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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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See below for a list of frequently asked questions and resources regarding the graduate program, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, and graduate student life. 

About the graduate program

Ph.D. students are required to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) twice, and M.S. students will be a TA once. Timing depends on the needs of the department, but this requirement is generally fulfilled within the first two years in the program.

TA duties vary depending on the class, but include grading assignments, leading help sessions, answering student questions via email and office hours, and potentially even teaching classes.

Graduate contracts are for 12 months, and are renewed annually while a student is enrolled in the program. Funding is guaranteed for the duration of your degree program, coming either from grant support from your advisor, GTA service, or departmental funds.

Ph.D. students receive a $31k annual stipend and tuition waiver. M.S. students receive a $31k annual stipend and a tuition waiver. Students are required to pay all fees assessed by the university.

Yes! Several of our students have participated in the Graduate Teaching Scholars program offered by the college, initially serving as a TA and then taking over responsibility for teaching a class. The Graduate School also offers a Preparing the Future Professoriate certificate program.

Students spend 4-week periods in 3 labs of their choice during the fall semester, and choose a lab in late November. Students give short presentations or write brief reports on each rotation project.

Students may engage in research with a faculty mentor prior to the start of the fall semester, but these activities do not count as rotations. All rotations are completed during the academic semester.

Our graduates go on to academic positions (postdoctoral or faculty positions) and jobs in industry (private companies) or government (NIH, for example).

Yes, all students on assistantships are eligible to enroll in the university-subsidized insurance plan.

With all applicants, we are looking for prospective students who have a strong academic record and a desire to perform research. Beyond that, international applicants only need a qualifying TOEFL score (required by the Grad School).

Let’s take this opportunity to talk about competitive applications in general! We look for strong academic credentials and prefer candidates with prior research experience a clear vision of what they want to do will get noticed.

So how do you get noticed? A strong personal statement that describes your motivation for pursuing a grad degree, why you are interested in our program, and what your research interests are/who you might like to work with are key!

There are two required core courses, Protein Structure & Function and Advanced Applications in the Molecular Life Sciences. We have a wide range of electives. See our Graduate Handbook for the structure of our coursework and possible electives.

With a wide range of scholarly and extracurricular activities, we help you prepare, connect, succeed, and stand out both during your academic career here, and beyond.

About Virginia Tech

Blacksburg is located in scenic southwestern Virginia. With a population of 40,000, Blacksburg is a rural college town that offers the convenience of small-town life along with a range of cultural, artistic, and intellectual opportunities. The campus lies 2,200 feet above sea level on a plain between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains. This historic area is noted for its natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Roanoke-Salem area lies 40 miles to the northeast.

Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 as a land-grant university in Blacksburg, VA. Today, with over 30,000 students (16:1 student-faculty ratio) --including over 6,000 graduate students-- and 3,000 faculty members and researchers, it is one of Virginia's largest universities.

VT is one of the leading research institutions in the nation with $450 million research in FY 2011, it ranked 42nd in university research in the United States.

The spacious campus has more than 125 buildings spread over 2,600 acres with an airport and adjacent corporate research center.

The cultural life of the community is enhanced by several excellent lecture, concert, and theater series and sports events. Excellent recreational facilities are available. The Virginia Tech Student Life web page provides information about the community of Virginia Tech and what it has to offer. A wide range of topics is covered on this page, including health services, personal and professional counseling services, campus and Blacksburg entertainment, international and multicultural programs and services, available housing in and around the Blacksburg area, transportation and parking, and student organizations that can be found at Virginia Tech.

Housing is available in dormitories on campus; more information is available through the Graduate Life Center. Apartments, usually unfurnished, are available off-campus and start at about $500 for an unfurnished studio. Assistance can be obtained from the Off-Campus Housing Office. Generally, the costs of living in the area are somewhat below the national average. Additional information about on- and off-campus housing can be found at Virginia Tech's Student Life website.

