In the GSAS Research Scholar Initiative (RSI) post-baccalaureate program, research scholars work with a Harvard faculty member as a research assistant and participate in professional development seminars. In addition, scholars may take undergraduate and/or graduate coursework in preparation for doctoral studies. While GSAS cannot guarantee admission to Harvard or peer doctoral programs, the goal of the initiative is to enhance scholars’ competitiveness when applying to a doctoral program. We mainly accept students from disciplines in the life sciences (including neuroscience and engineering), classics, and in some years, economics. In some years, we accept applicants from other disciplines on a case-by-case basis, but these slots are not always guaranteed. The program is funded in part by a PREP grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences.
Admissions decisions are made in March and April, and the program begins in July. Only US citizens or permanent residents are eligible to apply. Applications are now live! To request an application for the 2023–2024 academic year, please complete this interest form and we will send you a link to the application once it opens. The deadline is February 1.
Research Scholars in Life Sciences
As it has become critical to increasing the diversity of applicants pursuing PhDs in the life sciences, the Research Scholar Initiative strongly encourages applications from underrepresented minorities.
As a research scholar in life sciences, you will:
- serve as a research assistant in a Harvard faculty member lab
- participate in weekly academic/professional development sessions
- take undergraduate/graduate coursework as needed
- have access to Harvard University resources, including faculty, libraries, software, and tutoring
- receive full funding, including a stipend, health insurance, and tuition.
In addition to RSI, we invite students interested in pursuing a neuroscience-focused post-baccalaureate program to apply to the Program in Neuroscience post-bac (PiNBAC) at Harvard Medical School. You can learn more about the program and the application process here: https://pinbac.hms.harvard.edu/. The PiNBAC application will open in December. Please check the website for updates.
Research Scholars in Classics
Classics is a new addition to RSI in the 2023–2024 academic year, and we are excited to welcome prospective applicants!
The research scholar program supports college graduates who are seeking further study in classics in preparation for applying to graduate programs. Students have the opportunity to take courses in classical language and various aspects of Greco-Roman culture, working under the guidance of expert faculty. Research scholars can take advantage of the rich opportunities to attend lectures, working groups and other events both in the department and in the humanities division.
The Research Scholar Initiative welcomes applications from members of groups historically underrepresented in the field of classics.
As a research scholar in classics, you will:
take undergraduate and/or graduate coursework in classics or related fields
conduct research under the guidance of a faculty mentor
have access to Harvard University resources, including faculty, libraries, tutoring, and professional development seminars
receive full funding, including a stipend, health insurance, and tuition
be eligible for two summers of funding for language study (either in the Harvard Classics Scholars-in-Training Summer Program or similar summer program).
Research Scholars in Economics
According to a recent National Science Foundation survey of earned PhDs, less than 5 percent of PhD recipients in economics or related fields are underrepresented minorities. The changing demographic of the United States and the growing demand for economists in various sectors highlight the importance of remedying this issue. The Research Scholar Initiative strongly encourages applications from underrepresented minorities. Please note that the Research Scholar Initiative — Economics program is on hold for the 2023–2024 academic year.
As a research scholar in economics, you will:
- serve as a part-time research assistant for a Harvard faculty member
- take undergraduate and/or graduate coursework in economics or related fields
- participate in Harvard Department of Economics workshops
- have access to Harvard University resources, including faculty, libraries, tutoring, and professional development seminars
- receive full funding, including a stipend, health insurance, and tuition.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the Research Scholar Initiative?
The Research Scholar Initiative helps scholars build skills, gain experience, and/or undertake coursework in order to enhance their competitiveness and preparation for a doctoral program.
Am I eligible to apply for the program?
In order to apply for the program, you must have completed your bachelor's degree by the start date of the program (July) and be a US citizen or permanent resident. Currently, we are able to accept scholars interested in life sciences or classics. In some years, we have accepted scholars in other disciplines such as psychology, but these slots are not guaranteed each year. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Are international students eligible to apply to the program?
Unfortunately, no. Due to funding restrictions, we are only able to accept US citizens and permanent residents.
I am interested in pursuing an MD/PhD. Would this program be a good fit for me?
The life science track of RSI is designed for students interested in pursuing a PhD and therefore does not provide support for MD applicants.
Is there a minimum GPA required to apply for the program?
No, there is no minimum GPA requirement.
When will the application be available?
The application will be available on November 1.
How do I apply?
Please fill out this interest form and we will send you an application once it opens on November 1. Alternatively, you may also request an application by emailing email@example.com, but due to the sheer volume of emails we receive, the interest form is the best way to access the application. Once the application opens, we will also include the link on this website so you may access it directly.
