Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQ is designed to give you additional insights into the several important aspects of our program that represent the MBP competitive advantages and have generated considerable interest from the applicants. Whereas other MBP webpages frequently focus on the “big picture,” this FAQ is designed to help you get a more personal feel for our program. Some of the following questions and answers focus on operational and structural details of the MBP; others are included to give you an idea of the MBP environment and culture. 

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Admissions Questions

  1. Is there an application fee?
    No, the MBP application does not require an application fee.

  2. Do I need recommendation letters to apply?
    You can submit your application without recommendation letters. We will contact you to let you know to submit recommenders after your admissions interview. Your recommenders will be asked to complete a brief evaluation which takes the place of a recommendation letter. Your recommender may also submit an optional statement or letter should he or she wish to do so.

  3. Do you provide scholarships or other financial assistance?
    We offer all admitted domestic students scholarships of up to $25,000. Unfortunately no funding is available to international students. All students can offset the cost of tuition by obtaining a paid industrial internship.

  4. Do you provide research or teaching assistantship as part of the program?
    Students in the program perform research for credit, but they do not qualify for paid research assistantships. Similarly, they are not qualified for teaching assistantships. Occasionally, our program hires a few MBP students to help us teach a handful of MBP courses (in particular, the fall laboratory course), but this does not provide a significant source of income.

  5. What happens after I apply?
    You will hear from us 4-6 weeks after submitting your application to notify you if you are invited for an interview with the Associate Director. Interviews will take place during the first week of each month (see Admissions for schedule).

  6. Where should I send my transcripts and standardized test scores?
    You can attach your transcript to your online application, or mail it to us. Our mailing address can be found here. Our institution code for the GRE and MCAT is 1011. Our institution code for the TOEFL is 5937.

  7. What is the application deadline for international students?
    The deadline for international students is May 31 due to visa processing deadlines. Domestic students may continue applying until July 31. However, we encourage students to apply early since the number of vacancies typically left past March is limited.

  8. Do you accept a three-year degree?
    No, we do not. However, we accept a three-year degree combined with one year of a higher degree (MS or PhD).

  9. I’m very interested in the MBP but I do not have an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology. Can I still apply?
    Yes, you can still apply. Typically, our cohort is composed of 27% biotechnology majors, 26% biological science majors, 12% chemical engineering majors, 11% biochemistry majors, 8% bioengineering majors, 6% molecular & cellular biology majors, and 10% other majors. Examples of other majors include biomedical engineering, chemistry, psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, toxicology, pre-med, general engineering, science business, and food technology.

  10. I do not have a degree in biotechnology. How can I increase my chances of being admitted?
    We value the ability to think critically and creatively (i.e., solve problems). Developing these skills will increase your chances of being admitted.

  11. What is the minimum GPA required for admissions?
    We do not have one. We look at the application holistically. High GRE test scores, extensive work experience, or strong post-graduate academic performance can offset weakness in the undergraduate GPA.

  12. What are the minimum GRE test and TOEFL scores required for admission?
    As in the case with the GPA, we do not have minimum requirements. High GPA, extensive work experience, or strong post-graduate academic performance can offset weakness in the standardized test scores. Our top applicants have TOEFL scores above 100, GPAs above 3.5, and GRE test scores of >90% on the quantitative section and >80% on the verbal section.

  13. Do you accept other standardized tests in place of the GRE test?
    We accept LSAT, GMAT, and MCAT.

  14. Do you accept IELTS in place of TOEFL?
    We accept IELTS as well as TOEFL.

  15. Can I work part-time while studying in the MBP?
    Yes, but we do not recommend it. We believe that in order to get most value out of the MBP, students need undivided commitment to the program.

  16. Do you have a part-time option?
    No. Our experience with part-time option in the past proved it to be unsustainable.

  17. May I begin the program in winter or spring quarter?
    No, you may only begin the program in fall quarter.

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Research Questions

  1. When and how do I select a research preceptor and project?
    MBP matriculates select a preceptor in the fall quarter and start research in the winter quarter of their first year. During the fall quarter, they attend presentations by the preceptors as part of the MBP research seminar course (MBIOTECH 501) and have one-on-one interviews with at least three preceptors of their own choosing. Towards the end of the fall quarter, preceptors make offers to the interviewees whom they liked best. When a student accepts one of the offers s/he receives, the selection process is concluded.

