The Application Process

The Tetrad program is one of several UCSF graduate programs. You may apply to only one program. It is therefore important to consider which program suits your interests and apply to only that program.

Admissions Requirements

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the Tetrad Graduate Program, we expect that entering graduate students will have diverse undergraduate preparation. Students with backgrounds in anatomy, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics and related fields, are welcome to apply, providing they have demonstrated a high level of academic proficiency (generally a grade point average of 3.0 or higher in relevant science courses). Evidence of exposure to scientific research, generally as participation in a research project during at least one (preferably two or more) years, is regarded as an important attribute of the successful applicant.

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 Tetrad, 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 (1-2 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 Tetrad Program are NOT required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and scores will not be reviewed for the admissions process.

Financial Support


Students admitted to the Tetrad Graduate Program are assured an annual stipend plus tuition and fees (including health insurance premium) paid on behalf of the student for the duration of their time in the program. The Tetrad Graduate Program has, in general, been able to secure waivers of non-resident supplemental tuition fees for out-of-state first-year students. Students are expected to become California residents after one year, and to complete their graduate work in no more than five years of full-time study. The Tetrad Graduate Program provides funding for students in years one and two. Funding beyond year two becomes the responsibility of the thesis advisor.

Fellowships and Grants

A major source of support for graduate students is predoctoral training grants. At present, the Tetrad Graduate Program is supporting students on a training grant from the National Institutes of Health. Students are also encouraged to apply for outside fellowships. United States citizens are eligible to apply for an NSF fellowship. Contact information for the NSF fellowship is listed below.

GRF Operations Center
Suite T-50
1818 N Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 866-NSF-GRFP (866-673-4737)
Email: [email protected]


The Tetrad 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. To read more about current and future initiatives, please read our statement HERE. 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 the website to learn more about Graduate Division programs and activities.

Student Disability Services

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 the website and look over Student Disability Services info 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.

International Applicants

In addition to meeting the same admission requirements domestic students must meet, international applicants from non-English speaking countries must also demonstrate proficiency in English by completing one year of study with a minimum GPA of 3.00 at an accredited college or university in the United States, OR by obtaining the following minimum scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – administered by ETS, or the IELTS – the International English Language Testing System. Test scores are valid from these institutions for a maximum of two years from the test date.

Send ETS-TOEFL scores to Code: 4840-U California-San Francisco

Additional requirements and information for all applicants can be found here.

Additional requirements and information for International applicants can be found here.