Steps to become Microbiology student

Steps to becoming a microbiology graduate student

The Microbiology Program in the Department of Biology at Indiana University is a diverse, dynamic, and collegial environment in which students can learn about basic microbiology, host-microbe interactions, virology, metabolism, and more. We are excited you are interested in joining us!

Our “How to apply” page provides useful information common to all three Ph.D. programs in our department—including a link to the online application, a list of required documents, key dates common to all programs, and information on application fee waivers.

The goal of this page is to provide you with information about the admissions process that may be unique to the Microbiology program.

When completing the online application, please ensure that you select the Microbiology Ph.D. program through the IU Bloomington campus instead of the Indianapolis campus. Each campus offers an independent Ph.D. program in Microbiology; the two programs are not affiliated.

Admissions process

In early December, all applicants are assessed by an admissions committee made up of faculty members representing the Microbiology program. The committee’s primary job is to identify students to be invited for an interview. Other graduate program faculty members can also provide feedback during this stage—especially if you have mentioned them in your application.

Next, invitations for Graduate Recruitment Weekend (GRW) are typically sent out before January 1. This event occurs across a long weekend in early to mid February. The department pays for all travel and lodging for GRW for students currently in the U.S. (students who are overseas will have a video interview scheduled separately).

GRW is a great time for applicants to visit IU, to meet prospective advisors, and to meet the current graduate students. Applicants’ first full day is usually filled with short (30- to 60-minute) meetings with faculty followed by a department-wide dinner, usually at the local science museum. On the second day there are multiple social events; optional tours of campus, scientific facilities, and Bloomington; and a smaller dinner with Microbiology faculty to provide an opportunity to directly speak with faculty of interest to students.

Soon after GRW, core Microbiology faculty meet to discuss offers of admission. Overall, our criteria for admission generally favor applicants who have:

  • Evidence of interest in microbiology research
  • Sufficient background in prerequisite courses to be successful in graduate courses and research, regardless of undergraduate major
  • Interests that match those of current faculty who are seeking students
  • Prior experience in research through thesis work, lab work, internships, summer research experiences, or related activities
  • Evidence of solid written and oral English and scientific communication skills

Your personal statement, interviews, letters from mentors, resume, transcripts, and responses to the application questions will provide the material for making admissions decisions. No one aspect of your application is favored over another; instead, a holistic approach is taken.

Offers of admission are usually sent out at the beginning of March. Typically, we accept 10 to 12 students a year. All admitted students are promised five full years of funding through a combination of fellowships, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships. This funding is accompanied by other benefits, including health insurance and free tuition.

Finding an advisor

Importantly, most students admitted to the Microbiology graduate program rotate for their first semester—spending 5 weeks in each of three labs before finding a permanent home. We do have a direct-admit option, but it is reserved for students with strong prior experience in a system or with a faculty member. We believe strongly in the intellectual freedom of our students to choose their research path. Many admitted students, however, reach out before the application deadline to the faculty members with whom they are most interested in working, often after they have seen or read about their work. Such communication can make it clear which faculty are looking for students in the coming year and possibly the faculty who may not be. We recommend students reach out before December directly to faculty with whom they’d like to work; it is a good idea to make sure you’d find a home here at IU before applying. You may also want to reach out to graduate students in the program to ask what it’s like here and to get a better sense of the community and to follow up on any questions you haven’t had answered during GRW.

Microbiology faculty directory Graduate student directory

Writing your personal statement

In your personal statement, we would like to learn more about you as a scientist. What are your interests and what do you see as the most important research questions that need to be addressed? How did your interests evolve and what have you done to pursue them? What are the next steps in your development as a professional scientist and why do you think that our program is the place to accomplish them? Your statement can describe how you explored a field through classes, independent reading, or research projects. We will also ask you to explain your career goals and motivation for obtaining a Ph.D., ask you to flesh out your research experiences to date, and to clarify specific biological phenomena that interest you.

As you consider how you might fit with our program, it is a good idea to include the names of several faculty members with whom you could imagine yourself working.

We look forward to reading your vision for our partnership in your graduate education!

Interested in learning more about the Microbiology program?