How Does BBSP Work?

BBSP is an umbrella admissions and first year training program for 14 PhD programs in the life sciences at UNC Chapel Hill. If you are interested in one or more of these programs, you simply need to complete one BBSP application. Admitted students are not formally committed to any specific PhD program during the first year. This structure maximizes flexibility and choice in the first year experience: students can sample various labs and courses or they can choose to focus right away. Read our Apply page for more information about how to apply to BBSP.  Read below for more information about the first year of BBSP.

During your first year you will join one of several small ‘First Year Groups’ comprised of other first year students and faculty members. This first year group will be your home until you join a degree-granting program at the end of the second semester. Your group will meet regularly in an informal course setting to develop critical thinking skills and other professional skills relating to scientific communication such as writing and speaking. You will also have opportunities to get to know your peers outside of your small group through BBSP-wide activities.
The faculty leading your group will also serve as your advisors during your first year. Your advisors and the PhD program directors will help you select the appropriate lab rotations driven by your interests and your goals. Former BBSP students will also serve as peer mentors for first year students. They will be available to talk about rotations, program requirements, classes, graduate student life, and other issues that are important to you.
BBSP students must complete three ~eleven-week lab rotations during the first year. You can choose from over 300 laboratories in any of the 14 participating PhD programs. At the end of the first year, students choose their thesis lab from one of their lab rotations and typically matriculate into a PhD program with which their thesis advisor is affiliated. Summer rotations before the first year officially begins are an option for interested students.
The BBSP has no uniformly required courses. You have the freedom to explore courses from different departments if you choose, but nothing prevents you from focusing on one specific program’s requirements right away. Many first-year courses satisfy degree requirements for several programs. A list of courses appropriate for first year graduate students and links to course requirements for each of the participating programs are available here. Once you join a particular PhD program you may need to complete additional coursework in your second year, but most students finish all required coursework by the end of the second year.
Once you choose a thesis lab you will leave BBSP and join a PhD program. You will then be required to complete the coursework and degree requirements for that particular department or curriculum. The amount of coursework required varies among programs, but the basic degree requirements are usually the same: a written qualifying exam, a thesis proposal, yearly committee meetings and a written thesis/oral defense. UNC continues to provide programming, community activities, and professional development resources after the BBSP year through the Office of Graduate Education.
As a BBSP student, you will be provided a competitive stipend, and are guaranteed support throughout your graduate career as long as you remain in good academic standing. The stipend for the 2020-2021 academic year is $32,500. Your tuition, fees, and health insurance will also be paid.