Graduate Studies

Student Perspectives


rick bakerSince the moment I arrived on campus I have been part of a large, extended family – the Molecular Biology Department.  The department is engaging, collaborative and truly dedicated to the success of every member.

Academically, I couldn’t be happier with my first year as a graduate student.  In a given day I can have class taught by a leader in bacterial genetics, do research in a cutting-edge biophysics lab, and attend a guest lecture from a world-renowned scientist.  In both the classroom and laboratory I am challenged to go further and reach higher, but every person in the department makes sure that I have the support needed to succeed.

The Graduate School is also superb and services for the general graduate population are second to none. Graduate student housing is safe, affordable, and extremely close to campus.  There are many events for graduate students, including socials and parties at the graduate bar and even trips to New York City to attend Broadway shows. 

Princeton is located an hour from both Philadelphia and New York City, as well as only a short drive from the Jersey shore or the Pocono Mountains.  The town boasts a wide array of restaurants and other shops to keep students busy, not to mention the many homemade ice cream parlors, a Princeton favorite. 

Princeton has been an excellent choice for me and I hope all prospective students consider the department for his or her graduate studies.  If you have any question, please contact me.

— Rick Baker
      Hughson Lab

Kelly LaRue

Before embarking on my whirlwind interview schedule, my undergraduate research advisor gave me one last piece of advice.  She told me that instead of making this decision with my head, it was time to start listening to my heart.

She was sure that I would fall in love with one program; I was skeptical.  The interdisciplinary programs that I interviewed for were very similar.  They all touted the breadth and depth of their research and the collaborative environment of the university.  Though all of the institutions were beautiful, well-funded and performing valuable research, the weekends seemed to blend together, no program was “the one.”

Then it was time to interview with the Molecular Biology Department at Princeton University.  The moment I arrived on the gorgeous campus, I already knew that it would be a step above the rest.  It is located in a beautiful and safe area in New Jersey, just an hour away from cities, beaches and mountains.  The labs are doing top-notch research on a wide variety of topics.  They offer a lucrative stipend along with affordable and comfortable housing.  It was immediately apparent to me that the department is collaborative; they did not need to tell me, I could sense it.  Professors and graduate students knew each other both personally and professionally and the program seemed to encourage theses that bridged labs.  This interview stood out among the rest and after this visit, it was hard to ignore my heart screaming that I had found what I was looking for! 

As a first year, I have found that graduate school is not hard; it is extraordinarily hard!  Princeton has provided me with daily challenges unlike anything I experienced in my undergraduate studies.  However, it is the support and encouragement that I receive from my peers and professors and the love I have for this department and institution that makes the pursuit of my Ph.D. the most rewarding experience of my life. The Molecular Biology Department is truly a scientific community that fosters an environment filled with excitement, high intellect and success.

— Kelly LaRue
      Murthy Lab

matt howard

In the first month of graduate school, two sincere yet conflicting statements are made: “God, please don’t let me fail out!” and “God, please help me win a Nobel Prize.” 

At Princeton this humorous dichotomy, at least in my opinion, stems from our efforts as students to meet the new and exciting challenges presented before us, one of which is to push our thinking beyond conventional standards.  We think about solving the really tough puzzles, not just understanding them.  We are taught to break down the literature to its fundamental roots and then ask, “Now what?”

Fortunately we are not alone in this journey.  Our professors, some of the greatest minds in their fields, guide us through classes each day and never cease to encourage inquisitive discourse.  Later on, when we join their labs, these same minds become our mentors and collaborators.

Making the decision to join Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology has proven to be one of my most satisfying choices.  There is no advertised “blueprint” for success here.  Despite the fact that each of us enters the program with different and sometimes multiple interests, we are still afforded the opportunity to explore and dabble in a few different labs before settling on our favorite.  As a result, there’s a level of openness in the department between students and faculty which I don’t think can be found anywhere else.

Outside of the department, the hefty stipend has allowed me to enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle in Princeton and additionally venture into both the New York and the Philadelphia areas for the occasional weekend getaway.  When I don’t feel like traveling, it’s great that there’s always something happening here on campus as well! 

Please contact me if you have any questions about life in the department.  I also grew up nearby, so any questions about “Princeton in general” are welcome too!  Hopefully my experiences can help you in your decision-making process.

— Matt Howard

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