Ph.D. programs
PhD programs in the School of Sciences and Humanities (SSH) at Nazarbayev University (NU) is designed to provide advanced skills and knowledge base at an expert level for individuals planning a career in academia.
Life Sciences is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary area of sciences that aligns with priority science and technology needs for the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Ph.D. program can be compared in scope and structure to available programs in internationally leading academic institutions. The Ph.D. in Life Sciences will provide excellent instruction in core and elective subjects and will train modern high-quality life science experts which are in high demand for both existing as well as anticipated industries in Kazakhstan. The program's research focus in combination with pedagogical training that is in compliance with the Graduate Programs Framework of Nazarbayev University (NU) has the potential to attract regional and international students to the program.

Duration: 4 years
The program is unique in Kazakhstan because of its interdisciplinary focus and integrated research, communications and innovation approach. Starting from the first semester students interact closely with faculty and become members of a research team. Guided by the supervisor who acts also as a research advisor, the student will be immersed in an educational, teaching, innovation and research program to gain expertise and skills to transform biological data into biological information and knowledge, and to facilitate organizational decision-making in technology and data-rich situations. Graduates of the program will be highly qualified life sciences professionals who are expected to enter careers in academia, education or research and development in the private industry or government organizations
Application package checklist for Ph.D in Life Sciences program

Applicants applying to the Ph.D in Life Sciences are expected to have:

1) an undergraduate degree (Bachelor's degree or equivalent) and master's degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline, to be determined by the Admissions Committee (Admission Committee is in charge to decide what discipline is relevant or not).
During the application period final year students may submit official current transcript for consideration. Applicants may be enrolled conditionally based on evidence from graduating university the applicants have completed the educational program and the applicant expects formal issuance of final transcript and/or diploma by certain date. In that case, the decision on enrollment shall prescribe the period of time within which the applicants shall provide the necessary documents to the University.
Applicants who obtained their degree diplomas/certificates from foreign education institutions must request their official transcripts to be sent directly to the Admissions Department of the University. In exceptional cases that the foreign education institution does not provide such service, the transcript can be submitted to the Admissions Department directly by applicant upon confirmation by foreign education institution via corporate electronic mail. When applicants provide a certificate of nostrification of a diploma issued by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan or an apostilled document by a foreign education institution, sending an official transcript directly to the University Admissions Department is not mandatory;

2) a minimum CGPA of 2.75 out of 4.00 in their highest degree;

3) The absolute minimum requirement for English language proficiency test reports for admission to the Ph.D program is:

overall IELTS test score of 6.5 (with sub-score requirements no less than 6.0), or the equivalent TOEFL score as posted on the ETS website.
Applicants to the Program, at the discretion of the Admissions Committee, can be exempted from submitting the language proficiency test report if:

– one of their earlier academic degrees was earned in a country with English as the language of official communication, academic instruction and daily life;
– a Master's degree or equivalent was earned in a program which was officially taught in English;
– the applicant is a graduate of University.

4) an official electronic score report of a valid IELTS/TOEFL certificate from the Test Administrator and its scanned copy (if applicable) must be submitted;
5) two confidential letters of recommendation in English (or with notarized English translation). One of the two recommendations must be written by a current or previous employer or research supervisor. The second referee may be chosen at the applicant's discretion;
6) a statement of purpose not exceeding 1000 words, explaining the motivation to enroll on the Ph.D program in Life Sciences, and the tentative choice of the research subject;
7) valid GRE Test Report (general test). An applicant must indicate University as a recipient when registering for the test. In case the applicant passed the test earlier, he/she can contact the test center and indicate Nazarbayev University as a recipient. Although an official GRE score is not an essential requirement, an applicant can enhance her/his application with a competitive GRE score;
8) The relevance of the academic and experiential background, and the equivalency and appropriateness of earlier degrees, will be determined by the Admissions Committee.

