Applying to the Program


Visit the Graduate School’s Requirements page to ensure that you meet the minimum requirements.

Contact the MDTP office or Graduate School if you are interested in getting assistance with the application fee.  Domestic students (US citizen and US resident) who have experienced financial hardship are encouraged to inquire for a fee waiver.  Student participants in the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project (NSURP), as well as many other pipeline programs, are eligible to receive application fee waivers. The MDTP does not want the application fee to be a barrier to admission and will provide guidance to prospective applicants.  Unfortunately, we are unable to provide fee waivers to international applicants at this time.

For International Students: Financial documents are required from international students AFTER the program’s recommendation for admission. You may review this information here.

Please see below for details on:

Contact us with questions.



Note that all application materials are submitted through the UW Graduate School Admissions Office.

  • Personal Statement, also known as a Research Statement or Statement of Purpose. The applicant’s research statement is important. It should be written thoughtfully to reveal one’s scientific and career interests, research experiences, and abilities that otherwise may not be obvious from the academic record.  See Research Statement Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria below for detailed information on what our faculty and student reviewers are looking for in a research statement.  The research statement should be uploaded to the application website under the “Statements and CV” tab.
  • An applicant background statement.  A 200-300 word essay describing how the applicant’s background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges have motivated their decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin.  This should be uploaded to the application website under the “Supplemental Apps” tab.
  • An official or unofficial copy of transcripts from each college or university attended. The transcripts should be uploaded to the application website.
  • Three or more letters of reference from individuals (faculty, staff, supervisor, mentor) who can comment on the applicant’s qualifications.  This should include scholarly and academic qualifications, and can also include experiences in teaching, outreach, and community service.  Refer to the Evaluation Criteria below to note what the Admissions Committee will be examining.  These letters must be sent electronically. Directions for submission will be provided once you have initiated your application.
  • A brief resume/CV listing academic awards, scholarships, location and length of research experiences, co-authorship on any publications or presentations at scientific conferences. The resume/CV should be uploaded to the application website under the “Statements and CV” tab.


We have recommended courses based on material that previous students have found valuable for success in the MDTP, both in the lab and in required graduate level coursework. However, we recognize that the backgrounds of many students — and future student career goals — are varied and diverse, and that this diversity is a strength of our program. In the online application process, you will be asked if you have completed the following prerequisites:

  • Biology: two semesters
  • Genetics: one semester
  • Chemistry: four semesters, including two semesters organic chemistry with one semester organic chemistry lab component
  • Biochemistry: one semester
  • Physics: one semester
  • Mathematics: two semesters of calculus or one semester each of calculus and statistics
  • Second semester of physics OR other quantitative reasoning course such as physical chemistry, differential equations, or upper level course in computer programming, bioinformatics or statistics.

For each prerequisite, please be prepared to enter the course name and number.  If you don’t have all the recommended coursework, please use the text box in the application system to explain any deficiencies.  We ask that you fill in the course list as appropriate, but more broadly that you include a dedicated section of your personal statement to note how your academic preparation has prepared you for PhD training in microbiology.  

The MDTP is a research-intensive program. Therefore, strong letters of recommendation, a well-crafted research statement, and extensive research experience often aid students with below-average grades.

We no longer require the GRE exam, and any GRE scores submitted will not be considered during the application review.

Any student whose undergraduate instruction was not in English should also submit results of the TOEFL examination. The code for the University of Wisconsin-Madison is 1846.


The Microbiology Doctoral Training Program is committed to the strength only diversity can bring. We strive to fully support all members of our community – Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+, first-generation, people with disabilities and all marginalized groups.

We all belong here at MDTP, all of us make our program great, all of us have a place in STEM.


An applicant’s research statement should be a narrative of how the applicant has prepared for a graduate career and how a graduate career will prepare the applicant for their career goals.  This statement gives an applicant an opportunity to highlight strengths, as well as address any perceived weaknesses.  The research statement is the main place in the application for the candidate to describe their research background and preparedness for graduate work. See the Evaluation Criteria below for specific examples of things our admissions committee considers during our holistic review process.

Research statements should be no more than three, single-spaced pages.


When reviewing application materials, the admissions committee will consider the following three main areas in evaluating the candidate’s overall potential for success in the MDTP.

The bullet points below each area are not comprehensive, but are examples of questions that committee members may ask in addressing the overall area.

  1. How well-prepared academically is the applicant?
  • Are all prerequisites completed?
  • Did the applicant take challenging courses, particularly with respect to quantitative problem solving?
  • Did the applicant perform well in coursework?
  • Did the applicant’s pattern of performance display an ability to adapt; e.g., poor grades early that were overcome later?
  1. How well-prepared research-wise is the applicant?
  • Is there an indication of scientific curiosity and inquisitiveness?
  • Is there a history of tackling difficult questions without becoming discouraged?
  • Is there an appreciation that the objective of research is to discover new information?
  • From the applicant’s coursework and laboratory background, does the applicant have sufficient technical and conceptual background to pursue their stated interests?
  • Where available, is there evidence of longitudinal experience with a research project?
  • Is there evidence of an ability to independently form research questions and design experiments to address those questions?
  • How well does the applicant write?
  1. How well has the applicant taken advantage of and/or created opportunities to pursue a scientific career?
  • Has the individual overcome any substantial obstacles personally or academically?
  • What would an individual with their background and experiences contribute to our program?
  • How has the applicant created opportunities for themselves or others?

Questions about admissions or the application process?  Contact the MDTP Coordinator.


Information on MDTP applicants and offers of admission
Program population snapshot Spring 2023