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Harvard Neuroscience PhD Acceptance Rate

Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Fola Shade

The world’s most selective PhD program in neuroscience awaits you. The Harvard University Neuroscience Program is accepting applications for the following degree programs: PhD, MD/PhD. Harvard University’s prestigious Neuroscience PhD program has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country.

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The truth is, a PhD isn’t always easy. It can be stressful, and it requires a lot of work. But the work you’ll do on your own time will both broaden your skillset and make you an expert in your chosen field.

So I’m going to tell you everything I wish someone had told me when I started my doctorate.

  1. You aren’t alone: This is the most important thing to know when you’re starting your doctorate. You may feel like everyone else knows more than you and that everyone else is more prepared than you are—and this may be true in some cases—but don’t let that get you down. Instead, focus on the fact that there are other people around who are just like you. Some people also feel lost, but they’re all working hard to figure out what’s next. And if they can do it, so can you! Just reach out to them, or even better set up an informational interview with someone who has already been through a similar experience.
Harvard Program in Neuroscience PhD Program

Harvard Neuroscience PhD Acceptance Rate Overview

The Division of Medical Sciences was created at Harvard University in 1908, and today we are still a thriving community of researchers and educators. In the last 100 years, we have produced some of the world’s most important biomedical scientists, six of whom have won Nobel Prizes. They have gone on to accomplish great things, but they would not have been able to achieve their goals had it not been for the strong foundation DMS gave them.

DMS offers students a broad education in the basic sciences. After their first two years at Harvard Medical School (HMS), students decide if they want to focus on one particular field, such as cancer biology or genetics. After that, they can concentrate on their chosen field or explore other topics during their third and fourth years. The greatest benefit of this specialization is that it enables students to conduct research with faculty members in DMS as well as HMS departments and affiliated hospital laboratories. This collaboration between DMS students and HMS faculty has helped push science forward for many years.

DMS offers six interdisciplinary areas of study leading to a PhD in the biomedical sciences, which share a common purpose of fostering a stimulating and supportive environment for research training in the biomedical sciences: Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics, ​Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Immunology, Neuroscience, Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology, and Virology.

DMS students are enrolled in and receive a PhD from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, even though they may work primarily with Harvard Medical School faculty.

Harvard Neuroscience PhD Acceptance Rate –

Harvard Neuroscience PhD Acceptance Rate

Did you know that even though U.S. neuroscience programs received between 5 and 875 applicants on average, the average acceptance rate for 2016–2017 was 19%, which is the same rate as last year?

As more students pursue PhDs in neuroscience, it’s getting more competitive to be admitted. While some programs are receiving more applicants than they did last year, they’re not necessarily accepting more students.

While there’s more applicants overall, it seems that most programs will be accepting the same number of students in future years due to limited funding from training grants and space in faculty labs. So, it looks like it will get even more competitive in the future.

harvard neuroscience phD admission requirements

To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimal requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in the sciences. Strong consideration is given to letters of recommendation, particularly to comments from individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant’s research experience. Non-native English speakers who completed their bachelor’s degree in a language other than English must demonstrate English proficiency by scoring at least 100 on the iBT TOEFL or at least 6.5 on the IELTS. If you have published articles, list them in the Additional Academic Background section of the online application, citing the PubMedID.

When applying, select  “Division of Medical Sciences” as your program choice and your area of interest in the Area of Study menu.

All DMS programs conduct personal interviews as part of the application process. Invitations for interviews are usually sent out between late December and early January, depending on the program.

Harvard Program in Neuroscience PhD Program

harvard neuroscience department

Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics

Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics (BIG) trains future leaders in the field of bioinformatics and genomics by providing graduate students with the tools necessary to conduct original research in the development of novel approaches and new technologies to address fundamental biological questions. Students who study in BIG receive a PhD in Biomedical Informatics.

BIG is affiliated with several academic departments and centers:

  • Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School
  • Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Computational Health Informatics Program, Children’s Hospital Boston
  • Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Harvard Stem Cell Institute
  • Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
  • Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

BIG Admissions Requirements

Candidates for BIG must have completed a bachelor’s degree in a quantitative science or a bachelor’s degree with a substantial minor in engineering or physical science. Recommended degrees include chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, mathematics, computational sciences, and statistics. Recommended preparation includes at least one undergraduate subject in each of the following areas: biology, computational science, thermodynamics or physical chemistry, and advanced calculus.

Additional information about admissions requirements are available from the Division of Medical Sciences and program requirements are detailed in GSAS Policies.

Biological and Biomedical Sciences

The PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) offers training in the biosciences, built outward from core training in contemporary genetics, biochemistry, and molecular, cellular, and mechanistic biology. BBS provides a rigorous, nimble biomedical education, equipping trainees with tools to bring about scientific breakthroughs and to launch entrepreneurial paths in academics, industry, and education.

The BBS scientific umbrella is comprised of 9 interwoven research communities that bring together researchers that share a common interest. These groups serve as “neighborhoods within the city,” and give students additional support throughout their education and training. Each provides a close-knit environment where faculty and trainees with common interests work together to advance research in their field and participate in training activities tailored to the diversity of career trajectories for today’s PhDs. Based in a world-class research environment, BBS benefits from outstanding research laboratories spanning all areas of bioscience located at Harvard Medical School, its affiliated hospitals, and the greater Harvard system. BBS combines the unparalleled choice of research lab, made possible by its unique breadth and depth, with the cohesiveness of shared-interest communities typical of smaller departmental programs.

