Graduate Studies


Graduate Requirements


Graduate students must complete four core courses. By the end of the second year, students must have completed four courses, achieving an average B or better average, 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.

Rotations and Research

During the first year of graduate study, students actively carry out research with different faculty investigators and learn about their experimental strategies and approaches. Students are required to complete three laboratory rotations (approximately 10 weeks) with different faculty advisors, and have the option of performing an additional rotation the summer before entering graduate school. Rotation advisors are chosen from among over 50 faculty that span disciplines from Molecular Biology to Ecology and Evolution, Chemistry, Computer Science, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physics, and Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

Faculty Talks

Each fall, first-year graduate students attend a series of talks given by members of the faculty. These informal talks are designed exclusively for first-year graduate students interested in learning about the current areas of research each lab is pursuing, and serve to introduce students to potential rotation and thesis projects.

General Exam

The General Examination is usually administered in January of the second year of study, after students have met all formal course and lab rotation requirements. It is a three-hour oral exam administered by a committee of three faculty members of the graduate program, including one member of the Graduate Committee who acts as chair of the exam committee.  The committee does not include the student’s thesis advisor.  The exam consists of two parts: 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 and 2. Second Topic: This 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.

A Master of Arts (M.A.) degree may be awarded to students who complete the formal courses and three laboratory rotations required for Ph.D. students, and demonstrate 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. A faculty member and the Graduate Committee must approve the master's paper.


All students are required to teach two Molbio 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.

Yearly Committee Meetings

After students complete course work, lab rotations, and the general exam, a yearly committee meeting is required for reenrollment. This meeting is scheduled by the student. The committee consists of their advisor and two other faculty members. The responsibility of the committee is to advise students during their research.

Final Public Oral Exam

When research is completed, the student writes the dissertation, which is then read by the advisor. Two second readers, chosen by the student, read the dissertation. Usually the second readers are the other members of the students' thesis committee. Upon approval, the student gives a final public oral presentation of his or her research to the department.

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Lewis Thomas Laboratory at Princeton University

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