Admissions

Take the first steps toward your future today.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School trains today’s students to be tomorrow’s professional scientists through an innovative, scientifically rigorous and problem-based Ph.D. program in molecular and cellular biology. Housed within Van Andel Institute, a world-class biomedical research organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Graduate School offers students an exceptional scientific education, mentorship by experienced faculty members and exposure to fields across the full spectrum of research.

Attend the Biomed Virtual Grad School Fair!

Learn about Van Andel Institute Graduate School and meet with our admissions reps.

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Apply to the Graduate School

Learn how to start your journey to a Ph.D.

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International Students

Van Andel Institute Graduate School welcomes students from around the world.

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Financial Support

The Graduate School offers a strong financial support package for its students.

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VAI-MSU Graduate School Program

Michigan State University graduate students can complete their dissertation work in Van Andel Institute laboratories.

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Research Internships

To help undergraduate students prepare for the next steps in their academic careers, Van Andel Institute Graduate School is pleased to offer several outstanding programs.

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From Student to Scientist

Van Andel Institute Graduate School is intended for students seeking a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology that prepares them for leadership positions in biomedical research.

The program is open to all applicants regardless of race, gender, ethnic or national origin, religion or age. Individuals from demographic groups that are underrepresented among professional scientists are especially encouraged to apply. The Graduate School welcomes international applicants (those who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents). International applicants admitted to the Graduate School will be sponsored in the F-1 student visa program.

To ensure full consideration for fall admission, applications should be received by December 1 the year prior to that in which the student will matriculate. If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Graduate School office at registrar@vai.org or call 616.234.5722. We are now accepting applications for the 2023 cohort.

Admission Requirements

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. 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.

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.

We do not require the GRE.

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

Good character

How to Apply

Step 1: Fill out the BioMedCAS application.

The BioMedCAS application will require standard personal information.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School requires letters of recommendation from three faculty members who know you and your 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. The system will automatically email the recommenders who can then respond with their feedback to BioMedCAS by email.

As part of the BioMedCAS application, upload the following materials:

  • A personal statement. Tell us why you want to pursue a research-focused Ph.D. and, specifically, why Van Andel Institute Graduate School is right for you.
  • A personal curriculum vitae or resume
  • Electronic versions of transcript(s) of your academic records. Unofficial copies are acceptable for application, but official copies sent directly from your home institution(s) must be submitted prior to matriculation.
Apply Now

Step 2: International admission requirements

International applicants should follow the same application process as non-international students, but the following additional documents will be required before an offer of admission can be made:

Proof of English proficiency by one of the following methods:

1. Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo) sent by the testing agency to Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Official scores must be less than two years old. Minimum required scores are as follows: TOEFL PBT: 580, TOEFL iBT: 90, IELTS: 6.5, Duolingo: 110.

2. Official signed transcript from an accredited United States college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.

3. Official signed transcript from an international (non-U.S.) college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher with instruction conducted primarily in English. If the transcript does not explicitly state that English was the primary language of instruction, an official signed letter from the Registrar’s (or equivalent) Office must also be submitted stating that English was the primary language of instruction. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.

4. English proficiency waiver – Van Andel Institute Graduate School may waive the English proficiency documentation (i.e., test score or official final transcript) requirement in the following two circumstances:

  • The prospective student holds a passport from a country in which the primary official spoken language is English, as indicated in The World Factbook; OR
  • The prospective student is currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a baccalaureate degree program (or higher) at an accredited U.S. college or university OR international (non-U.S.) college or university with instruction conducted primarily in English, and as a result, cannot submit an official final transcript prior to Van Andel Institute Graduate School admission. *Please note that an official final transcript will still be required for enrollment purposes prior to matriculation; the waiver is only for purposes of proving English proficiency prior to issuance of Form I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Waivers are not automatic. To be eligible for a waiver, the student must request the waiver and demonstrate suitable English proficiency during their Van Andel Institute Graduate School admissions interview to successfully complete the academic program and function safely on a day-to-day basis in the United States.

