Prospective Students

Prospective graduate students choose UCSB as their home to work and play for a wide variety of reasons. Whether it's the collaborative approach to science, the many opportunities for interdisciplinary work, or the world-renowned faculty, the potential for cutting edge graduate research is limitless. Graduate students at UCSB enjoy a positive and friendly environment, with constant support and guidance from faculty, staff, and fellow students. Additionally, the Department's main offices, laboratories, and facilities are literally steps from the beach, making UCSB's geographical location unbeatable!

UCSB is located in Goleta California, about ten miles west of Santa Barbara. Both Goleta and Santa Barbara are cities of approximately 100,000 people, and both are served by a medium size airport.  The university is approximately 2 hours north of Los Angeles and 5 hours south of San Francisco.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Prospective Students


What is the minimum GPA required for admission?  What is the average GPA of admitted students?

The minimum GPA required for admission is 3.0, with varying scores from year to year.  The most important admissions criteria are research experience, student maturation, student motivation, and letters of recommendation.  

Is undergraduate research needed for admission to the department?

Undergraduate research experience is arguably the most decisive factor in admission. 

Who should my letters of recommendation be from?

They should be from faculty advisors who can comment on your research capability.  Letters from course work instructors who cannot comment on your research or laboratory skills are less valuable and have little to no weight.  Three letters of recommendation are required, but you may submit up to five if you feel additional letters will strengthen your application.

Does the department offer a Master of Science (MS) degree?

The department does not offer a stand-alone Master’s program.  Students are initially accepted into the PhD program, only.  The MA or MS degree is awarded only in rare cases when the PhD degree cannot be acquired, but the student has sufficiently completed the MA or MS degree requirements.  

Can I apply to begin the program in the Spring rather than the Fall?

No, the UCSB Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry does not offer rolling admissions; sudents are only admitted for the fall term.  Off-season admits are only possible in very rare cases when hardship and special circumstances are involved (e.g. confirmed visa or health issues).

If I am admitted and then decide I want to take a year off, can I defer admission for a year?

Applicants admitted to the Chemistry graduate program may not defer their admission to a later quarter or year; they must follow the re-application process.  Exceptions may be allowed in very rare cases when hardship and specific circumstances are involved (e.g. confirmed visa or health issues).  Employment or personal circumstances are insufficient reasons to defer admissions. 

How many applications are received per year and how many of those are admitted?

The number of applications received varies, but typically averages from 250 to 450, from which approximately 25-35 students ultimately start their Ph.D. careers in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB.

When will I be notified if I have been admitted?

You will be notified by the UCSB Graduate Division via email when a final decision has been made and your application status will be updated with the decision result.  The department may also contact admitted students via email, phone calls, and/or letter prior to release of the final decision.


How many international students are admitted into the Chemistry graduate program each year? 

The department is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students with positive energy who will further strengthen our program.  Successful applicants will demonstrate strong written and spoken English language competency, have extensive research experience, and provide compelling letters of recommendation in support of the application.  

I am an international student, but I am from a country where English is the most commonly spoken language or I am currently attending a university in the U.S.  Can the TOEFL requirement be waived for me?

Exemptions from the TOEFL requirement will be granted in the following 3 circumstances: (1) you are from a country where the official speaking language is English, (2) you will have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from a U.S. institution before the start of your first quarter at UCSB, or (3) you will have earned a degree from an institution where the primary language of instruction is English. 

Do all international students receive financial support for the full duration of the PhD program?

Effective fall 2016, the standard annual graduate student salary is $30,000. Fees and health/dental insurance are also covered. Foreign students whose first language is not English must pass an examination in spoken English to be eligible for a position as a Teaching Assistant (all students in the program are required to be TAs for at least 3 quarters).


Are research rotations required upon entering the Chemistry graduate program at UCSB?

Yes. Upon arrival, you are strongly encouraged to keep an open mind about what type of research you would like to carry out and with whom.  We encourage you to take your time and make an informed decision about research groups after meeting several potential advisors, future lab mates, and groups. Students are required to survey at least three groups by attending, at minimum, three of their group meetings before selecting a research advisor.  You are encouraged to do lab rotations with more research groups if desired. The culture of rotation varies from one research area to the next, but we have a general policy that rotation requests are welcome and will be supported by the faculty. More information can be found at Choosing a Research Area & Primary Research Advisor.

Will I be required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) during my time at UCSB?

Yes. Students teach a minimum of 3 quarters, most students teach General and Organic Chemistry labs all of the first year.  Teaching is one of the valuable skills you learn in graduate school. Satisfactory evaluation of your teaching performance is required to remain in good standing as a graduate student.

