The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

MCIBS - Life sciences graduate programs overview

An overview of biological and biomedical science graduate programs at Penn State

There are a variety of life science graduate programs at Penn State, which is a vibrant research University. MCIBS is an inter-disciplinary PhD program that spans many departments and colleges. It has over 120 faculty, and additional faculty can join if their interests fit within the broad scope of the program. This means the program is flexible and responsive to both the faculty and students. However, there are other graduate programs at Penn State and it is good to be aware of how they differ so that you can find the best fit.


Campus information

Many graduate programs are located at the University Park Campus, in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State also has a medical school in Hershey.

This overview will focus on different graduate programs at the University Park campus. The University Park campus is the academic center of Penn State, with about 35,000 undergraduates and a variety of options for graduate training.


Major types of life sciences graduate programs at University Park


1. Master’s programs: 

The Biotechnology graduate program trains Master’s students. There are also MS degrees offered by the College of Agriculture and Health and Human Development.


2. Ph.D. programs:

There are two major flavors of Ph.D. programs, department-based programs and inter-disciplinary programs. Depending on your interests either of these types of program may be a better fit. 

In departmental graduate programs, graduate students are immediately integrated into their department home, and they typically choose a mentor from faculty within that department, and may also be a teaching assistant in that department. 

Inter-departmental graduate programs are more flexible and students typically explore offerings from multiple departments before choosing a mentor. These graduate programs are run by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, an Institute at Penn State that has the mission of bridging boundaries to facilitate the best possible life science. 

Note: Some programs match applicants to individual faculty labs as part of the application process and hte student is accepted by the lab and program. Other programs accept students into the program and the match with faculty is made once the students arrive. Typically in this second type of program students spend time in three labs during the first year before choosing a thesis lab. MCIBS is a rotation-based program that offers students access to many of the life sciences faculty at Penn State.

Inter-college graduate programsStudent in lab coat

in the life sciences these are mostly administered through the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences grad programs

Bioinformatics and genomics
Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Biosciences (with emphasis areas in cell and developmental biology, immunology and infectious disease, molecular and evolutionary genetics, molecular medicine, molecular toxicology, and neurobiology)
Plant Biology

Departmental life sciences programs

Here are some of the different departmental programs to explore:
Animal Science
Biobehavioral Health
Biochemistry, Microbiology and Molecular Biology

Food Science
Nutritional Sciences
Plant Pathology