All transcripts from academic institutions outside of the United States must be accompanied by an official course-by-course evaluation, including U.S. GPA conversion, from World Education Services (WES), International Credential Evaluators, International Educational Evaluators or another agency approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. Transcript evaluations will be at the student’s own expense. Students are encouraged to submit the transcript evaluation(s) as soon as possible after submitting their application, because an admissions offer cannot be made until the evaluation is received and reviewed by the Admissions Committee.

Review Process

After you submit your online application, an in-depth review of your file is conducted by the admissions committee. All applications are reviewed with respect to openings in the program and the strength of other applicants. Attention is given to every aspect of an application, with emphasis placed on past scientific achievement as well as scholarly potential. Academic records, letters of recommendation, your personal statement and CV/resume are all taken into consideration.

December

Applications will be reviewed by a team of Van Andel Institute Graduate School faculty members.

January-February

Selected candidates will be invited to visit
Van Andel Institute for interviews. Visitors will meet with the admissions team, with faculty members who might serve as future research mentors and with current students and/or postdoctoral associates. In some cases, students may be interviewed virtually.

March

The admissions team will recommend admission for selected students; offers of admission will be issued by the Graduate School Dean.

April

Students receiving offers will respond with their decision by April 15.

Van Andel Institute Graduate School provides international students with the rigorous study of a world-class research institute and the support of a small, close-knit community. International applicants admitted to the Graduate School will be sponsored in the F-1 visa category.

Menusha Arumugam, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Ph.D. Candidate

“When you’re a scientist working in a lab, sometimes you can forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. In our lab, the work might directly impact patients, and I think when you’re constantly reminded that your work impacts real people, you’ll never lose the passion for what you’re doing.”

Menusha Arumugam, Van Andel Institute Graduate School Ph.D. Candidate

International admission requirements

International applicants should follow the same application process as non-international students, but the following additional documents will be required before an offer of admission can be made:

Proof of English proficiency (by one of the following methods):

1. Official scores from an English proficiency standardized test (TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo) sent by the testing agency to Van Andel Institute Graduate School. Official scores must be less than two years old. Minimum required scores are as follows: TOEFL PBT: 580, TOEFL iBT: 90, IELTS: 6.5, Duolingo: 110.

2.Official signed transcript from an accredited United States college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.

3. Official signed transcript from an international (non-U.S.) college or university showing completion of a baccalaureate degree or higher with instruction conducted primarily in English. If the transcript does not explicitly state that English was the primary language of instruction, an official signed letter from the Registrar’s (or equivalent) Office must also be submitted stating that English was the primary language of instruction. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.

4. English proficiency waiver – Van Andel Institute Graduate School may waive the English proficiency documentation (i.e., test score or official final transcript) requirement in the following two circumstances:

  • The prospective student holds a passport from a country in which the primary official spoken language is English, as indicated in The World Factbook; OR
  • The prospective student is currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a baccalaureate degree program (or higher) at an accredited U.S. college or university OR international (non-U.S.) college or university with instruction conducted primarily in English, and as a result, cannot submit an official final transcript prior to Van Andel Institute Graduate School admission. *Please note that an official final transcript will still be required for enrollment purposes prior to matriculation; the waiver is only for purposes of proving English proficiency prior to issuance of Form I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Waivers are not automatic. To be eligible for a waiver, the student must request the waiver and demonstrate suitable English proficiency during their Van Andel Institute Graduate School admissions interview to successfully complete the academic program and function safely on a day-to-day basis in the United States.

All transcripts from academic institutions outside of the United States must be accompanied by an official course-by-course evaluation, including U.S. GPA conversion, from World Education Services (WES), International Credential Evaluators, International Educational Evaluators or another agency approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. Transcript evaluations will be at the student’s own expense. Students are encouraged to submit the transcript evaluation(s) as soon as possible after submitting their application, because an admissions offer cannot be made until the evaluation is received and reviewed by the Admissions Committee.

Visit our Admissions page for more information.