  2. Is there a thesis requirement?
    No. However, MBP research training includes three quarterly research progress reports and a final report. The final report is modeled after a research article and rivals theses required by other MS in biotechnology programs. Additionally, students practice scientific communication skills in the Critical Thinking and Scientific Communication course (MBIOTECH 420, winter quarter) and prepare a research poster, which they present during the annual Industrial Advisory Board Meeting in June.

  3. Is it possible to rotate research labs (i.e., conduct research in more than one lab)?
    No. The length of MBP (15 month without an internship) cannot accommodate lab rotations. Staying in one lab allows students to both receive the necessary training and complete a sizable body of research.

  4. I looked at your website and found a research preceptor whom I really like. Am I guaranteed to be able to join his/her research group?
    Due to the somewhat competitive nature of research project selection (see question #1), we cannot guarantee that you will get your top choice. However, in our experience almost everyone gets one of his or her top three choices of research preceptors.

  5. I see some interesting past project listed on the MBP website. Can I get a similar project?
    The research projects listed on our alumni webpages are meant to illustrate the diversity and number of research possibilities that the MBP has to offer. Research projects naturally evolve over time: some continue, while others get terminated based on research preceptors’ interests and funding opportunities. However, the MBP ensures that each of the 12 areas of research listed on our website continue to be adequately represented by research projects.

  6. What are the opportunities for publishing research papers and presenting research at scientific meetings?
    Publishing a research paper can be difficult but is not uncommon. However, there are additional opportunities for disseminating research results through methods such as presentations at scientific conferences. As a bonus, MBP provides a $1,000 grant to cover expenses for conference travel if the student presents his/her research. Chances for publishing a paper and the timing of the publication will depend on the maturity of the project and its scope.

  7. Are there many research groups with industry connections?
    There is a small number of research preceptors performing joint research with industrial partners. Opportunities for MBP students to engage with industry in these labs will depend on intellectual property and other contractual obligations. However, the MBP offers opportunities (7-10 projects per year) to conduct research at local companies instead of Northwestern University laboratories. These companies include Pfizer, Ohmx, Exicure, Nanocytomics, and BriteSeed. International students choosing to conduct research at local companies are limited to 3 month long internships due to a visa requirement.

  8. How many hours per week will I be spending in the lab?
    As a guideline, we require our students to spend at least 20 hours/week during the winter and spring quarters and award 1.5 units/quarter for these efforts. In the summer quarter, students continue research full-time (40 hours/week for 12 weeks) and receive 3.5 units. The research requirement is completed in the second fall quarter at a rate of at least 15 hours per week for a total of 1 additional unit. Students doing an internship during the first summer and fall quarters will complete 4.5 units of research (about 600 hours) during the second winter and spring quarters. All in all, an MBP graduate accumulates a total of at least 1000 hours of research (7.5 units).

  9. How will I manage my time between taking courses and doing research in the lab?
    The MBP accommodates research by scheduling all the required and core courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays, leaving Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays allocated for research. Students are encouraged to choose their electives judiciously, so that they do not fragment the three days allocated for research. Students doing research on the Chicago campus or in the industry should consider the time spent in commuting between campuses.

  10. How can I get more information about research? Can I contact research preceptors myself?
    You can get more information about research by exploring the websites/articles of the research preceptors listed on our website. You can also contact us with any specific question about research. We discourage students from contacting research preceptors prior to enrollment in the MBP because we have a structure and mechanism in the fall quarter that allows for sufficient interactions between students and preceptors.

  11. Can I be a paid research assistant?
    No. You will conduct research for academic credit (1000 hours of research = 7.5 units) but you will not be financially compensated for it. Paid research assistant positions are typically reserved for PhD students who have several years to contribute to research after initial training. MBP students typically take 200-400 hours to be completely trained and reciprocate by performing research for credit for the remaining 600-800 hours.

  12. Can I do a research project in industry?
    The MBP offers a limited number of opportunities (7-10 projects/year) to conduct research at local companies instead of Northwestern laboratories. These companies include Pfizer, Ohmx, Exicure, Nanocytomics, and BriteSeed.

