Graduate Life

Information useful for the life of a graduate student.

Who and What You Need to Know


Anthony Galaviz

MCDB Staff Graduate Advisor

Bill Smith

MCDB Faculty Graduate Advisor

Nicole Becker

BMSE Staff Graduate Advisor

John Lew

BMSE Faculty Graduate Advisor


MCDB Website

What MCDB wants you to know

UCSB Academic Services

What Grad Div wants you to know

The GradPost

The GradPost is the primary source for news, funding, professional development, advice, events, and more related to graduate student life at UC Santa Barbara. It also serves as the digital outpost of the Graduate Student Resource Center, where ​grad students can find in-person ​services and ​support to help successfully navigate the graduate experience at UCSB.

Unofficial Graduate Handbook

For Students By Students! If you want the handbook in booklet format, just print this version double sided and staple!

Official MCDB Grad Guide

Note: You are grandfathered in under the graduate guide version that was current when you entered


UCSB Student Handbook

Current Protocols

UCSB Subscription

Other Advice

10 steps to PhD failure

Kevin Haggerty and Aaron Doyle offer tips on making postgraduate study even tougher (which students could also use to avoid pitfalls if they prefer)

MCDB / BMSE T-Shirt Orders

Stay tuned!

University Community


We can all use some


Graduate student near campus housing

Arts & Lecture Series

See cool performances! Learn about something new! Most have discounted prices for students!

Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE)

Find support in a typically male dominated field

Graduate Life Outside

Piled Higher and Deeper Comic

You'll laugh because it's true

Seed Magazine (broken)

Science is Culture

Local Hikes (broken)

Hike away stress!

SB Hikes

Exercise the body too!

Isla Vista Arts

See cheap movies, improv shows, and more!

Exam Tips

Preliminary Exam Tips

As of 2021, BMSE and MCDB have different preliminary exam formats. BMSE prelim is on-topic while MCDB prelim is off-topic.

BMSE Prelim

MCDB Prelim

MCDB Prelim consists of writing a grant proposal on a topic that is unrelated to the topic of your dissertation. After you have written the proposal, you then have to defend the proposal, any and all aspects of it, before 4 faculty members. This the the final and largest hurdle you have to pass before you are fully accepted as a graduate student here at UCSB, so here are some tips.

Advancement Exam Tips

Also see this google doc from 2015 with compiled advice from both grad students and faculty

On Selecting a Topic

  1. When searching for a topic, look for current reviews in top journals.
  2. If you think the topic is too close to your dissertation is.
  3. Pick a topic that excites you, it's a long process so try and enjoy it!

On Research and Writing

  1. Talk to anyone you like about your topic or a technique(i.e. other graduate students, postdocs, professors in that field).
  2. Most students take about a solid month to write (minimal or no bench time), so plan accordingly.

After Submission of the Proposal

  1. Anyone can read your proposal at this time, so get feedback from many people.
  2. Organize a mock committee. Usually a mock consists of graduate students from labs of your committee members. Keep in mind that all grad students are busy, so be accomodating and curtious, they are doing you a huge favor!

The Oral Exam

  1. Take the advice your mock committee give you seriously.
  2. Be able to draw all your data and controls from memory, you can only bring a copy of your proposal into the room.
  3. Relax, you know this topic better then anyone else in the room!