Graduate Studies

Student Perspectives

Photo of Matthew King

The Molecular Biology Department at Princeton is a fun but productive place. Admittedly, I assumed these qualities to be mutually exclusive before coming here, but the department exists at a happy median in many regards. For example, it is large enough to have a breadth of research, but cozy enough that almost everyone knows and addresses each other by first name.

Coming to Princeton from the post-doc heavy National Institutes Health, I was struck by the value placed on graduate students. Graduate students make up the bulk of the research force on campus and thus have access to high priority projects and produce high impact work. Additionally, graduate students are in a unique position to assist in Princeton’s dedicated education of undergraduates, while receiving a world-class training for themselves.

Princeton, and our department in particular, is a truly wonderful community of scholarship and fun. We are a fraternal group of graduate students who have their pick of interesting projects. We know how to let loose and when to buckle down; and there’s an abundance of resources for both. The result is an impressive output of research from a small cluster of buildings situated in the middle of NJ, in the middle of the east coast research belt, at the forefront of knowledge.

— Matthew King
      PETRY Lab


As an undergrad, I worked with snakes; my research was not focused on molecular biology.  While I gained experience with the techniques used in molecular biology during my time as a lab coordinator between undergrad and grad school, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study during my graduate school career.  That is one of the biggest reasons Princeton was such a great fit for me.  The Molecular Biology department represents a wide variety of interests and it is easy to explore them.  During lab rotations you have the chance to investigate things that you may never have known were of interest to you.  The department is ideally diverse, but also small enough that it isn’t overwhelming.  Because of the small size of the department, too, it is easy to feel at home and become an active participant in many things outside of your lab.

While interviewing for other programs there was another thing that struck me about Princeton, and that was how much value was placed on educating its students.  The long-standing joke is that graduate students are simply a source of cheap labor, but that is absolutely not the case at Princeton.  It was clear even from my interview that the faculty put emphasis on their students learning how to be great scientists first and foremost.  At Princeton you are constantly surrounded by people who want to learn and teach, people who are genuinely interested in science and are more than happy to help you along the way.  

The academic experience at Princeton is wonderful, but one of the things that I have enjoyed the most is the people I have interacted with.  The Molecular Biology department is full of fun and interesting people and it is very easy to find your place.  Princeton is a small town, but there are plenty of things to do.  We are close to Philly, NY and DC so it is easy to get away to a larger city when you’d like.  All in all Princeton is a fantastic place to learn, live, and become a scientist.

— Allison Hall
      Rose Lab

soltes garnerComing from a small liberal arts institution with limited research capacity, I was worried that I'd be overwhelmed at Princeton. At first I wasn't sure what I wanted to study or where I wanted to conduct research. Over the course of the next six months, however, the Molecular Biology Department provided me with opportunities to speak with every faculty over lunch, participate in engaging and enriching courses, and attend phenomenal lectures. Through these opportunities and the type of informal conversation that is germane to a department like Mol Bio, I was easily able to make an informed, impassioned decision about my thesis work, and now I'm in love with what I do.

The Molecular Biology Department and Princeton as a whole is full of people who are incredibly passionate about teaching and learning. Whether you're having an extensive discussion about your research with colleagues, or simply chatting with someone at one of the great spots in town, you can always continue to learn from others. The University provides an abundance of opportunities for its students such that on an average day, you may find yourself attending a lecture from a European President at lunch, rock climbing in the afternoon, and attending an award-winning show in the evening. Princeton as a town and a university is really a source of opportunities that is ripe for the picking.

Princeton has become a wonderful home for me, and I hope that you allow it to do the same for you! Please feel free to contact me if there's anything more you'd like to know!

Garner S. Soltes
      Silhavy Lab

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