deadline to guarantee full consideration)
    • Late Deadline: November 1
  • Fall
    • Open for Applications: October 1
    • Early Deadline: January 1 (apply by this deadline to guarantee full consideration)
    • Late Deadline: April 1

For More Information

Rosezelia Jackson