Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: May I apply directly to a research lab?

All first year students must do three 5-week laboratory rotations in their 1st Fall Semester before they are assigned to a permanent lab in the next semester.

Q: Do you offer a Masters degree?

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department only offers a Ph.D. degree, but a Master of Biotechnology degree is available in collaboration with the Biotechnology Institute of the Huck Institutes,, or 866-774-2467.

Q: Are there certain requirements for the Personal Statement?

There is no set length for the Personal Statement, which should describe the following items.
1.  Motivation/reason for going to graduate school
2.  Research experience
3.  Research area of interest
4.  Future (career) direction
If you have low GRE and/or GPA scores, please write a brief explanation.

Q: Does the program have a prescribed format for recommendation letters?

Recommendation letters can be uploaded by the referees after the applicant enters their reference information during the on-line application process.  However, if referees have trouble trying to upload their information, they may send the reference letter as an e-mail attachment to

Q: What are the procedures/codes for reporting GRE and TOEFL scores?

All test scores should be sent electronically to Penn State.  From your test provider, please select, "Penn State University" as the destination for your test scores. The school code for Penn State is 2660.

Q: Is a TOEFL score for an international student required if they are attending a US institution?

A TOEFL is required if the applicant has a conferred degree from a non-English-speaking institution.

Q: Does a TOEFL score expire?

The Graduate School has no expiration date for TOEFL’s.

Q: What are the interview procedures for international applicants?

Interviews for international applicants will be conducted via SKYPE. The BMMB Department will email the applicant and set up a convenient time.

Q: Does an applicant receive a stipend if accepted?

Yes, all applicants, domestic and international, who are accepted into the BMMB Ph.D. program will receive a monthly stipend. In addition, their tuition will be paid by the department.

Q: Are there required GRE or GPA scores for admission into the BMMB Program?

The BMMB Department does not have a specific cut-off for GRE or GPA scores. The BMMB Department considers the entire application before a decision is made regarding admission. For example, extensive research experience and/or excellent reference letters can offset a low GPA or GRE.

Q: Is the GRE Subject Test required for admission?

It is not required.

Q: Is there a minimum GRE score?

There is no official minimum score, however an overall score of 1100 or higher and an analytical writing score of 3.5 or higher is recommended to be very competitive.

Q: Is there a minimum TOEFL score?

Yes. International applicants whose first language is not English or who have not received a baccalaureate or master's degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English must submit a score of 213 (computer-based test), or a score of 90, with 23 in the Speaking section (iBT test).*


 *Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 19 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work.

*Educational Testing Service implemented changes to the TOEFL examination in September 2005 in the U.S., with other countries phased in over time (e.g., Canada, German, Italy, and France in October 2005, the rest of the world in 2006). This test reflects revised sections that are intended to better assess an individual's functional English skills in an academic setting and adds a speaking skills component (integrated with reading, writing, and listening skills) with a maximum score on the new test of 120 points (30 points for each of the four components).