Deadline: Sunday, December 1, 2024

The Chemistry and Chemical Biology Graduate Program at UCSF provides a welcoming environment for a wide range of diversity in its student population, including students with disabilities. The CCB graduate program provides an excellent environment for learning modern chemical principles and techniques to study significant problems at the interface of chemistry and biology. We encourage students with strong backgrounds in chemistry, biology, and biochemistry to apply. Read more about our six research areas.


Admission is based on:

  • Academic excellence.
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • Research experience.
  • Personal interview.


The application for Fall 2025 opens on September 1, 2024.

The deadline to apply and provide all supporting materials is December 1, 2024, 11:59 p.m. Pacific time.

The Admissions Committee reviews all applications and extends invitations to interview. We will conduct interviews over zoom in January, with admitted applicants invited for an in-person visit in March, 2025. Offers of admission will be made in February 2025. If invited to interview, your basic travel expenses will be covered by the program. Should public health conditions change, the in-person visit is subject to cancellation.

Application requirements

Prospective students can apply to only one graduate program at UCSF, with the exception of the Joint Graduate Group in Bioengineering, whose application is administered through the University of California, Berkeley.

The minimum requirement for application is a bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0, exceptions are possible at the program level and we encourage applications from individuals who feel they would be a good fit for our program.

Submit the following information through the UCSF Graduate Division application:

  1. General and demographic information
  2. 3 letters of recommendation

  3. A personal statement (or Statement of Purpose)

  4. A research statement

  5. Unofficial transcripts (instructions can be found on the application)

A non-refundable fee of $120 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents or $140 for international applicants is required to finalize your application.

We encourage students to seek application fee waivers based on financial need, participation in certain programs and universities, and other extenuating circumstances. More info: Fee Waivers.

Note that fee waivers must be requested and approved in advance of the application deadline. Although the normal turnaround is 2 business days, it is helpful to do it as soon as you are initiating your application (up to 3 months in advance of the deadline). Fee waivers are not seen by the CCB admissions committee and have no impact on your application.

See the UCSF Graduate Division site for information about fee waivers.

Evaluation of Applications

Applications are reviewed based on the following criteria:

Academics: We look carefully and holistically at the academic history and experience of each applicant, including any challenges you faced, which can be discussed in the personal statement. “Academic history” means much more than GPA and the name of the undergraduate school you attended. We consider GPA, the institution and its philosophy on grading, the courses you took, your major(s), extracurriculars, work history, and other components of your academic experience across undergraduate or postgraduate education that you provide in your statements.

Personal statement (aka Statement of Purpose): This is your chance to tell us about you! We are curious about your motivations, how you ended up where you are applying from, why you want to go to graduate school, why you’re interested in CCB, what faculty you are excited about working with, and related. Use this statement to explain “gaps” in time in your application when there are not clear activities. For example, if you took a gap year what did you do in that time? Also use this statement to explain any career transitions. If you are moving from industry to a PhD, why? If you are switching fields, why? Try to think about any “unknowns” in your application and shore them up so that the admissions committee doesn’t have to guess (we don’t know!). For example, we understand that sometimes it is not possible to request a supportive letter of reference from a prior supervisor. The personal statement is a good place to make candid statements about recommenders and prior experiences to help us to understand your application.

Also use the personal statement to discuss challenges you may have experienced that affected your academics or research experience or other components of your application. We recognize that it can be challenging when applying for graduate school to have to relive prior traumatic experiences. We are not seeking detailed descriptions of trauma and do not try to “quantify” this, which is impossible. However, stating the challenges that may have affected your path to applying to UCSF, at a level of detail you are comfortable with, will help us understand your experiences. This is sometimes also referred to as a Statement of Purpose.

Here are some other resources that might be helpful:

Comprehensive Research Statement: We consider prior research experience to be an important part of applying to our graduate program for two main reasons: 1) it helps us evaluate your potential as a researcher, and 2) it shows us that you have an understanding of how the intensive experience of graduate school aligns with your future career goals. Keep the research summary of each individual research experience brief (a few sentences) and use the Comprehensive Research Statement to tell us an overall story about your prior research experience, whether it be in academic labs, industry, or elsewhere.

