Cancer Biology Theme

Prospective students should use this checklist to obtain specific admissions requirements on how to apply to Graduate School.

Co-Directors: Lalita Shevde-Samant, Ph.D. Theresa Strong, Ph.D.
Phone: (205) 934-7034

Theme Information

The goal of the Cancer Biology Program is to train the next generation of cancer biologists so that they will make significant contributions to basic and clinical research. Students will receive training over a broad base–integrating molecular, cellular, biochemical and biological experimental approaches. Combinations of courses, seminars, small group discussions and hands-on research provide each student with a customized dissertation experience. Students will have opportunities to work with outstanding investigators throughout the UAB campus in the areas of tumor microenvironment, metastasis, cancer genetics, stem cells, gene therapy of cancer, pharmacology/toxicology, signaling and tumor immunology. Successful graduates will have a firm foundation upon which they can build careers in academia, research institutions, industry or government.

Students are expected to complete the entire program in four or five years. During the first year, studentswill participate in the GBS core curriculum and will begin more specialized training by exploring potential laboratories in which they may do their dissertation research as well as courses representing the multiple disciplines involved in cancer research. A course focusing on "classic papers" in cancer research will set the stage for modern approaches to studying the disease. Following three laboratory rotations, each student will select a mentor for his/her dissertation research. Following the core curriculum, students will begin specialized cancer research electives.

During the second year, students will complete their specialized courses and will participate in journal clubs and special topics curricula. After the second year, cancer biology students will write a proposal for their dissertation research and presented to their graduate advisory committee for approval. The focus following advancement to candidacy is hands-on research, although students can elect to participate in other advanced courses that will round out their education or provide opportunities to expand the research.

Admission Requirements

A baccalaureate degree in the natural or physical sciences is required. Undergraduate level courses in organic and analytical chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry and genetics are strongly encouraged. Undergraduate mathematics through calculus and physics are also recommended. See individual Program Admissions information for program-specific required or recommended courses.

The Graduate School recommends that entering students have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and a minimum combined verbal/quantitative score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) > 300.

International students must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) earned within the last two years. Applicants with scores of 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based), or 100 (IBTS) or higher will be considered.

Undergraduate or postgraduate research experience is essential. Students considered for the program must have a minimum of 6 months bench research experience.

Applications are reviewed by the Admissions Committee, representing all GBS thematic programs. Acceptance will be based on a combination of factors including:

  • Undergraduate performance (both the curriculum and grade point average)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • GRE and, if applicable, TOEFL scores
  • A personal statement of research and career interests
  • Previous research experience
  • Personal interview, at program expense (international applicants may be interviewed by phone or video conference)

Admission to our Programs is very competitive and the number of positions is limited; thus not every qualified applicant can be offered a position.

Financial Support

All students accepted into GBS programs receive a competitive annual stipend and fully paid tuition and fees. Single coverage health insurance is also provided at no cost to the student through VIVA Health UAB. The annual stipend for the current academic year is $29,00. The total annual award value, including stipend, tuition, fees and health insurance is > $37,500. Stipends are reviewed and updated regularly.

First-year students are funded through the Cancer Biology Graduate Program by Graduate School Fellowships and occasionally by other national and University fellowships. In subsequent years, students are supported through their advisor's research grants, institutional funds or training grants. In addition, highly qualified students are encouraged to apply for individual fellowship awards, with the guidance of their advisors. See Fellowships and Awards for additional fellowship information and resources.

Cancer Biology Theme Faculty

The faculty listing for the Cancer Biology theme is located at

Additional Information

Deadline for Entry Term(s): Consult Theme Website for information:
International Applications Deadline: 15 January
Entrance Tests (University Code: 1856) GRE (TOEFL and TWE also required for international applicants whose native language is not English.)

For detailed information, contact:
Patricia Matthews
Program Manager
UAB Cancer Biology Graduate Program
205.934.7034 (office)