  13. How would my decision to do an internship affect my research project?
    Your decision to do an internship may affect your choice of a research project. While most research preceptors do not object to students splitting the research project into two parts, others may insist on an uninterrupted research project. In the latter case, you will still have an opportunity to enroll in an internship after you have completed all five quarters of the MBP coursework and research.

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Career opportunities questions

  1. Are students guaranteed an internship?
    Internship placement is not guaranteed, and students are ultimately responsible for securing their internship positions. However, the number of internship leads generated by the MBP typically exceeds the number of the students looking for an internship.

  2. When obtaining an internship, what is the program's role and what is student's role?
    The program identifies, creates, and disseminates internship leads and helps students research companies, prepare resumes, network, and train for interviews. The students should supplement these efforts by researching additional internship opportunities and networking on their own. They also should make an effort to better understand the industry, polish their resumes, and prepare for interviews.

  3. When can I start an internship, and how will an internship affect my coursework and research?
    You can start an internship at three different times: in June, September, or January of the second year (after completing all the coursework and research requirements.) There are usually more opportunities in June than at any other time due to the flow of operational activities in the biotechnology industry. However, internships starting in June and September may limit your choice of a research project because some preceptors prefer uninterrupted research. The coursework will be largely unaffected by an internship because by June MBP students complete all but one required courses. We encourage students to speak with their preceptors about their internship interest when they choose a research project.

  4. When should I start looking for an internship?
    If you are interested in starting an internship in June, we recommend that you start looking for opportunities in August - December because most large companies start recruiting way ahead of the internship start date. If you are interested in starting an internship in January, we recommend that you start looking in September - February.

  5. Why are internships optional and not required? Does the MBP recommend an internship to all students?
    The MBP strongly recommends an internship to all students (including those considering a PhD degree in the future). However, we realize that making it a requirement is not ideal for several reasons. We cannot guarantee an internship. Some students join our program with industrial experience and may not need an internship. Other students prefer to graduate from the MBP in 15 months instead of 21 months.

  6. After an internship, will the company offer me a permanent position?
    A small but significant number of companies have hired our interns as permanent employees after they completed their internships. When this does not happen, an industrial internship still makes students more competitive and improves their chances of getting hired by other companies.

  7. What are the geographical locations of the internships?
    MBP students typically obtain internship positions at the locations of major biotech hubs along the US east and west coasts. There are also internship opportunities in and around Chicago. As part of its certificate in Sustainability and Global Health in Biotechnology, MBP sponsors several annual internships in South Africa. For a better idea about internships, please see our Career Development section.

  8. Are internships paid? How much?
    Typically, internships are paid at a B.S. level. The exact amount of compensation depends on the type of position (R&D vs. process development) company size (startup vs. large), location (e.g., California vs. Indiana), etc.

  9. What recruiting and networking events does the MBP organize?
    The MBP organizes visits to biotech hubs and on-campus interview sessions with several local and Midwest biopharmaceutical companies. Recently, we held our first recruiting workshop for a small consulting firm from the local area.

  10. What does the MBP do to help students find permanent positions?
    As part of our graduation requirements, students enroll in a three-quarter-long professional development course. This course provides students with the professional developmental skills necessary to succeed in the biotechnology industry. Each quarter, students learn different skills, such as fundamentals of resume and cover letter writing, the basics of LinkedIn for job/internship searches, networking skills, interviewing skills, and personal brand building. The MBP Assistant Director of External Relations & Career Management coaches students from the beginning of the program until they graduate and beyond.

  11. When should 2nd year students start looking for full-time positions?
    If the student is graduating in December, we recommend that s/he starts looking for a full-time position during the summer, preferably in June. If the student is graduating in June, s/he should start looking in December. Typically, it takes 6-8 months to find a full-time position.

  12. If I am an international student, will I have difficulty finding a job/internship?
    International students don’t usually have any significant difficulties finding internship opportunities. However, some companies do not sponsor international applicants for full-time jobs, so students should only focus on companies that do offer sponsorship.

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Additional Questions

If you have a question which is not discussed here, please email the program