For those of you who have decided to matriculate to the UCSF-UC Berkeley Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering, congratulations and welcome! As you enter your first year of graduate school at UCSF and Berkeley, here is a short checklist of things to do:

  1. Find housing in the Bay Area
  2. Register for classes to be a full-time student
  3. Collect the necessary documentation for CA residency (US citizens/Permanent Residents) or for working in the USA (International)
  4. Research rotation mentors
  5. Apply for graduate research fellowships
  6. First Year Forms

**These points are summarized from the comprehensive, student-made welcome packet for incoming Ph.D. students in the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Graduate Program in Bioengineering: Belly of the BEAST (2022), the First Year Checklist (2018), Orientation (2018), and Orientation (2019) that you have seen or received at orientation.

Finding Housing in the Bay Area

Current students have compiled a Rent Map for incoming students and students moving to another part of the city. Keep in mind that the rent increases each year, with larger hikes in areas not protected by rent control. As such, older data may no longer be valid for similar parts of the city.

Realtors and homeowners will often require you to fill out a rental application. While searching for housing, you should be prepared to fill out all the information on such forms.

Handy things to bring when house hunting:

  • Photo identification (Driver’s license or passport)
  • Credit report and/or credit history (international students may not have this)
  • Proof of income
  • Bank account information
  • Personal references
  • Previous apartment information (names, phone numbers, addresses)
  • Employment information such as the offer letter from UC Berkeley and UCSF
  • Vehicle identification number

Being a full-time student

It is important to register for classes as soon as possible to ensure timely payment of academic fees as well as your first stipend payment. Berkeley registration for fall courses typically opens in mid July; UCSF registration typically opens in August. Check your CalCentral and UCSF student portal pages for enrollment dates. Check for emails from the administration at your home campus about how many units you must enroll in at each campus. Feel free to reach out to peer advisors with questions about what courses to sign up for, but the most important thing is to register for the required amount of units ASAP; you can easily add and drop courses throughout the beginning of the term. Additionally, don’t worry if your desired Berkeley classes are full. Just register on the waitlist and make sure to show up for the first class sessions, as students are usually able to secure a spot in these classes even if they were full at registration.

    • Register for classes in UC Berkeley or UCSF as required to be a full-time student
      • For Berkeley-based student, this is a minimum of 12 units at Berkeley per semester
      • For UCSF-based students, this is a minimum of 1 units at Berkeley per semester and 8 units at UCSF per trimester
      • First year students have three (3) required classes:
        • BioE 200 (UCB)/BioE 281 (UCSF) First Year Seminars: lab overviews and rotation opportunities
        • BioE 301 (UCB) Teaching Techniques for Bioengineering
        • BioE 201 (UCB) Responsible Conduct in Bioengineering (Ethics)
      • You can find classes past students have taken to fulfill their major and minor requirements under Course Information
  • Get your student ID card from Berkeley’s Cal1 Card Office and UCSF’s WeID Services  (Government issued photo ID required)
  • Get your AC Transit Bus Pass from Berkeley’s Parking and Transportation.

Becoming a CA Resident

The UC schools are large public research universities, and as such, tuition is dependent on the student’s residency status. If you are a US citizen or permanent resident, you are expected to become a resident of California as soon as possible and prior to the Fall of your second year. To do so you must satisfy the “Physical Presence” and “Intent to Remain in California” requirements by the residence determination date, which is the first day of instruction.

Here is a quick list of items that must be completed:

  • File a Statement of Legal Residence (SLR) immediately through Calcentral or UCSF Student Portal
  • Collect documents showing “Physical Presence” and “Intent to Remain in California”
    • Evidence of arrival (airline tickets, gas receipts)
    • CA driver’s license
    • Registration to vote in CA
    • CA bank statements and rental agreements
    • Prior year tax forms (federal and state)
    • And more!

For more detailed information, please see Berkeley’s Office of the Registrar or UCSF’s Office of the Registrar.

International Students

Please follow the Berkeley's International Office or UCSF's International Students and Scholars Office guidance on the developing situation regarding restrictions placed on international students by the Department of Homeland Security. As this is a fast changing issue, these two sources will have the most up to date information regarding your visa questions and relationship with each school.

If you are an international student, you will not be able to become a California Resident for tuition purposes. However you do have to make sure that you have a social security number (SSN). Although the International Office may tell you that you only need an ITIN, just get an SSN to make your own life easier in terms of employment, getting a phone plan, internet plan,  or just opening a bank account. Contact the department administrator for a letter confirming your employment and start your application as soon as possible.

For more detailed information, please see Berkeley’s International Office or UCSF’s International Students and Scholars Office

Research Rotation Mentors

First year students will have the opportunity to do three (3) rotations with core bioengineering faculty. Remember, you are rotation with the intent of finding a dissertation lab that is best for you. Here is a presentation on finding the right lab by Prof. Steve Conolly that demonstrates what to look for in a dissertation lab.

Here are some information compiled by past students to give you an idea of rotations:

  1. Core faculty spreadsheet with quick lab descriptions (last updated Spring 2017 courtesy of Chris Mathy)
  2. Sample rotations spreadsheet (updated Spring 2020)
  3. Student Directory and Dissertation Labs

Apply for graduate research fellowships and more

Now a great time for you to start thinking about applying for graduate research fellowships. Although you may not know what exactly your project will entail, that doesn’t mean you can’t dream big and think about scientific questions that really interest you. Here are a couple to get you started:

**US Citizens or Permanent Residents Only

In addition to fellowships, here are other opportunities you can consider planning for in your first year:

First Year Forms

As a first year, you have quite a bit of paperwork to fill out.


  1. Research authorization form needs to be filled out before each research rotation.
  2. Rotation evaluation form needs to be filled out after each research rotation.

First Year Progress Report: Near the end of your first year of the BioE program, you are required to fill out a first year progress report. You will need to meet with your faculty graduate advisor (or one of the head graduate advisors) to go over your progress. This report is comprised of the following forms:

  1. Annual Progress Report: Pre-Candidacy needs to be filled out. The same form is used for your first and second year.
  2. Program of Study: Area requirement form should be filled up. (see the Graduate Student Handbook for more information).
  3. Program of Study: Major and Minor form is where you list major/minor courses, your three lab rotations, and, ultimately, your GSI/teaching position.

Joining a Lab:
At the end of your first year, you will join a lab! (Woooooo!) In addition to the festivities (and work) that comes with joining a lab, you also need to fill out the Research Mentor/Dissertation Chair Commitment form.


Finally, here is the First Year Review (2018) that summarizes what to expect for your second year!