Some students have worked in multiple labs, whereas others have worked solely in one or concentrated primarily on independent study - there is no single “best” way to have prior research experience. In the statement, we would like to know what questions you attempted to answer (even if you didn't answer them), the goals of your research, your specific contribution to projects, information about any publications or future authorship expectations, and anything else you think may be important about your experience. It is important to indicate what your independent contributions to a project were, both in terms of experiments and intellectual contributions. Tell us about what your lab experience was like. Did you go to conferences? Did you present at lab meeting? Write a thesis? We want to know as much as possible.

Impact of COVID: We recognize that COVID may have impacted access to research opportunities. It will help application readers understand your experience if you discuss how COVID has affected your research trajectory.

Reference letters: We request you submit three confidential letters of reference on your behalf. These letters should ideally come from prior research supervisors who can speak to your potential, independence, research experiences, and character. Co-workers or teaching faculty can also be strong letters but the most valuable are often from research supervisors. Encourage letter writers from industry to discuss their thoughts on your transitioning to an academic setting.
When considering who to ask for reference letters, it is useful to ask if they can write a “strong” letter on your behalf. If there are specific things you would like them to write about, ask them to include these in the letter - this doesn’t mean writing the letter for them, rather asking them to discuss something that would strengthen your application. Reference letters are evaluated in coordination with other application materials both as an assessment of you as a future scientist and to help us understand you better.

GRE: Applicants to the CCB Program are NOT required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and scores will not be reviewed for the admissions process.

International applicants

In addition to the information listed above, international applicants must submit TOEFL scores to institution code 4840. Exemptions to this requirement are available. Details: minimum scores and exemptions.

Once you have been granted admission to UCSF, any transcripts you submitted in support of your application from institutions outside of the U.S. must be evaluated by World Education Services (WES), an accredited third-party credential evaluation service.

It is the student's responsibility to provide UCSF with an official WES transcript evaluation report. Your program cannot do this for you.

Deadlines: We require the WES evaluation to be submitted to UCSF by the mid-point of the first term the student is enrolled.

Submitting your evaluation: Request that WES send your completed evaluation electronically directly to UCSF. Do not send physical copies of your WES evaluation through the mail.

Translations: International transcripts that are translated into English from another language may be used only to make preliminary admission decisions. WES does not translate documents and requires precise, word-for-word translations when your academic documents are not issued in English. Be sure to allow enough time for your institution to translate and provide your documents to WES in English.

Due to funding restrictions, we’re limited in our ability to accept international students—admission is extremely competitive.

Student funding

All students admitted to the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Graduate Program are supported by funding that covers tuition and fees, as well as a stipend for living expenses.

UCSF commits this support for the entire period of a graduate student's PhD training, as long as they remain in good standing. Typically it takes five to six years to earn a PhD degree.

Of particular importance to students is the annual stipend they receive for living expenses, which is part of this total.

The graduate student stipend for 2023–2024 is $47,039.67.

UCSF gathers support for graduate student funding in the basic sciences from the following sources, with the majority coming from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through faculty grants and training grants.

  • National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health Research Training in Chemistry and Chemical Biology Training Grant

All matriculated students are encouraged to apply for pre-doctoral fellowships.

Sources of PhD student support

  • Faculty grants
  • Federal training grants (NIH)
  • UCSF Graduate Division funds
  • UCSF Discovery funds
  • Internal fellowships
  • External fellowships
  • Endowment gifts for program support and scholarship
  • UCSF School of Pharmacy/School of Medicine funds


The CCB program is firmly committed to increasing diversity at every level, and cultivating a community where equity and inclusion are valued and supported. We believe both that this is a moral imperative and that a diverse community is the strongest and most creative. The Graduate Division is also committed to cultivating an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at UCSF. Please visit Diversity to learn more about Graduate Division programs and activities.

Student Disability Services (SDS)

UCSF is committed to ensuring access to graduate education for all students. Early communication with the relevant administrators is critical to a successful partnership in arranging accommodations. SDS is the appropriate and confidential office for seeking accommodations, and will coordinate communications and procedures with you and the graduate faculty and programs. Please visit Information for Prospective Students and Graduate Division Accommodations Process for more information.

Student Success at UCSF

Success in graduate school requires care and attention to all aspects of your life: health and wellness, community, career development, personal and professional relationships, and security and safety. UCSF is committed to providing a full range of resources and services to help you succeed. Learn more about these resources by visiting our Student Success website.

Deadline: Friday, December 1, 2023