Molecular Biology

Study mode:Full-time Languages: English Duration:5 years
Local:$ 48.9k / 1 Academic year(s) Foreign:$ 48.9k / 1 Academic year(s) Deadline: Dec 1, 2021
StudyQA ranking:174

Photos of university / #Princeton

The graduate program in the Department of Molecular Biology fosters the intellectual development of modern biologists. We welcome students from a variety of educational backgrounds, and offer an educational program that goes well beyond traditional biology. The molecular biology department at Princeton is a tightly knit, cohesive group of scientists that includes undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty with diverse but overlapping interests. Graduate students have a wide choice of advisers, with a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary interests and research objectives.

The graduate program offers each entering student the opportunity, with the help of faculty advisers, to design the intellectual program that best meets his or her unique scientific interests. Each student chooses a series of research rotations with faculty members in molecular biology and associated departments (chemistry, computer science, ecology and evolutionary biology, engineering, physics and psychology). Entering students, with the aid of the graduate committee, select core and elective courses from a large number of offerings in a variety of departments and disciplines. This combination of a cohesive department, one-on-one advising, and individualized programs of course work and research provides an ideal environment for graduate students to flourish as independent scientists.

Areas of concentration include biochemistry, biophysics, cancer, cell biology, computation and modeling, development, evolution, genetics, genomics, microbiology and virology, neuroscience, policy and structural biology.


Graduate students must complete four core courses(link is external). By the end of the second year, students must have completed four courses, achieving an average of B or better, including passing all rotations. Students may take additional elective courses that are closely related to their research topic.

By the end of the third year, students must have completed MOL: 561 Scientific Integrity in the Practice of Molecular Biology.

Pre-Generals Requirements(s):


Students complete three laboratory rotations with different advisers as part of their research training during the first year of study (MOL 540, MOL 541 Research Projects); a fourth rotation is optional.

Students who complete a full rotation (approximately 10 weeks of research) the summer before entering graduate school are assigned a rotation in September along with other entering students.

A student may elect to work with any member or associated member of the program. Students who desire to work with members outside the program may do so with the approval of the director of graduate studies.

Faculty/Student Research Talks

In the fall of their first year, graduate students attend a series of informal talks given by each faculty mentor. These discussions are designed to introduce first-year students to current research projects that might serve as rotation and thesis topics.

Molecular Biology Annual Retreat

The molecular biology annual retreat is a three-day symposium of research talks and poster sessions held in the fall and attended by all graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty in molecular biology and associated departments. 

Graduate Student Colloquia

Graduate students, together with postdoctoral fellows and faculty, attend weekly research seminars given by graduate students. This graduate colloquium provides both experience in the presentation of research results and a forum for scientific discussion with peers.

General Exam:

The general examination is usually administered in the January general examination period of the second year of study, after students have met all formal course requirements. This three-hour oral examination is administered by three faculty members from the graduate program, none of whom may be the student’s thesis adviser. The examination consists of two parts: the thesis proposal and second topic.

  1. The thesis proposal probes depth of knowledge in the chosen research field and examines the ability of the student to justify and defend the goals, significance, and the experimental logic and methods of the proposed plan.
  2. The second topic, or mini-proposal, is a two-page written document that uses an assigned research paper as the foundation for a research proposal. The student will propose a question and experiments to follow-up on the results and/or conclusions in the assigned second topic paper.

Qualifying for the M.A.:

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after successfully passing all parts of the general examination.  It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that the following requirements are met:  completion of the formal courses and three laboratory rotations required for Ph.D. students, and demonstration of an appropriate level of research competency. Research experience must include at least one year of independent work in the laboratory, and competency must be demonstrated in writing. A faculty mentor and the graduate committee must approve the master’s paper.


Students are normally required to teach in two undergraduate-level courses. Students may have the opportunity to do additional teaching if they wish to gain more experience. The first assignment is normally a laboratory course, while the second is normally a major undergraduate lecture course.

Post-Generals Requirement(s):

Committee Meetings

Each graduate student chooses a thesis committee that consists of the thesis adviser and two other faculty members who are knowledgeable in the student’s area of research. The thesis committee meets formally with the graduate student at least once per year, and sometimes more frequently on an informal basis. The responsibility of this committee is to advise students during the course of their research.

Dissertation and FPO:

When the research is completed, the student writes the dissertation, which is first read by the adviser then by two additional readers chosen by the student. Usually the second readers are the other members of the student’s thesis committee. Upon acceptance of the dissertation, the student gives a final, public oral presentation of his or her research to the department.

The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.

  • Application Fee: $90
  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Transcripts
  • Fall Semester Grades
  • Prerequisite Tests
  • English Language Tests
  • GRE : General test

For Ph.D. candidates, tuition and fees during a student’s regular period of enrollment are provided in full from a student’s graduate student financial support, in the form of tuition support from fellowships, assistantships, or external sources.

The annual stipend amount provided to Ph.D. candidates during their regular enrollment is intended to support a single graduate student based on estimated costs. Master’s students or students with spouses and/or dependents may require additional resources to support their living expenses 

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