Students in class


Most learning in graduate school comes from hands-on thesis research. Coursework also plays an important role. For most biosciences students, coursework starts with a uniquely designed Foundations course and includes in-depth courses in specialized areas. Stanford courses emphasize interactive learning and learning through the scientific literature.

See Explore Courses to search for courses. Course requirements vary by Home Program. See your Home Program's handbook for specific course requirements and recommendations.

Stanford Biosciences students writing on a white board


Nearly all students take the "Foundations" course. Open to first year graduate students in the Biosciences only. The overall mission of the course is to facilitate the first steps toward becoming scientists —from being consumers of information to producers of knowledge. In the process of doing this, students learn to read for breadth and depth, construct compelling arguments, find important research questions and discriminate between approaches to answer those questions, communicate with the spoken or written word as well as images, and work in interdisciplinary teams.


Mini-courses are 1-3 week (and 1-3 unit) courses that give students the opportunity to learn about a specific field or skill. Students interact closely with teaching staff, with frequent opportunities to solve problems and to receive individual feedback.

Past mini-courses include:

  • Practical Protein NMR Structure Determination
  • Scientific Illustration and Animation
  • Modern Statistics for Modern Biology
  • Genomics and Personalized Medicine

Current schedule of mini-courses

Search Explore Courses under Biosciences Interdisciplinary (BIOS) for a listing of current mini-courses.

Although mini-courses take place in the last 3 weeks of the quarter and flexible registration deadlines still apply it is highly encouraged and recommended to apply by normal registration deadlines. Courses fill up fast. If you don't have units available (3 units max for TGR students, 10 units max for non-TGR students), see your Student Services Administrator (SSA) or Biosciences for help registering. (You can still take the courses!) Contact your SSA with other eligibility and tuition questions.

Proposing new mini-courses

Faculty interested in developing a new mini-course should see the mini-course proposals page.

More questions

For more on mini-courses, please see the mini-course frequently asked questions.


We encourage you to take advantage of the entire Stanford campus, so do not feel limited to science courses! Students have enrolled in courses from archery to Spanish to law. If you don't have extra credit hours for extracurricular courses, many professors allow students to audit classes.

In the past, foreign language skills were a standard requirement in graduate school. Now, many faculty believe that a baseline level ability in computer programming is critical in 21st century science. Stanford offers many computational courses, with levels ranging from beginner to advanced and focuses ranging from general to science-specific.

Students can (and do!) take classes not listed in their curriculum. Remember that many scientific advances come from applying knowledge from one area to the next, so take advantage of the broad spectrum of courses offered at Stanford.

Here is a sampling of courses you can use to broaden your skill set, learn about a new field, or relax. Browse Explore Courses to find more courses.

  • Scientific Writing & Presentation (HPR 214): Leads students through the scientific writing process and shares tips on effective writing.
  • Design School: In classes, teams of students define problems and innovate solutions through creative and analytical approaches. One class, "Design for Science," focuses on how scientific data are collected and communicated. Other classes emphasize stimulating creativity.
  • Biodesign: The Biodesign Program offers classes, mentoring, and career services for students interested in medtech innovation. Courses teach how to identify medical needs, evaluate technologies, create prototypes, and translate research into the medical world.
  • Business/Management: The Stanford Ignite Program is a 3-month part-time winter program or a 1-month full time summer program targeted at non-business graduate students. The program teaches business skills, product design and prototyping, and idea development and commercialization. The Summer Institute for General Management is a 4-week summer program to teach business and management fundamentals, résumé writing, and job interviewing skills.
  • Computer Programming: Several courses familiarize students with computational analyses:

    • Programming Methodology (CS 106A, uses Java)
    • Genomics (GENE 211, uses PERL)
    • Computational Analysis of Biological Images (PATH 218, uses Java)
    • Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Cytoskeleton (BIOC 225, uses MatLab)

    More advanced computational courses include:

    • Computer Graphics (CS 248)
    • Artificial Intelligence (CS 221)
    • Representations and Algorithms for Computational Molecular Biology (BIOMEDIN 214)
  • Law: Students interested in the legal system may take law school courses. Some law courses that overlap with the sciences: Law and Biosciences: Neuroscience (cross listed with HRP 211); Law and the Biosciences seminar series; Food and Drug Administration (cross listed with HRP 209); California Coast: Science, Policy and Law (cross listed with CEE 175A/275A and EARTHSYS 175/275); Health Care Regulation, Finance and Policy (cross listed with HRP 391); and Energy Law. See here for how to register for a law school class.
  • Stanford Product Realization Lab: Product Realization Lab classes give students resources to design and create products.
  • Fitness: Students can participate in fitness classes through Physical Education classes, Stanford Aerobics and Yoga, and the outdoor education program.


Stanford offers many workshops for professional development. Use these workshops to learn how to deliver a presentation, present a poster, write a scientific paper, network, and more. See the Student Development section of the Event Calendar.

Grant Writing Academy

The Stanford Biosciences Grant Writing Academy provides workshops, coaching, review and editing for multiple grant mechanisms to all postdoctoral scholars and graduate students in the biosciences.

Our goals are to:

  • Support postdocs and graduate students in creating successful proposals
  • Train postdocs and graduate students in effective writing and editing
  • Enhance the development of productive, independent research scientists
  • Provide coaching, editing and review for multiple grant mechanisms

For more, please see the Grant Writing Academy page.

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