If you haven’t been able to find all the information you need, this section contains answers to questions that are frequently asked by prospective students. If we haven’t managed to answer all of your question(s), please email the Program Coordinator who will be pleased to help.

We try to keep this information as up to date as possible but if there is a discrepancy between the information on this website and the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies’ website, the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies’ website will be considered to be correct.


Check the minimum academic requirements on the G+PS website to determine if you are eligible for admission to graduate school at UBC. Note that meeting the minimum academic requirements only indicates that you are eligible to apply; it doesn’t mean that you will automatically be accepted to graduate school.

There are several indicators that we look for: first-class grades, excellent letters of reference, a well written statement of intent, laboratory research experience (e.g. directed studies courses, summer research projects), journal publications, science-related volunteer experiences, and community involvement.

The Admissions Committee looks at all parts of an application: academic history, letters of reference, statement of intent, previous research and work experience, extracurricular activities and community involvement. To strengthen your application you could take more courses where you feel you are weak or are missing relevant training. Directed studies and laboratory-based courses can not only help improve your GPA, but can also give you valuable research experience. You could also volunteer in a lab to gain more research experience.

If your previous degree was taken in a language other than English, you must submit a recent English language test score. The CELL Program requires a TOEFL (ibT) minimum overall score of 100 (minimum component scores 22/22/22/22) or an IELTS minimum overall score of 7.0 (minimum component scores 6.5/6.5/6.5/6.5). Scores below the minimum requirements will likely result in a rejected application. Our university code is 0965. Further details are available here.

No. We recommend that you do not apply until you have found a Research Supervisor.

Here are some suggestions. Check the list of CELL Program faculty members. To gain a better idea of what their research is about, you should look at their websites and read some of their most recently published journal articles. Send a brief email to those faculty member(s) whose areas of research interest you to find out if they have any graduate student positions available.

The selection of a supervisor is extremely important as it defines your area of research and determines the atmosphere that you will be working under for the next several years. You should treat this like you would any job interview. Your e-mail should describe your academic background, research experience (if any) and research interests. It is also helpful if you can provide up-to-date transcript(s) of marks from all post-secondary institutions that you have attended (the transcript(s) can be unofficial at this stage). You are welcome to add additional information regarding professional employment experience, publications, or awards which you feel should be taken into account. Potential Research Supervisor(s) that you contact may want to interview you either in person or, if you cannot come to the University, by telephone or via Skype. If you are able to meet with the potential supervisor, during your visit you should also talk with the graduate students currently in the laboratory.

General information about finding a research supervisor is also available on the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website.

If you want to enroll in the CELL Program and have identified a potential research supervisor whose name does not appear on the list of current faculty members, please find out whether he or she would like to become a faculty member of the Program. The criteria for acceptance as a faculty member of the CELL Program are straightforward and are available here.

Suitable referees should know you well enough to be able to assess your academic preparation and research abilities/potential. Undergraduate research supervisors, university professors, and employers from science-oriented industries are some examples. Post-doctoral fellows, employers outside of science, and personal physicians are not suitable referees.

A reference submitted by a referee using the on-line application system is considered official. If your referee prepares a paper reference instead, the form or letter must be signed and enclosed in an envelope which has been sealed and signed by the referee to be considered official. All other types of references, or those not meeting the requirements above, are considered to be unofficial.

Any information about your research background & interests, including relevant experiences such as courses, presentations, publications and work experience (if any), is very helpful to the CELL Program Admissions Committee.

Upload your transcripts as soon as you have received your first term grades.

If you enter the Ph.D. program with a Master’s degree in an unrelated discipline, you are required to successfully complete, in your first year, both of the Program’s 3 credit Process courses (BIOL 530 and CELL 501). You will not be required to take additional coursework unless this is recommended by your Research Supervisor in consultation with your Research Advisory Committee. All additional course work must be completed within 24 months from the date of initial registration.

Ph.D. students who are not required to take courses can start their program in September, January or May. For all other students, September admission (i.e. at the beginning of an academic year) is very strongly recommended – a September start offers you the greatest choice of graduate courses and Teaching Assistantships as well as opportunities to apply for awards and scholarships. Exceptions to this general recommendation will only be permitted by the Director of the CELL Program in very unusual circumstances.

