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The Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences (ABBS) program provides rigorous and comprehensive training at the graduate level through the Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences. The general requirements for the MS and PhD degrees in Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences are those of the Graduate School.

The ABBS graduate program offers research opportunities that foster creative excellence, technical mastery, intellectual independence, and expertise in the field of molecular and cellular biology. Our faculty members' research encompass areas of immunology, infectious disease, developmental biology, reproductive biology and toxicology. Research topics focus on issues directly relevant to humans and agriculturally important animals. The strong commitment of our faculty members to quality graduate education is evidenced by the continued placement of ABBS graduates in excellent career and post-doctoral positions.  

The ABBS graduate program is housed primarily in the Integrated Sciences Building, a newly built, state-of-the-art research facility that houses laboratories equipped for tissue culture, micro-manipulation of cells and embryos, protein purification, genetic engineering, molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. 

A person looking into a microscope.

ABBS Graduate Program Director

Kathleen Arcaro, PhD
240 Thatcher Road
LSL 1 Room N529
Amherst, MA 01003-9298

Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department Head

Lisa M. Minter, PhD,
427A Integrated Sciences Building

Degrees offered

The ABBS graduate program offers the following degrees:

  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program goals

  • To prepare scientists for future careers in academia or industry in the areas of animal biotechnology and/or biomedicine. 
  • To provide research opportunities in areas of immunology, infectious disease, developmental biology, reproductive biology, and toxicology.
  • To instill in students an understanding of hypothesis-driven experimental design and the desire to deepen scientific knowledge.

The core of the graduate program is the deep commitment of the active research faculty to provide a quality graduate education. The collaborative environment of our research groups and physically centralized laboratories strengthens the learning environment for graduate students. The involvement of faculty within interdisciplinary programs brings a wide variety of students to our laboratories and seminars and promotes interactions across campus. The faculty attract post-doctoral fellows from around the world and their presence invigorates the research enterprise, thus students do not work in isolation but are part of both the departmental program as well as interdepartmental research communities including the Molecular and Cellular Biology ProgramNeuroscience and Behavior Program, and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program.

Research in the ABBS graduate program is supported by a variety of sources. Faculty hold grants from the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, as well as from private industry, foundations, and the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station. Our graduates are continually placed in excellent career and post-doctoral positions, nationally and internationally.

Program requirements

See the ABBS Graduate Student Handbook for details on program requirements, courses, rules, and milestones.

The main emphasis of the graduate program is hands-on laboratory research. Students supplement lab work with a variety of courses as well as research seminars and journal clubs. Required courses provide a strong foundation in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, immunology and infectious diseases, genetics, and developmental biology.  Doctoral students must pass written and oral comprehensive qualifying exams and both Ph.D. and M.S. students must pass a final oral defense of their thesis research. All graduate students form a thesis committee of faculty members who meet regularly with the student to provide guidance and assess progress.

The Fifth Year Master's Degree program is designed for students who are undergraduate students in the department and who begin research in a laboratory during their junior year. During their senior year, they develop their research skills and take six credits of coursework toward their master's degree. To complete the fifth-year master's degree requires 12-15 months after the BS degree and includes a combination of research work for independent study credit plus sixeight additional coursework credits.

Application and admission

Please view the list of research faculty who may be accepting new students into their labs.

Our program accepts new students for the Fall semester; (rotating PhD students are only accepted for the fall semester) we generally accept 14 students per year. The application deadline is January 15. Generally, master's with a thesis and PhD students are accepted by individual faculty members directly into their laboratories. Each year one or two candidates are admitted as “rotation students” but are still encouraged to contact individual faculty members directly about their research programs and the availability of space and financial support. 

Applicants must include a completed online application form and two letters of recommendation. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is optional. International students who are not from an English-speaking country (i.e., one whose national language is English) must also take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and score at least 550 (paper-based test) or 80 (computer-based test). This includes students from non-English speaking countries even though their degrees may have been awarded in English.

Applications can be obtained from the address below. For general information, visit the UMass Graduate School website.

Graduate admissions
Phone: 413-545-0722 (8:30 a.m.5 p.m. Mon-Fri EST)
Email: @email

Check on the status of your application.

The ABBS program has a number of application fee waivers it can grant prospective PhD students interested in studying molecular and cellular biology. These waivers include international applicants, who have faced adversity, such as societal, economic, or academic disadvantages. We also will consider application fee waiver requests from applicants who are first-generation students and students who have been traditionally underrepresented in graduate education in molecular and cellular biology. Applicants should contact Kathleen Arcaro to inquire about an application fee waiver.

For further inquiries about the program please contact:

Graduate Program Director
Kathleen Arcaro, PhD
240 Thatcher Road
LSL 1 Room N529
Amherst, MA 01003-9298

Financial Aid

Students (U.S. citizens and foreign) are eligible for research or teaching assistantships. Except for non-thesis master's students, graduate students accepted into the program are provided with financial support from individual faculty members (that is, the research supervisor). Research assistants and teaching assistants receive full-time re-numeration in addition to having tuition and medical insurance paid for. Students admitted to the program are responsible for finding their own transportation to and from Amherst, Massachusetts. International students must remain registered as full-time students during their stay to maintain visa status. In addition to the research and teaching assistantships, students may apply for competitive pre-doctoral fellowships at:

Interdepartmental graduate programs

Students admitted through other graduate programs on campus may join the research groups in our department if the graduate advisor (PI) is a member of that program. Interdepartmental programs that our students may be interested in include: