Guidance for international applicants

From John Hossack and Sepideh Dolatshahi, Graduate Admissions Committee Member, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia

International participation brings new perspectives and cultural enrichment to our program. The department currently has 40+ international graduate students and faculty from six different countries. We have many international undergraduates, and a significant proportion of our postdoctoral fellows are international. International students often choose between a new life in this country upon graduation, or they take what they have learned and experienced back to their home country to further advance the impact of our research globally.

Advice for international applicants:

Think carefully and methodically about your long-term career plans. What skills and experience do you want to learn and what is the logical pathway to your long-term career? Following that, take advantage of the UVA BME faculty pages and their lab websites to decide which labs are best aligned with your interests and aspirations. Read faculty pages closely and be open to new directions that add to your versatility as a professional Biomedical Engineer.

Compose a well-informed email or arrange to call or Zoom - “I would like to work in…(be specific).” Show genuine interest in the work of faculty that you are interested in, and ideally try to develop a mutual relationship well before the submission deadline. (Just be aware that different faculty have differing needs from year to year in terms of recruitment.)  Have good questions for faculty and try to draw attention to any relevant experience or skills that you have. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to develop skills in one application area and then reuse them for a new direction. Faculty are looking for enthusiasm, a self-driven nature and a hard-working, methodical attitude.  

Consider using your personal statement to communicate the aspects of your educational background that might be different from those of U.S. institutions. For example, GPA or curriculum differences may be worth clarifying relative to a biomedical engineering major. This will help faculty better assess your background.

Make contact with students in laboratories of interest to you—especially with international students. They may have advice. Our department and the University will help guide you through the visa process and the logistics of travel and accommodation. Generally, we recruit international students to the Ph.D. program - rarely to M.S. or M.E. programs. With few exceptions, Ph.D. students are supported throughout their studies by a stipend subject to satisfactory performance.

Useful Resources and Links:

  • The International Students and Scholars Program (ISSP) at UVA strives to address the unique needs of the international student and scholar community, including cultural, social, educational as well as legal issues in regard to their immigration status.
  • The UVA Graduate Biomedical Engineering Society (GBMES) is an active graduate student organization. The GBMES International Student Chair is selected each year by our current graduate students. 
  • For current UVA students, Volunteers with International Students, Staff, and Scholars (VISAS) is a volunteer organization at the University of Virginia which organizes a variety of programs for speakers of other languages who would like to practice English and intercultural exchange.
  • For US visa information, see DHS study in the states page and ICE student and exchange visitors program.

Sepideh Dolatshahi, PhD, Assistant Professor of BME

John Hossack, PhD, Professor of BME