About Blacksburg

Blacksburg, Virginia is nestled in a sheltered basin between the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains. Consistently ranked among the country’s best places to live, study and work, Blacksburg is known for its reasonable cost of living, safety, moderate climate, and plentiful leisure opportunities. Here, you’ll find shops, restaurants, galleries and outdoor activities in abundance. The town enjoys a civic culture made robust by the participation of permanent residents, scholars and students, alike. Today, Blacksburg is a rising star on the national horizon; a nexus for research and industry; and a genuine “homeplace” for many thousands of residents – past and present. 

Blacksburg, long recognized for its rich history and dynamic arts scene, has been steadily transforming into Southwest Virginia’s premier arts and cultural destination. Blacksburg is a community that supports the work of our local artists and values their contribution to our creative economy.

Step into Blacksburg’s dining scene and you will find everything from gigantic slices of pizza served up at all hours of the day to funky tacos, delightful tapas, handcrafted cocktails, and fresh farm to table surprises. For the freshest local and organic produce, homemade delicacies, and flowers and plants, our Farmers Markets can’t be beat. If craft beer and wines are your true loves, check out one of Blacksburg’s welcoming breweries or tasting rooms for the best local offerings.  When you’re finished there, head out and explore more of the same throughout the beautiful New River Valley.

In Blacksburg, outdoor beauty and opportunities for adventure abound.  Take a leisurely walk or ride on the Huckleberry Trail, rent a ROAM bicycle to tour around town, mountain bike through the Jefferson National Forest, play a round of golf, hit the skate board park, or dip your toes in the New River. If outdoor recreation isn’t your thing, try boxing, dance, or yoga. Prefer to be a spectator? Catch a Virginia Tech game on campus or kick back and catch a game on television at a local pub. Step into the action!

Additional Resources 

The Graduate Life Center (GLC) houses the offices of the Graduate School and student organizations and is a hub of student activity, conveniently located near the library, Squires Student Center, academic buildings, and downtown Blacksburg. The GLC hosts a variety of academic, cultural and social activities. In addition, graduate student housing is available within the GLC. The mission of the GLC is to provide an intellectually stimulating and rich learning environment that builds a strong graduate community.

Prospective graduate students may be interested in the Graduate Student Assembly, which addresses issues and policies affecting graduate student life and provides a forum for intellectual development, fellowship and support among students and a collective, positive voice for graduate student needs and concerns.

The Student Life web page provides information about the community of Virginia Tech and what it has to offer. A wide range of topics is covered on this page, including health services, personal and professional counseling services, campus and Blacksburg entertainment, international and multicultural programs and services, available housing in and around the Blacksburg area, transportation and parking, and student organizations that can be found at Virginia Tech.

The Academic Programs web page provides additional links for current and prospective students such as an online graduate course catalog, current course timetable and exam schedule, academic calendar, information on computing and library resources, academic support programs, e-mail, the VT honor system, and financial affairs.

The list below contains a few of commonly used forms for graduate students. If the form you need is not here, please visit the VT Graduate School or contact our Academic Program Coordinator, Lisa Jones (

Graduate School Forms

Department of Biochemistry Forms

The Market of Virginia Tech

If you are a Virginia Tech graduate student interested in food assistance through the Market of Virginia Tech or other options, the first step is to contact the Dean of Students' office.

Food Access for Students (Virginia Tech Organization)

Provides immediate assistance for food and other grocery items:

209 Marketplace

4-6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday
209 W Roanoke Street
Blacksburg, VA 24060

New River Community Action

Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry (Associated with New River Community Action)
706 Harding Ave., Blacksburg, VA
Hours: Monday 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. and Tuesday - Friday - 10:00 a.m. to noon
Eligibility screening hours (first come, first served basis, no appointments are made): Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
110 Roanoke Street
Christiansburg, VA 24073

Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program

110 Roanoke Street
Christiansburg, VA 24073
Office Hours: 9 a.m. - noon and 1 p.m.  - 4:30 p.m.
Assistance-related questions, please contact Melissa Poindexter: 540-381-1561 or