BBS Admissions Requirements

Applicants must complete the “Areas of Interest” form as part of the online application.

Admissions information is available from the PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, from the Division of Medical Sciences, and from the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences. Program requirements are detailed in GSAS Policies.

Behavioral Neuroscience Program - Department of Psychology - University at  Buffalo



The PhD Program in Immunology educates scientists in investigative and academic medicine, preparing them to contribute to immunological research with a full awareness of the potential impact of immunology. The program combines an education in basic biology, a sophisticated training in immunology, and exposure to the immunological and non-immunological problems of disease. It has become the model of an integrated educational program in a growing discipline that now spans several of the classical fields of medical biology (microbiology, genetics, pathology, clinical medicine, and biochemistry, for example).

The program is overseen by the Committee on Immunology at Harvard, which includes over 110 faculty representing a broad area of research interests including transplantation, neuro-immunology, autoimmunity, stem cell biology, infection and immunity, human translational immunology, tumor immunology, immunobiology, and mucosal immunity. Students who study in Immunology receive a PhD in medical sciences.

Immunology Admissions Requirements

To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimal requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in the sciences. Strong consideration is given to letters of recommendation, particularly to comments from individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant’s research experience.

Additional information about admissions requirements are available from the Division of Medical Sciences and program requirements are detailed in GSAS Policies.


The Program in Neuroscience is an inter-departmental PhD program dedicated to training PhDs in neuroscience. The program provides students with the instruction, research experience, and mentoring they need to become leaders in research and education.

The program offers students options for thesis research with neuroscientists in departments throughout the University, including in labs based on the Cambridge campus and at Harvard-affiliated hospitals. The enormous number and diversity of affiliated labs means that students have a wide range of options in choosing research experiences.

Students who study in Neuroscience receive a PhD in neurobiology.

PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience | Department of Psychological and Brain  Sciences | The George Washington University

Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology

Understanding how humans communicate through speech and hearing requires depth in many disciplines. The strength of the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT) doctoral program lies in its unusual coupling of knowledge and skills from acoustics, engineering, computer science, cellular and molecular neuroscience, psychophysics, cognitive science, linguistics, and clinical practice.

By introducing key concepts in an integrated set of core subjects early on, we give our students a solid foundation for pursuing individual research interests. During their first year, students gain broad exposure to clinical issues and practice. From the outset, they also encounter a range of research labs that take different approaches to solving problems in speech and hearing; because students participate directly in research, their classroom learning comes to life.

SHBT faculty members also focus students on the vital importance of personal integrity, scientific values, and standards of scholarly practice.

Because of our small scale, SHBT students enjoy great flexibility in shaping their course of study. We encourage students to cultivate their own special interests, consistent with the objectives of the Program. For example, students may make unusual course selections that match their particular research interests—so long as their academic advisor approves—and are encouraged to devise innovative research projects that transcend traditional scientific disciplines and institutional boundaries.

Our core curriculum (and nearly one-to-one student/faculty ratio) guarantees that students develop relationships with a wide range of faculty members. And because our courses often require work in groups, students form strong, durable ties with their classmates, building a network of contacts they can call upon throughout their careers. They establish further ties across classes through work in individual labs and through the many social gatherings the students organize themselves.

Students who study in SHBT receive a PhD in speech and hearing bioscience and technology.

Admissions Requirements

Visit Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology to read admissions frequently asked questions.

Applicants who are invited for on-campus interviews are notified late December. Interviews generally occur in late January as part of a series of activities beginning on a Thursday evening and ending the following Sunday. Travel and hotel expenses for this visit are covered by the SHBT Program. Invited applicants should make every effort to attend the interview weekend, but those who are unable to do so should inquire about other arrangements. Students living abroad may be interviewed via teleconference.


New viruses—SARS, H1N1 influenza, and Nipah viruses among them—have emerged around the world; Ebola Chikungunya, and West Nile viruses have re-emerged; and the AIDS epidemic continues to sweep across sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. New vaccines for HIV, smallpox, avian influenza and genital herpes are sorely needed. New antivirals for Dengue, hepatitis C and HIV viruses are also desperately needed. The role of such viruses as Merkel cell polyoma, papilloma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and Epstein-Barr virus in human cancer highlight challenges to prevent and treat these diseases.

Researchers at Harvard University are working on all these biomedical problems. They conduct basic research defining new molecular structures of viruses and virus-encoded enzymes, new mechanisms within cells for molecular and organelle trafficking and function, and new mechanisms that control cell growth. Harvard researchers are among the world leaders in the design and testing of AIDS, genital herpes, and smallpox vaccines. The Harvard Program in Virology provides extraordinary opportunities to conduct graduate study for the PhD in these exciting areas of biomedical science.

The relatively small size of the Virology graduate program and faculty makes it ideally suited for students interested in collegial student-student and student-faculty interactions. Specific research areas include:

  • The molecular genetics, molecular biology, and molecular pathogenesis of latent, persistent, or cytolytic virus infections
  • The characterization of virus-receptor interactions and the mechanisms of cell entry, structural studies of viruses, and viral proteins
  • Mechanisms of cell growth control, transformation, signal transduction, and transcriptional regulation
  • The use of virus vectors for heterologous gene expression and for gene therapy
  • The interaction of viruses with innate immunity
  • The pathogenesis of viral infection and rational antiviral drug design.

Students who study in Virology receive a PhD in medical sciences.

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