Undergraduate Studies


Early Concentrators

Qualified students who have been granted advanced placement credit in departmental prerequisites, and who have taken advanced courses in Molecular Biology (300 level and above) during the Freshman and/or Sophomore years may be eligible for independent work in the Spring of the Sophomore year and/or Fall of the Junior year.

To qualify for early concentration status, students must have received grades of B+ or better on departmental prerequisites and advanced Molecular Biology courses. Early concentrators may engage in experimental research in the laboratories of members of the Department and associated faculty. A limited number of early concentrators will be offered the possibility of continuing research in the laboratories of their faculty advisors during the summer following the Sophomore year.

Early concentrators have the option of doing more intensive experimental research as part of a Reading Course (described below) in an area of Molecular Biology, under the supervision of a faculty member of the department, in the Spring of the Sophomore year or the Fall of the Junior year. Students who are interested in an early concentration should contact a departmental representative early in the Sophomore year.

Early ResearchPrinceton Undergraduates

The undergraduate program in Molecular Biology at Princeton is committed to providing the intellectual foundation and practical skills to conduct original research in the biological sciences. All Molecular Biology undergraduates are given the opportunity to become fully integrated members of cutting-edge research laboratories. One indication of the success of the program is the number of research publications with undergraduates as authors. Since the inception of the department in 1985, over 160 undergraduates have co-authored significant research papers. Another hallmark of success is the career paths taken by Molecular Biology majors. Approximately 70% of Princeton University Molecular Biology majors obtain a higher educational degree, including MD, MD/PhD and PhD.

Freshmen and sophomores eager to start working in a laboratory have several avenues open to them. These opportunities discussed below include: volunteering in a laboratory, exercising a work-study option, applying to the summer undergraduate research program, or engaging the research for credit option after declaring as an early concentrator.

Reading Course in Molecular Biology

Qualified early concentrators in the Department of Molecular Biology may elect to partake in one semester of a Reading course in the Spring of the Sophomore year or the Fall of the Junior year. The plan of study will comprise an intensive reading course intended to prepare students for experimental research in Molecular Biology. Students will read relevant background literature for their overall field of study, as well as literature pertinent to experimental techniques.

Based upon the experience of the students, and at the discretion of the advisor, students may begin experimental laboratory research. Students will meet with faculty advisors on a weekly basis to discuss assigned literature, plan experiments, and review results. At the end of each semester, students will write a term paper based on the literature and any experimental research undertaken during the semester. The paper may take the form of a grant proposal or a research report in the format of a scientific journal article, including a scholarly review of the literature along with description and discussion of the results.

Students interested in participating in a reading course must consult with a Departmental Representative early in the prior semester and obtain approval for the plan of study.

Work Study Program in Molecular Biology

Freshmen and Sophomore students who are interested in working in this department should refer to the Student Employment Office to review current job postings.

Summer Undergraduate Research Program 

Each summer, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Department of Molecular Biology, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, the Genentech Foundation and the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research provide intensive laboratory research experiences to a select group of undergraduates chosen from a nationwide pool. For more information, visit the Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Undergraduates from other institutions interested working in a laboratory

Each summer, the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University provides selected undergraduates with the opportunity to conduct original research. We particularly encourage applications from students (1) whose participation will add to the diversity of researchers in the sciences, or (2) whose interests lie at the boundary between biology and the computational sciences including, physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering, or (3) who are from institutions that do not have large research programs. Applicants must be US citizens or attend a US University. More information and the application are found at the summer program website.

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