Undergraduate Studies

Teaching Mission

Senior Thesis

Senior ThesisMolecular Biology graduates cite the Senior Thesis as one of their most rewarding experiences at Princeton. In Molecular Biology, there are two basic formats: a laboratory-based and a non laboratory-based thesis. Both types of theses are the culmination of original research conducted by the student with the guidance of a member of the Molecular Biology faculty. Students work on diverse topics in molecular biology. A large number of students generate original findings that are eventually incorporated into peer-reviewed scientific articles. For a detailed explanation, consult the 2014-2015 Guide to Independent Work.

Thesis Format

The thesis should be typed in at least 12 point font, double-spaced, with adequate margins (at least 1 in. top, bottom, and right; 1.5 in. on the left for binding) on standard size paper. The written format of the thesis should be decided in consultation with your advisor, but in general the style should be the same as that used for the Ph.D. thesis.

Lab thesis:  

  • Not to exceed 25,000 words, excluding figure legends, bibliography, and appendices
  • No limit on figures

Non-lab thesis:

  • Not to exceed 50,000 words, excluding figure legends, bibliography, and appendices
  • No limit on figures

Thesis due date is Friday, April 24, 2015.  If you need an extension, you must contact Professor Liz Gavis.

The Department of Molecular Biology cannot give an extension beyond the Dean's date of Monday, May 4, 2015.

You will receive the names of your readers prior to Thesis due date.  This will enable you to send a PDF of your thesis to your readers.

  • One hard bound copy MUST be given to your advisor
  • One hard bound copy MUST be brought to Room 120 in Lewis Thomas Building (main office)
  • PDF copy MUST be sent to your two readers and to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • You will be given a T-shirt when all is complete

Extensions beyond Dean's date can only be granted by your college Dean with the approval of the Undergraduate Studies Committee.  They will only be considered under extreme circumstances. Any thesis submitted to the office after the deadline set by the department (or by the Dean in extraordinary circumstances) will be penalized one-third of a letter grade per day. In addition, University regulations preclude a student who submits a late thesis without prior approval from receiving departmental honors. Extension requests should be submitted via email to the Director of Undergraduate Studies and should contain a full explanation of why the request is being made.


Each thesis is read and graded by the student's advisor and two other faculty members. Two of the three readers must be affiliated with the Molecular Biology Department. In late March, Molecular Biology seniors will be asked to submit a list of potential readers. The Undergraduate Committee assigns readers and aims to accommodate the wishes of the students while taking into consideration the topic area and the availability of the reader.

The final thesis grade is the weighted average of the three grades—50% from the advisor, 25% from the 1st reader and 25% from the 2nd reader. The graders use a rubric to score the thesis and grades are assigned by the Undergraduate Committee with the approval of the faculty. The Molecular Biology grading strictly adheres to Princeton University's grading practices.

Oral Exam

Students are required to present their work to the two (non-advisor) thesis readers during an oral exam, at which the advisor is not present. PowerPoint presentations are not allowed. The exam usually takes about one-half hour and students should be prepared to describe the background of the thesis, defend its contents, and propose future directions. The grade for the oral defense will be the average of the two from the (non-advisor) faculty members. A grading rubric will be used by the examination committee. Grades are assigned by the Undergraduate Committee with the approval of the faculty.

Thesis Funding

The Office of the Dean of the College and the Department of Molecular Biology have funds available to help students cover expenses directly related to senior thesis research.

Funding requests may be made for activities or materials that are not normally supported by the laboratories in the department. For example, proposals for travel to a professional meeting or to learn a method in another laboratory may be eligible, whereas requests for supplies used at Princeton would not. Awards are typically made in the amount of $250.

Fall senior thesis funding applications will be available through the Student Activities Funding Engine (S.A.F.E.) starting on Monday, September 22, 2014. The application will remain open until the final deadline on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. EST. - See more at: Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE).

Seniors who are interested must see to Elena Chiarchiaro, Lewis Thomas Laboratory 119A to receive further information regarding molecular biology's procedures in addition to applying within SAFE.

Thesis Writer's Workshop

The Senior Thesis Writer's Workshop is a resource for undergraduates preparing their theses. Instructors conduct workshops for Molecular Biology seniors to help them with various aspects of thesis writing and preparation. The workshops cover an assortment of topics, including organizing the document, writing in the scientific style, and developing computer skills necessary for the preparation of a professional document. These workshops are offered to Molecular Biology seniors throughout the academic year. More information about the Thesis Writer's Workshop is available to MOL seniors on Blackboard.

Copies of past Molecular Biology theses can be examined either from your advisor or in Mudd Library. Theses for the class of 1991 -present, are housed in Lewis Library.

Senior Thesis Titles



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