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University of South Florida

Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology

Tampa, FL


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University of South Florida


Training the next generation of Cancer researchers

Advancement in the detection and treatment of cancer continues to accelerate through groundbreaking research in basic, population and clinical science. Yet cancer continues to adversely affect millions of people worldwide in terms of quality of life, life span and economic burden. The Cancer Biology PhD Program was established with the specific goal of providing cutting edge training and education in cancer research to achieve the Moffitt mission of "contributing to the prevention and cure of cancer."

This PhD Program is a collaboration between Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of South Florida. The Program is located at Moffitt Cancer Center where the majority of participating faculty have their research labs, while the degree is awarded through the University, proteomics, bioinformatics, chemistry, and translational cancer therapies.

Moffitt Cancer Center and USF - Nationally Recognized Institutions

Moffitt Cancer Center's impact on cancer research spans basic science, prevention and clinical research with a focus on translating discoveries into better care. They are consistently striving to be the leader in understanding the complexity of cancer through team science and applying those insights directly to the patient’s bedside. Moffitt employs about 800 research faculty scientists, career staff scientists, postdocs, graduate students and support staff dedicated to cancer research. Moffitt is proud to be one of only 49 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in the country and the only one NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida.  NCI designation is the highest recognition of quality cancer research spanning population, basic and translational sciences.

University of South Florida is a large, public four-year university offering undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral level degrees. Serving more than 50,000 students, USF ranks 42nd in the nation among all public and private universities for total research expenditures, placing USF in the top 7% among the 644 universities ranked by the National Science Foundation (2018).

Cancer Research at the Moffitt Research Center

Since 2001, the Cancer Biology PhD Program has graduated over 60 students through a single major in cancer biology. These graduates have continued in successful cancer related careers throughout the country and world. Building on these successes and recognizing the opportunity to leverage unique strengths of Moffitt Cancer Center, the Program has expanded into 3 additional majors. Each of these majors has a unique innovative focus that will be key to advancing the fight against cancer. Starting in 2018 the 4 majors within the Program are:

  • Cancer Biology
  • Cancer Chemical Biology
  • Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Integrated Mathematical Oncology 

Each major in the Program utilizes an integrated curriculum that provides specialized training in the area of focus plus broader training across the cancer research spectrum encompassing immunology, immunotherapy, cancer genetics, cell and molecular biology, signal transduction, drug discovery, chemical biology, mathematical modeling, functional genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, chemistry, and translational cancer therapies. 

The four majors are centrally managed and highly integrated such that students within each major will acquire a strong foundation in cancer biology in addition to focused coursework and training in the specific major. 

The Cancer Biology PhD Program's Faculty

The majority of the Cancer Biology faculty is housed within the Moffitt Cancer Center and includes basic science, population science, and clinical research investigators. Faculty members have vigorous NCI-funded research programs and share a unique focus on cancer. They come from broad areas of interest: immunology, immunotherapy, cancer genetics, cell and molecular biology, signal transduction, drug discovery, chemical biology, mathematical modeling, functional genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, chemistry, and translational cancer therapies. Each area shares the common goal of understanding, preventing, and curing cancer.

The Student Population at USF

The USF campuses had a total enrollment of 50,755 for fall 2018, representing over 145 countries with 10,677 graduate students. The Cancer Biology PhD Program currently has 45 students from across the United States, the United Kingdom, Ghana, Taiwan, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, Germany, India, China and Egypt.

All Students in Good Standing Receive Full Financial Support for Tuition, Fees, and Health Insurance

All students in good standing receive full financial support for tuition, fees, and health insurance. For the academic year 2019-20, a stipend of $28,000 is awarded to entering students to cover living expenses. A $1,000 enrollment bonus is also awarded to new students. After year one, all students receive a $29,000 annual stipend. Stipend levels are reviewed every three years and market adjustments made if warranted. As an incentive for students to apply for fellowships, the mentors in the Cancer Biology Program provide a bonus to those students who successfully acquire stipend funding. Several current and former students have been funded by NIH/NCI F31 and F99/K00 awards, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Department of Defense, NIH/NCI Minority Research Supplements, the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute.

Student Research

Students begin research during the first semester, typically rotating through 2-3 laboratories. Formal course work is usually completed by the end of the first academic year. Qualifying examinations consist of the development of a project and writing a grant proposal based on the project. Most students complete the qualifying examinations in the fall semester of their second year. Graduates have earned their PhD degrees within an average 5 years of entering the program (as of July 2019). Students in the Cancer Biology Program have an opportunity during the summer months to conduct research at the Ponce School of Medicine, in Puerto Rico, through the U56 Planning Grant for Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership from the National Cancer Institute. This is a cooperative agreement between the Ponce School of Medicine, the Moffitt Cancer Center, and the NCI.

Additionally, students have opportunities for exposure to the clinical side of cancer treatment through participation in Fellows Multidisciplinary Conferences, surgery observations, and Moffitt Cancer Center Grand Rounds.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cancer chemical biology
Master of Science (MS) Biology Cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology
Master of Science (MS) Microbiology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cell and molecular biology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cancer immunology and immunotherapy
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cancer biology

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Master's Degrees 12
Doctoral Degrees 12

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? No
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Distance learning programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? No

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Master's Degrees Entrance Exam GRE General Test
Thesis Alternate accepted
Doctoral Degrees Entrance Exam GRE General Test
Comp Exam Required
Thesis Required


Acceptance Rate



Application Fee - Domestic

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline November 30th November 30th Yes
Spring deadline July 1st July 1st No

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Master's Degree Exam GRE General Test
Master's Degree Requirements Minimum GPA of 3.0, extensive background in biology or chemistry
Doctoral Degree Exam GRE General Test
Doctoral Degree Requirements Minimum GPA of 3.0, extensive background in biology or chemistry

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Application deadlines for financial awards April 1
Types of financial support available Health Care Benefits
Graduate Assistantships

Student Body

Total Graduate Students
International Breakout (representing other countries)


Hispanic/Latino 3.7%
Black or African American 1.23%
White or Caucasian 53%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 2.47%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 2.47%
Unknown 3.7%


Male (33%)
Female (66%)


Total faculty
Full-time - 18
Part-time - 0
Male (11)
Female (7)


Focus of faculty research: Cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology: basic and applied science in bacterial pathogenesis, genome integrity and mechanisms of aging, structural and computational biology; cancer biology: immunology, cancer control, signal transduction, drug discovery, genomics
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year:

Location & Contact

Address 4202 East Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL  33620-9951
United States
Contact Dr. James Garey
Phone: 813-974-7103
Fax: 813-974-1614