If you receive permission to start in January, you should note that because BIOL 530 (which runs September - December) is a prerequisite for CELL 501 (which runs January - April), you will have to complete CELL 501 at the start of your second year in the Program. In addition, the 9 credits of coursework required in your first year in the Program MUST include BIOL 530 (3 credits), two of the Program's 1.5 credit Content courses, and 3 credits of elective coursework.

Application Review

Once you have secured a Research Supervisor and we have received your on-line application, transcripts and references, the CELL Program Admissions Committee will review your file. There is no set turnaround time for the review process. We will contact you as soon as the Admissions Committee has completed its review.

After the Program recommends your admission, you will receive notification that you have been accepted into graduate school and you will receive instructions on how to download your letter of acceptance.

Your application will not be reviewed until you have informed us that you have secured a supervisor.

Financial Support/Tuition/Fees

All CELL graduate students receive a minimum funding package valued at $30,000 a year (starting January 2023). This can be a combination of awards & scholarships, a stipend from your supervisor’s research grants, and a Teaching Assistantship. You should discuss the make-up of the funding package with your supervisor. Before we can accept you into the CELL Program, you and your Research Supervisor must sign the Agreement between Graduate Student and Research Supervisor, which details the amount and sources of funding that will be available to support you as a graduate student. If you are awarded a scholarship equal to or more than $8,000 per year, you will receive a minimum top-up of $3,000 per year above the minimum funding level for the duration of the scholarship (i.e. you will receive a minimum funding package of $33,000 per year). If you are awarded a scholarship/award equal to or more than $16,000 per year, you will receive a minimum top-up of $6,000 per year above the minimum funding level for the duration of the scholarship (i.e. you will receive a minimum funding package of $36,000 per year).

Yes there are. You should have a first class GPA in each of the last two years of full time study and will need to meet the specific eligibility requirements of the particular scholarship that you are applying for. Canadians and Permanent Residents of Canada, if eligible, may apply for external funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) as well a number of not-for-profit agencies. International students may apply for scholarships from their home countries. In addition, domestic and eligible international students can apply to the UBC Affiliated Fellowships competition and other UBC Awards. The CELL Program itself also offers competitive awards of up to 1 year to students in the Program.

Yes. All graduate students may apply for Teaching Assistantships. The CELL Program encourages each graduate student to TA at least once during their graduate career and encourages supervisors to not reduce a student’s stipend if they TA. The decision to apply for a TA position should be discussed with, and approved by, your research supervisor.

Unless you hold a UBC Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (4YF), you are responsible for paying your tuition fees from your stipend. Tuition fees vary according to whether you are a domestic or an international student. For M.Sc. and Ph.D. students in the CELL Program, 2016/17 tuition fees are $4,707.66 per year (domestic students) and $8,270.55 per year (international students). However, eligible international students receive the International Tuition Award which significantly lowers tuition by up to $3,200 per year. Full details of tuition fees for M.Sc. students in the CELL Program can be found here. Full details of tuition fees for Ph.D. students in the CELL Program can be found here. For domestic students ONLY, tuition fees change according to the number of months in the degree program.

All UBC students are assessed student fees, currently ~$860 per year. These mandatory fees help to cover the costs of resources available to students and also provide some important benefits, including a subsidized public transport pass (the U-Pass). In addition, anyone living in BC for six months or longer (including international students) is required by law to enroll in the Provincial health insurance plan (MSP) and pay the plan’s premiums. 2016 rate: $75.00 per month for one person. Further details can be found here.

Other student fees that may apply to graduate students include:

Extended Heath Care (the AMS/GSS Extended Health Care Insurance Plan) which provides coverage for expenses such as most prescription drugs, travel health insurance, vision and dental care, in addition to the basic medical services covered by the Provincial health insurance plan (MSP). 2016-17 rate: $227.04 per year. Students with equivalent personal insurance can opt-out if they wish. Partial or full reimbursement of the Health & Dental Plan fee is available on a need basis from the AMS and GSS through the AMS/GSS Health Plan Premium Assistance Fund. Returning students as well as students who began their academic year in September and who have not opted out of the AMS/GSS Extended Health & Dental Plan may apply for the bursary before the application deadline (typically mid-September). The application form is available at www.gss.ubc.ca/health/.

All new international students pay a one-time only i-Med fee, which provides basic health insurance for the 3 month waiting period between first arriving in Canada and the start of the basic Provincial health insurance coverage (MSP). It covers emergency hospitalization and medical services (including doctor’s visits) for unexpected sickness or injury. 2016 rate: $180. This fee is charged once when you first register.

More information about fees for graduate students can be found here.