Application package checklist for the Ph.D in Life Sciences program:

  • complete Application form for Ph.D in Life Sciences program;
  • undergraduate and graduate degree diplomas/certificates with transcripts (with notarized English translation);
  • official electronic score report of valid Academic IELTS or TOEFL certificates from Test Administrator. IELTS or TOEFL certificate valid as of date of online documents submission (if applicable). An applicant must indicate University as a recipient when registering for the test. In case if the applicant passed the test earlier, he/she can contact the test center and indicate the University as a recipient. Applicants can provide official electronic score report of valid Academic IELTS or TOEFL IBT certificates from Test Administrator and its scanned copy;
  • document confirming English as the language of instruction (only for applicants who earned their degree in a program which was taught in English and request an exemption from submitting IELTS or TOEFL);
  • official copy of Passport/national ID;
  • official electronic score report of valid GRE test reports/certificates (optional). GRE test reports/certificates valid as of date of online documents submission to the Ph.D in Life Sciences program;
  • two confidential letters of recommendation in English (with notarized English translation) written within the last 12 months (to be provided by referees electronically or in hard copy);
  • resume (up to two A4 pages);
  • a statement of purpose not exceeding 1000 words, explaining the motivation to enroll on the Ph.D in Life Sciences program, and the tentative choice of the research subject;
  • consent for Prospective Student's/Student's/Graduate's personal data processing.
  • Applicants recommended for admission must provide hard copies of IELTS and GRE results (if applicable) as requested by the Admissions Department.
All students will have the opportunity to take part in a 6-12 months research internship at an international host research institution. The host supervisor and supervisory team at NU will maintain communication with the student throughout the student's stay in order to make efficient use of the host premises and facilities for the benefit of the PhD student.

Students will be encouraged to attend Professional Development Workshops organized by CAC, SSH or the Department.

The students' supervisor shall advise on research career options and facilitate conference attendance to present research results and enable networking
The four-year 240 ECTS credit Ph.D. in Life Sciences is a research-intensive third cycle program designed according to the Bologna requirements. The curriculum of the program consists of three different types of courses:

core pillar courses (36 ECTS),
elective pillar courses (24 ECTS), and
research pillar courses (Thesis Research and Thesis Dissertation) 180 ECTS).

Core pillar courses consist of two disciplinary core courses (12 ECTS), and three department core courses (24 ECTS). These courses are designed to give a solid and wide base of advanced knowledge in technology and data-driven areas of biological sciences that provide the students with the opportunity to acquire the necessary theoretical and methodological knowledge to succeed in their research. These courses are planned for the first year.
A selection of department elective courses (24 ECTS) in Semesters 1 and 2 will permit students to define specialization areas according to future research and professional career goals.
The Research pillar course Thesis Research spans Years 1-2. In Semester 1 student will be given the opportunity as part of BIOL 799 Thesis Research of lab rotations to ensure an optimal fit of advisors' and students' research interests. In Semesters 1-2 and Summer Term 1 students develop their Thesis Proposal. Semesters 3-8 and Summer Terms 2-4 are dedicated to the thesis research only.
Courses may be waived for NU graduates and replaced by a Level-8 course (core or elective) selected by the student's supervisory committee and approved by the corresponding departmental committee.

The list of courses for the Ph.D. in Life Sciences is given below:

Discipline Core Courses (2)
DENG 782 Research Methods & Ethics (6 ECTS)
BIOL 720 Statistical Methods in Life Sciences (6 ECTS)

Department Core Courses (3)
BIOL 750 Structural and Molecular Biology in Health and Disease (8 ECTS)
BIOL 791 Cellular Biophysics (8 ECTS)
BIOL 780 Applied Bioinformatics (8 ECTS)

Department Electives (8)
BIOL 731 Synthetic Biology (8 ECTS)
BIOL 732 Drug Discovery and Design (8 ECTS)
BIOL 735 Hot Topics in Life Sciences (6 ECTS)
BIOL 737 Advanced Optical and Electron Microscopy (8 ECTS)
BIOL 751 Advanced Topics in Cell Structure and Function (8 ECTS)
BIOL 760 Molecular Biology of Prokaryotic Cells (8 ECTS)
BIOL 770 Advanced Biotechnology (8 ECTS)
BIOL 775 Gene Therapy (8 ECTS)

Research Course (2)
BIOL 799 Thesis Research (0 ECTS)
BIOL 800 Doctoral Thesis (180 ECTS)

Learning and teaching methods utilized in the courses will include
class discussion,
reflective assignments,
literature review,
research paper writing,
research project,
research poster design, and
oral presentation
**Ample funding is available for local and international students, with the majority receiving a full scholarship and stipend.**

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