Cancer Biology Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What degree do you offer?

Students who complete this program will be awarded a PhD in cancer biology from University of the Sciences.

How does this program differ from others?

This unique dual study program offers an integrated learning experience like no other in the region, combining a solid grounding of core and advanced courses with research. With emphases on cancer drug discovery and translational aspects, such as cancer prevention and therapy, the curriculum equips students for a successful life sciences career in academia, industry or other career paths.

What is the nature of the Wistar-USciences partnership?

USciences has partnered with The Wistar Institute—one of the world's most respected cancer research centers—to utilize the Molecular Screening Facility for collaborative funded projects and student training. The two institutions work closely together to optimize efforts and joint funding opportunities and to provide outstanding possibilities for students interested in cancer biology research.

Program Information

What does the curriculum include?

The comprehensive, integrated graduate degree curriculum leverages scientific excellence in basic and translational cancer research, preparing students with outstanding potential for a successful academic, industrial, or government laboratory career in cancer biology.

Required courses include:

  • Advanced Cell Biology
  • Cell Biology Methods
  • Biotechnology
  • Biotechnology Laboratory
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Advanced Biochemistry
  • Introduction to Research
  • Cancer
  • Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer
  • Molecular Cancer Therapeutics
  • Molecular Screening
  • Journal Club
  • Doctoral Research

Other requirements for completion of the program include:

  • Elective courses as required by a research advisor and/or advisory committee
  • Presentations at scientific conferences
  • Passing the program’s comprehensive examination
  • Preparing (in NIH format), presenting, and successfully defending a research proposal
  • Publication of research papers
  • Writing and successfully defending a dissertation

For a detailed description of the requirements, please see the Path to Your PhD page on The Wistar Institute site.

Applying to the Program

What are the prerequisites for admission into the program?

Students are required to have a minimum of a baccalaureate degree in biology, biochemistry, or a related field, with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 in their most recent science degree. Students also must have a GRE score in the 60th percentile or better, a TOEFL iBT score of at least 100 (if applicable), and at least 6 credits at the 300–400 levels with laboratory experience in at least two of the following: microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, or cellular biology.

What do I have to submit to apply for formal admission?

You are required to submit an application form and fee (unless applying online), official transcripts of all colleges and universities attended, official GRE scores, a curriculum vitae or résumé, a statement of purpose for pursuing graduate studies, and three letters of recommendation from academic faculty members or employment supervisors. International applicants must also supply official TOEFL iBT scores. We require international applicants to submit an equivalency evaluation from World Educational Services or similar body.

May I apply to take a course before formal admission into the program?

We may permit nonmatriculating students on a case-by-case or space-available basis. Students must submit an application form; a statement of purpose for pursuing graduate studies; a curriculum vitae or résumé; a copy of a college or university transcript, preferably showing graduation or likely graduation; and one letter of recommendation from an academic faculty member or employment supervisor.

Financial Aid

Is financial aid available?

Students who seek aid are generally full-time students pursuing their thesis degree, and there is priority to fund those who will be conducting research. As with admission, the financial aid offer is based on student credentials and recommendations. The decision to offer an aid package will be determined by the amount of money to support student positions in a given year, the strength of the applicant’s prior academic record, the quality of the personal statement and recommendations, and the GRE scores. Aid may be offered as a monthly subsistence stipend accompanied by a tuition scholarship.

What do I have to do to apply for an aid package?

Indicate on the application form that you are seeking financial aid. If you indicate that you do not require aid, it is unlikely that an aid package will be offered, even after arrival at the University.

What do I have to do for the money in an aid package?

Students who receive aid are referred to as Graduate Student Instructors for the first year. These students assist in the educational process at the University by instructing in laboratories; doing preparatory work for the laboratory; assisting in laboratory and course development; assisting in the library, the Central Stockroom or the Office of Sponsored Projects; or performing any of a variety of other duties. In the second and subsequent years, students will transition to the role of Graduate Research Assistant.

Entrance Exams

What do you require in the GRE?

We require that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) revised General Test. We generally accept applicants who have scored at the 60th percentile level or higher on each of the three subparts. A lower score in one area can be offset by a higher score in a different area, but the deviation should not be too large. The language proficiency components of the examinations are important because of the number of presentations and writing exercises required of each student in the program.

What do you mean by 60th percentile?

When the official GRE scores are received, the applicant and institution are given both raw scores and a percentile rating. The percentile is an indication of how many of those who took the test in this time period scored below this particular effort. The raw scores that represent the 50th percentile can drift around over time, so we use the percentile rating to adjust for these variations. At present, the 60th percentile level for the Verbal Reasoning (=Verbal) subscore is approximately 500; for the Quantitative Reasoning subscore, the 60th percentile level is approximately 700. The 60th percentile for the Analytical Writing subscore is approximately 4.5–5.0. To the extent possible, we follow the guidelines of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in use and interpretation of GRE scores. Their guidelines can be viewed here

International Students

Do you accept international students?

USciences welcomes students from every part of the world.

What are your admission requirements for international applicants?

An international applicant must be a graduate of a reputable college or university with at least the equivalent of an earned bachelor’s degree. (Note: International students who have earned the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in a three-year program will be considered on a case-by-case basis.) If you did not earn your degree at a U.S. college or university accredited by a USDE-recognized accrediting organization, you must submit transcripts that have been reviewed on a course-by-course basis by World Education Services (please note that this evaluation is performed at an applicant’s personal expense).

What kind of English language competency scores are required?

Original TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-Based Test) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores are required if your primary language is not English and/or you have not earned a degree from an institution of higher learning in which the primary language of instruction was English.

Even if you have earned a college degree from an institution in which the primary language of instruction was English, if your native language is not English, we highly recommend that you take the TOEFL iBT or IELTS examination. History shows that such applicants are more likely to be admitted and are more likely to be successful in our graduate programs. The College of Graduate Studies requires a minimum score of 100/120 on the TOEFL iBT examination (IELTS minimum of 7.0) to be considered for admission and financial support.


Who should I contact for further information?

Most questions should be directed jrconejo [at] wistar [dot] org (Dr. José R. Conejo-Garcia), director of graduate studies for The Wistar Institute.  He can answer most questions and will facilitate your application process. If you wish to check on the status of your application after submission, contact the director or the admission office.

Additional Questions?

For additional admissions information, please contact our graduate admissions counselors by phone at 215.596.8556 or by e-mail at graduate [at] usciences [dot] edu (subject: Cancer%20Biology%20Program%20Inquiry) .