When are admissions decisions made?
Admissions decisions are made in March or April.
When does the program begin?
The program begins in July. This provides time to settle in, to consult with the program director(s) to determine your individualized plan for the academic year, to take part in summer "boot camps" that build technical skills, and to begin your work as a research assistant.
Classics research scholars who opt into the Classics Scholars-in-Training Summer Program start in June.
How many scholars are admitted to the program each year?
We typically admit around five or six life science scholars, three or four economics scholars (when applicable), and one classics scholar each year.
Will I receive funding if I am admitted into the program?
Most of our scholars are awarded a monthly stipend, health insurance, and a one-time relocation fee. If you take courses, tuition for one to two classes per semester is also covered.
How long will I be in the program?
Each scholar spends one to two years in the program. This is determined in consultation with the program director(s) and your faculty mentor.
How will my time be spent in the program?
The program is meant to build skills that will enhance your competitiveness in applying to top PhD programs in your field. Scholars will be paired with a faculty mentor and work as a research assistant, and some will also enroll in courses.
In addition to working as a research assistant and potentially enrolling in courses, life science scholars meet as a group once per week for paper reading sessions, meet-the-professor events, and other skill-building workshops. Economics scholars typically join one of the many weekly workshops put on by the Department of Economics. Classics scholars can join workshops and lectures run by the department. Classics students enroll in four courses per semester, typically a combination of language work and research. It is expected that one of the courses will be a reading and research class leading to the preparation of a research paper that can be submitted as a writing sample at the time of graduate applications.
There will also be social activities to periodically bring the group together.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Research Scholar Initiative Alumni
Research Scholar Initiative alumni have joined PhD programs at top universities including Harvard University; University of Chicago; New York University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; University of Pennsylvania; and University of California, San Francisco. Read what some of them say about their experiences:
Eric Leron McLean
Graduate Student, University of Chicago
"When I first applied to graduate school, I focused on programs exclusively dedicated to immunology. During the graduate admissions interview process, I came to the realization that immunology was not the field of study I wanted to pursue. I decided to join Harvard's Research Scholar Initiative because of the flexibility that it provides to each scholar. My confidence as a scientist was greatly enhanced by my two years in the program. Being able to perform and discuss science at Harvard made me believe that I could be a competitive applicant to the top universities in the country. The RSI program provided excellent resources for applying to graduate school, including GRE preparation and mock interviews."
Janice M. Nieves-Bonilla
Graduate Student, Harvard University
"The RSI program has immensely influenced my career as a research scientist! I was fortunate enough to be part of a program that provided me a personalized plan and structure to prepare for graduate school, the reason for my choosing it. Coming from a small college with little experience in full-time research, I was able to gain the needed confidence to develop my own research project, whilst preparing for graduate school applications. Having access to great mentors and advisors, I had the opportunity to work and develop many skills I needed in order to be prepared for graduate school, such as reading and discussing scientific articles, networking, refining my presentation skills, communicating with advisors, and learning to develop research questions. The most significant part of my experience as a research scholar was that I got an early taste of what it is like to be a graduate student at one of the best research universities in the world. Now, as a graduate student at Harvard, I feel confident that I have chosen the right career path and program for me, that I will thrive as a graduate student, and that I will become a great research scientist; and all of that is due to my participation in this program. Thank you, RSI!"
Francheska López Rivera
Graduate Student, Harvard University
"The Research Scholar Initiative was my bridge from undergraduate study to graduate school. As an architecture major with a second concentration in biology, I felt I was not prepared to compete with top graduate school applicants who had multiple summers of scientific research experience. Having completed my undergraduate degree in Puerto Rico, I also knew that I needed more exposure to the English-speaking system. The Research Scholar Initiative gave me that and more. As a research scholar, I had an individualized plan that was tailored to my needs. I received two full years of research experiences in an awesome lab that focused on my field of interest. I also received a lot of mentoring from my advisor, the program director, and other faculty members. I was able to interact with current graduate students who gave me insight into life as a graduate student. During my time in RSI, I participated in two conferences for minority students and even won my first scientific research award! I also took a core course with my fellow research scholars, in which we discussed papers, presented data, and developed writing skills. RSI also provided me with funding for a GRE prep course, and I received a lot of advice while completing my graduate school applications. I even got the chance to practice for graduate school interviews with Harvard faculty. Finally, the Research Scholar Initiative gave me the chance to explore what Harvard has to offer, and I discovered that it is the perfect place for me to complete my graduate studies."