College of Science


In order to be admitted to the graduate program, you must have a sponsor.

When do I need to find a sponsor?

Each student will need to have a sponsor in place prior to the supplementary appplication deadline.

Why do I need a sponsor?

The MS in Biological Sciences degree requires both course work and research. The research culminates in a written thesis. In order to conduct this research, you must work very closely with and under the supervision of a faculty member. This faculty member fills the role "Chair of the Thesis Committee", but is commonly referred to as the "advisor" or "major professor."

Because of the commitment of time and resources, there is a limit on how many grad students a faculty member can supervise. That limit varies; it depends on resources (grants, contracts) and time available. Only the individual faculty member can determine what their limit is.

Thus, there are two major concerns:

  1. You must have a major professor to graduate.
  2. Faculty can only supervise a limited number of students.

Is the agreement to sponsor me also an agreement to be my major professor?

Yes, for students entering the program Fall 2011 or later, the new application policies indicate that the agreement by a professor to sponsor an applicant is an agreement to be major professor. However, in a few cases, the sponsor will not act as major professor - for example, students entering the City of Hope - Cal Poly Pomona Joint Masters Program will have their research supervised by City of Hope faculty. A Cal Poly faculty member will act as Chair of the Thesis Committee, but the actual work of being a major professor is done primarily by City of Hope faculty.

How do I find a sponsor?

Examine the list of the graduate faculty, and find people doing research in an area that interests you. Many of the faculty have web pages that provide additional detail on their research. Contact that person (email is recommended). Provide a brief introduction to your background and interests. Ask whether they are accepting new grad students for the quarter in which you wish to apply. If you receive a reply, you can then begin a dialogue that may lead to sponsorship.

When I email a potential sponsor, what should be included?

Discuss your research experience and interests. Indicate your undergrad GPA; it can also be helpful to provide your GPA for upper-division Biology and related courses (Microbiology, Zoology, Botany, Biochemistry). Please attach your curriculum vitae. It prevents the potential sponsor from having to send an email reply requesting it. This only delays the communication and sponsorship process.

Which do I do first - find a sponsor, or apply to the university?
It doesn't matter which you do first. If the end of the priority filing period (see application deadlines) or the deadline to apply is approaching, then go ahead and apply to the university. If you have time, it would be nice to have a potential sponsor before you apply. That way, if you can't find a sponsor, you can save yourself the application fee.

Can my sponsor be from another department or university?

No, absolutely not. The whole purpose of the sponsor procedure is to develop a professional association with a member of the Biological Sciences Department graduate faculty.

Can the graduate coordinator, or someone else, find me a sponsor?

If the applicant has not been able to secure a sponser, the applicant may email the graduate coordinator for assistance. In this case, the Graduate Coordinator will require that all transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores and the applicants Statement of Intent be sent to the Department or Graduate Coordinator directly. The Graduate Coordinator, as a courtesy, may send out the application file to the faculty members. However, this approach should only be taken after approaching the faculty members by the applicants themselves. The assistance the graduate coordinator can provide is based purely on the coordinator's available time and not part of the official process. Not all requests for this assistance can be granted.

Is there anything I shouldn't do?

Applicants are strongly advised against doing a mass emailing to a large number of faculty members themselves, and pleading with faculty to be their sponsor. It will become very apparent that the applicant is "shopping" for a sponsor without having done research on the professors being contacted. It makes the applicant seem insincere, and academically immature.