What kinds of classes are offered to take through the department for credit towards my Ph.D.?

Upon arrival at UCSB, you will meet with an area faculty advisor, who will provide assistance and recommendations for planning your course schedule.The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry offers a wide variety of courses spanning all the traditional fields of Chemistry (Analytical, Biochemistry, Inorganic, Organic, and Physical, Theoretical, Materials). Students may also take courses offered by the Materials, Chemical Engineering, and Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering (BMSE) Departments for credit towards the Chemistry Ph.D. The General Catalog provides detailed information on specific courses (all courses numbered 200 or higher are graduate-level courses).

How long does it typically take to complete the Ph.D. program at UCSB?

The average time to degree is approximately 5-6 years, which corresponds to the national average. However, many students complete the degree in less time.  See Ph.D. Requirements, Typical Timeline for more information.


Do all graduate students receive financial support for the full duration of the PhD program?

All graduate students in the Department who are in good academic standing and making normative progress toward the Ph.D. are financially supported by a teaching assistantship, graduate student research assistantship or fellowship. International graduate students must pass an examination in spoken English to be eligible for a position as a teaching assistant. The annual graduate student salary is $30,000. Tuition, fees and health/dental insurance are provided.

Is the stipend provided to incoming students sufficient for maintaining a decent standard of living in Santa Barbara?

Yes. The average monthly pay is greater than $2,300. For comparison, rent (all-inclusive) at San Clemente (university-owned graduate student housing) ranges from $800-900 per month.

Do I need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

All domestic students (including permanent residents) admitted to UCSB must have completed the FAFSA by the early March deadline. Although you may not know your admission status by early March, it would be to your advantage to have already submitted the FAFSA in the event you are admitted to UCSB or another public university. Only students who have completed the FAFSA are eligible to receive UCSB Graduate Division central fellowships. It is not necessary to have completed your federal and state taxes before filling out the FAFSA, you may use estimates from the previous year. Please consult the FAFSA website for deadline information and application downloads. More general information is available on the UCSB Financial Aid Office's FAFSA section.


Do most first year students live in graduate student housing?

Yes. San Clemente Villages is the most popular university-owned housing option for graduate students. The majority of students move out of university-owned housing at the end of the first or second year.


Why is the UCSB Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry the best choice for graduate studies?

In addition to the excellence of individual research groups, we have a strongly collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture among the faculty in Chemistry and Biochemistry, faculty across different Departments at UCSB, as well as researchers around the globe. We suggest you explore our Department’s research areas and individual faculty research profiles on our website.

I'm interested in biochemistry and biophysics. What opportunities are available to me? 

UCSB offers several opportunities for interdisciplinary biological research. The graduate program in Chemistry and Biochemistry has strong ties to the campus-wide Program in Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering (BMSE). This combination provides a rich intellectual environment for interdisciplinary research in physical and chemical approaches to biological problems. Students and faculty from both programs collaborate and intermingle frequently in research labs, courses, and seminars. Students interested in studying topics related to biology through our department are encouraged to also explore the course offerings, seminar series, and faculty affiliated with BMSE. In addition, students in Chemistry and Biochemistry may participate in a Bioengineering Ph.D. emphasis offered through the Center for BioEngineering, which offers additional courses and seminars.
How can I visit the department?

Upon admission to the Chemistry Ph.D. program, domestic students will be invited to visit the department during one of two graduate student recruitment visits in February and March. Admitted students are strongly encouraged to visit, if invited, as programming will be planned specifically to aid students in making an informed choice. If you are interested in visiting the department outside of scheduled recruitment visits, please contact the Graduate Program Advisor at

What kind of job opportunities are available to me upon completion of the PhD?

Graduates of the UCSB Chemistry PhD program are well-equipped to pursue career options in a wide variety of areas.  Our Alumni Job Placement Fact Sheet provides a comprehensive list of alumni employers.

I have read through all of the Frequently Asked Questions, but I was unable to find the answer to my question.  Where else should I look? 

The following resources are likely to contain the answers to most admissions-related questions. 

I emailed the Department, but never received a response.  What should I do?  What is the best way to contact you?

The amount of email and phone calls received increases dramatically during the graduate application and admissions period (August – March).  The Staff Graduate Advisor will be out of the office more often during this time. The best way to contact us is by emailing  Messages will be answered in the order received, as quickly as possible; at times this may take up to 10 business days. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-4:00pm, Pacific Standard Time.