Living In Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids and West Michigan have a growing list of accolades — one of the top places to live, one of the top places to visit and one of the top cities for biopharmaceutical and research and development investment. Read more.

  • Tuition

    Tuition is waived for Van Andel Institute Graduate School students since they are fully supported by fellowships. Tuition for non-Graduate School students who wish to take courses is $25,000 for a full year (three semesters including summer). For individual courses, tuition will be assessed at a rate of $825 per credit hour.

  • Fellowships

    Students in the doctoral program at the Graduate School are supported by institutional (internal) fellowships for five years. These fellowships include a stipend of approximately $36,000 per year and health, dental and vision insurance for the student (and family). The Graduate School also provides a laptop computer and up to $2,000 per year to attend scientific conferences.

The VAI-MSU Graduate School Program is a collaborative venture through which graduate students in Michigan State University’s BioMolecular Sciences Program (BMS) can conduct their dissertation research in Van Andel Institute laboratories.

The BMS program is the gateway for first-year graduate students who will subsequently select one of the following degree-granting departments or programs:

MSU Departments:

MSU Interdepartmental Programs:

Join the Program

MSU graduate students interested in rotations in a VAI laboratory should contact the investigator directly to arrange a meeting to discuss their interests.

Financial Support

MSU graduate students conducting their thesis work at VAI will be appointed as graduate research assistants through MSU and will be paid the same stipend as their fellow graduate students at MSU. Stipend and tuition will be covered for the full term of the thesis project. Students must meet all the standard requirements of their respective graduate programs for graduation, and they will receive their degrees from the MSU program or department in which they enrolled.

Students can choose to have a VAI investigator as their primary thesis adviser or they can have two co-advisers, one from VAI and one from MSU. VAI investigators serving as primary thesis advisers will have adjunct faculty appointments in one of the participating MSU departments.

Advisers

Students can choose to have a VAI investigator as their primary thesis adviser or they can have two co-advisers, one from VAI and one from MSU. VAI investigators serving as primary thesis advisers will have adjunct faculty appointments in one of the participating MSU departments.

Current MSU Students in VAI Labs

  • Student

    Peter Hwang

    Mentor

    Tim Triche, Ph.D.

Alumni MSU Graduate from VAI Labs

  • Student

    Peter Hsueh

    Mentor

    Brian Haab, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Daniel Barnett

    Mentor

    Brian Haab, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Sarah Keaton

    Mentor

    Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Student

    Nanda Kumar Sasi

    Mentor

    Michael Weinreich, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Sander Frank

    Mentor

    Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Arkadeep Sinha

    Mentor

    Brian Haab, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Jelani Zarif

    Mentor

    Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Megan Goodall

    Mentor

    Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Aaron DeWard

    Mentor

    Art Alberts, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Chih-Shia Lee

    Mentor

    Nick Duesbery, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Charles Miller

    Mentor

    Michael Weinreich, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Sebla Kutluay

    Mentor

    Steve Triezenberg, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Laura (Gier) Lamb

    Mentor

    Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Yue Tingting

    Mentor

    Brian Haab, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Susan Spotts

    Mentor

    Cindy Miranti, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Katie (Sian) Martin

    Mentor

    Jeff MacKeigan, Ph.D.

  • Student

    Ying Chou Chen

    Mentor

    Michael Weinreich, Ph.D.

Chat with Us

We invite all prospective students to connect with current VAI students and staff via our chat platform.

Follow these easy steps:

  1. After reading through the profiles under Students or Staff, select a VAI Student or Staff member to chat with
  2. Select “Create Your Account”
  3. Complete your quick profile
  4. Adjust your “Notification Preferences” under “Settings” to receive replies via email, SMS or What’s App

Response Time: When chatting with a student, most messages will receive a quick response, but some may take up to 24 hours. Feel free to ask them any questions about their major, what it’s like to be a VAI graduate student, housing questions, etc. Staff members reply to questions from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm on weekdays with a 48-hour response time. Messages sent over on the weekend will not receive a response until the following week. A staff member is the best point of contact for admissions-related questions, application steps and curriculum.

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