Typical Course of Study
Students concentrating in Molecular Biology acquire strong foundations in math, general and organic chemistry, and physics, by taking introductory courses in these different departments. All students then take an introductory Molecular Biology course (MOL 214 Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology or MOL 215/EEB 215 Quantitative Principles in Cell and Molecular Biology ). Students with strong backgrounds in math and physics may opt for MOL215, which takes a more quantitative approach to biological phenomena. Some students, with college level backgrounds in math, may be interested in the new Combined Integrated Program (MOL231-234), which teaches Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Computer Science in an innovative multi-disciplinary manner.
Most students concentrating in Molecular Biology will take courses in Genetics (MOL 342 Genetics ), Biochemistry (MOL 345/CHM 345 Biochemistry ) and Cell and Developmental Biology (MOL 348 Cell and Developmental Biology). A highlight of the Junior year is the innovative "Core Lab" course (MOL 350 Laboratory in Molecular Biology ) in which students embark on an intensive semester–long experimental exploration of the genetic basis of an inherited form of colon cancer. In the course, students create mutations, identical to those found in human tumors, in a model organism to study their effects on the process of DNA mismatch repair.
Students go on to take additional courses that allow them to specialize in areas of their greatest interest. Such advanced courses are usually small classes that utilize extensive readings from the primary scientific literature, as well as student seminar discussion. Advanced topics include areas such as Virology, Bacterial Pathogenesis, Nucleic Acid and Protein Structure and Function, Chromosome Dynamics, Cancer Biology, Biological Dynamics, Stem Cell Biology and Genomics. For more information, visit our courses section.
In preparation for the Senior Thesis research, all students at Princeton begin independent research in the Junior year. In the Department of Molecular Biology, this is broken into two parts. In the Fall, students meet in small groups to read, discuss and analyze papers from the primary literature addressing special topics. In the Spring, students meet one-on-one with their faculty advisors to read the background literature and develop a research plan for their Senior Thesis. Many students also begin experimental work at this time.
All students whose Senior thesis involves experimental research are invited to spend the summer after their Junior year at Princeton. This allows students to build a strong foundation for their research, without the distraction of classes. The Department of Molecular Biology provides a stipend to students during the 9–week summer program.
Many students elect to pursue multidisciplinary research in one of several cross-departmental certificate programs. These programs include Neuroscience, Biophysics, Genomics, and Public Policy. Each program offers a different mix of course requirements for their concentrators, and each allows students to graduate with a Bachelors Degree from the home department along with a certificate from the program.