VAIGS: Go from student to scientist: Structural biology


Interested in a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology?

Van Andel Institute Graduate School’s Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology is a research-intensive, interdisciplinary program that prepares students for successful careers as independent investigators. Students receive rigorous training across fields including genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, epigenetics, neuroscience, oncology, immunology, structural biology and metabolism.

At the Institute, students are more than trainees — they are scientists who play an integral role in the transformative research underway in its labs. Additionally, our low student to faculty ratio ensures that student have frequent one-on-one mentorship from their thesis advisor.

Structural Biology at Van Andel Institute Graduate School

To understand how the human body works, it’s vital to understand the individual components that work together to sustain life. That’s what scientists in the Institute’s Structural Biology Program seek to do by revealing the molecular architecture of life’s most basic building blocks, notably the vast array of proteins that carry out virtually every biological function.

To do this, VAI scientists use an array of cutting-edge and gold-standard techniques such as X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), which allows them to discern the structures of these important molecules in stunning detail. Their work is crucial for understanding the processes that underlie every aspect of health, and for improving therapies for diseases such as cancer, neurological conditions and infectious diseases.

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Bachelor of Arts or Science (B.A. or B.S.) degree or equivalent from an accredited college or university prior to enrollment
Typical preparation includes courses in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physics and mathematics. Applicants with other academic backgrounds may be considered if they provide appropriate evidence of excellent training, qualifications and motivation.

Research experience
As an important part of admission criteria, research experience may include undergraduate research internships, summer research programs, Master’s thesis research or medical research clerkships. In addition, a sample of your writing (such as a research report) will be required on your application. Successful applicants will demonstrate these experiences have provided a thorough understanding of what a research career entails, that they have passion for research, and that they have exceptional talent and aptitude for science.

Overall academic excellence
The Graduate School does not have a GPA threshold; however, students should demonstrate a solid academic record and commitment to academic excellence.

TOEFL score
Official TOEFL scores (for international applicants only). Only scores that are less than two years old will be considered.

Three letters of recommendation from faculty members
It is highly recommended that applicants acquire letters from faculty members who know them and their academic work and, if applicable, who supervised independent study or research. The recommenders’ contact information must be entered in the Supporting Information quadrant of the application, and the system will automatically email the recommenders.

High competence in skills important to a career in scientific research
These skills include critical thinking, writing and public speaking.

A deep passion for understanding the mysteries of life and disease as well as a commitment to the improvement of health.

Good character

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