Welcome and thank you for your interest in the graduate degree programs offered through the newly merged Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology (formerly the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Cell Biology & Neuroscience).

Degrees Offered:

MS in Microbiology & Immunology                                                                                                                                                MS in Biological Sciences

Masters applicants are generally not accepted by the department until support is secured with a faculty member. Graduate research assistantships are awarded for Plan A (thesis) Masters students on the basis of the applicant's qualifications and a recommendation from faculty. Plan B (Professional Paper/Project) Masters students are typically self-funded.

PhD in Microbiology & Immunology                                                                                                                                            PhD in Biological Sciences

Candidates may apply for direct admission into a research specific lab. This is typically done (prior to applying) by contacting and securing a faculty member who is willing to serve as your mentor and provide financial support.  Please visit our Faculty Directory and refer to those listed under Faculty (not Teaching or Research Track).  

For those who do not secure a faculty advisor prior to applying, a few rotation students are accepted from the application pool each fall.  These students will rotate in three different laboratories in their first year based on research interest.  Rotations need to be arranged with research faculty prior to each rotation. By the end of the first year final lab placement after rotations is decided by the student and the Faculty Advisor.   Rotations are not currently offered for spring applicants.

PhD in Neuroscience                                                                                                                                                                      

Due to a limited number of faculty advisors, candidates are strongly encouraged to contact and secure a faculty advisor who is willing to serve as your mentor and provide financial support PRIOR to submitting an application.  Please visit our Faculty Directory and refer to those listed under Faculty (not Teaching or Research Track).  A Bachelor's degree in an area of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Applied Math or Psychology is recommended. Students with Bachelor’s degrees outside these areas are also encouraged to apply; such students will generally be required to complete appropriate courses while enrolled at MSU to make up subject matter deficiencies prior to full acceptance into the Ph.D. and Masters programs. Factors that the program uses in its admissions process may include TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers), reference letters, GPA and previous coursework and research experience.


Prospective graduate students may also apply through the Molecular Biosciences Program (MBSP).  This program offers students a unique opportunity to rotate in any MSU faculty laboratory and ultimately pursue a PhD in their department and degree of choice.  Interested students can apply on-line to the Molecular Biosciences Program or contact [email protected] for additional information.


PhD applicants, must have all materials submitted by December 15th for consideration for the following fall and September 15th for consideration for the following spring 

MS applicants may apply at any time during the year to be considered for the next academic semester. An applicant is generally not accepted by the department until support is secured with a faculty member. Graduate teaching or research assistantships are awarded on the basis of the applicant's qualifications and a recommendation from faculty. 

Application Requirements:

  • Online Application and payment of a non-refundable $60 application fee
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are now optional. While not required, these scores are highly recommended if your GPA is lower or if you have less research experience. Please have GRE test scores sent from ETS to MSU using institution code: 4488. 
  • A 1-2 page (450-900 words) personal statement that explains
    • your motivation for starting a graduate degree program,
    • in what ways you consider yourself especially qualified to complete a graduate degree,
    • why you have chosen to apply to Montana State University, and
    • your future career goals.
  • Official transcripts from all tertiary-level colleges or universities you attended
  • Three (3) letters of reference. During this online process, applicants will be asked to provide contact information about their references. If you are applying for direct admission one of these letters must be from the supporting faculty member. The references are then prompted through the application process to submit a signed reference letter and complete a recommendation form. Letters should be written by people who are able to judge your ability to succeed in graduate school, e.g., your undergraduate professors, an advisor or supervisor during an internship, other faculty.
  • International Students:  please see International Application Process for additional information and requirements.

Applications meeting these requirements are reviewed by the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology Graduate Committee for consideration.  

Other Helpful Links:


What happens if I have the majority of my materials by the deadlines mentioned above, but I won't have my GRE and/or other piece of paperwork in by that time?  Will my application not be considered?

  • Please know that with the deadlines above, while adhered to in terms of Graduate Committee Meetings and the general decision making process, it is somewhat normal to have a few components trickle in after the deadline.  As long as the majority of your materials are in by the aforementioned deadlines, your application will still be considered, though a final decision cannot be made until all required materials are in.

The grades I received as a freshman and sophomore while pursuing my undergraduate degree were not stellar.  While my final two years were above average, my first few years really lowered my overall GPA to under a 3.0.  Do I still have a chance of being accepted into the MBI graduate program?

  • The Graduate Committee understands that certain components of your application are not reflective of you and your ability overall.  While the committee does take into consideration your transcripts and other components, they do not tend to focus on only one of these when making their final decision.  If you had a rough start in school, or even a really poor semester or two, there is still hope.  That being said, the rest of your application should make up for the materials that are not as representative of what you have to offer to ensure your abilities.  Feel free to include a note explaining this discrepancy justifying why you should still be considered.
  • While GRE exam scores are now optional, these scores are highly recommended if your GPA is lower or if you have less research experience.
  • If you do not meet the minimum requirements for TOEFL scores, it would likely be in your best interest to retake the test until you do meet the minimum requirements.

I would love to enroll in your graduate program, but I'm worried about having enough personal funding to make it work.  Do you offer any scholarships or financial assistance for students like me?

  • All PhD students will receive funding, although the exact amount and terms of funding are unique to each student.  Generally, students undertake research rotations in their first year and are funded by the MBI department. The rotations are meant to help students identify the research topic that best matches their interests. After their admission into a research lab, students are funded by their advisers who are typically MBI faculty.  All PhD students are required to complete two teaching assistantships, while MS students may be asked to complete one.  If students serve as teaching assistants, which normally happens at some point during their first two years, they will qualify for a tuition waiver as well as a monthly salary stipend. When the student is not teaching, they will receive financial assistance from their advisor (in the form of tuition waivers and stipends).
  • Rather than going through first-year rotations, PhD students may be recruited directly by MBI faculty. In such a case students are funded by their research advisor from the beginning, although they may still be required to serve as teaching assistants.
  • The department is only able to accept and fund a handful of students each year, so it is helpful when students come in with specialized funding (military, Fulbright, IGERT, MSU Molecular Biosciences, etc.).  If you have any external source of funding, please indicate it clearly in your application. The majority of our applicants do not come with this funding, and it is not required in order to apply. 

I have applied to your program once before, but was turned down.  Can I apply again, and if so, do I have to pay the application fee again?

  • Yes, you can apply again. Your initial application fee is $60. You will be assessed a $30 fee by The Graduate School for all new applications that are submitted within one year of the initial application.  At the one year mark, the process begins anew (meaning you would have to pay a $60 application fee if one year has passed since your initial application).   
  • Before re-applying please consider the reason you were initially rejected.  If you were rejected because of poor academic merit, you will need to revamp your application prior to submitting it again.  If your test scores did not meet the minimum requirement, you will need to retake these tests until you meet the minimum.


Please contact us if you need additional information