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Molecular and Cellular Biology

The Molecules, Cells, and Organisms PhD program in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology provides a view of the broad range of the constantly evolving world of scientific experience.

In this interdisciplinary program, you will interact with students and faculty who have diverse backgrounds in chemistry, marine biology, computational biology, and others. The skills you will learn in your first year include coding, how to write fellowships, and how to give scientific talks to a non-science audience. You will begin bonding with your small cohort of fellow students with an annual trip to Cape Cod to talk about science at the beginning of the academic year.

Dissertations that students have completed include "Characterization of the epigenetic regulator LSD1 as a Druggable Dependency in Treatment of Resistant Melanoma" and "Circadian Clocks in the Real World: Effects of Dynamic Light Regimes on the Regulation of Circadian Gene Expression in Cyanobacteria."

Graduates have secured positions in industry with companies such as Google, Genentech, and Novartis. Others serve in academic positions at many prestigious schools including Harvard, Caltech, Stanford, and MIT among others.

Additional information on the graduate program is available from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and requirements for the degree are detailed in Policies.

Areas of Study

Molecules, Cells, and Organisms

Admissions Requirements

Please review admissions requirements and other information before applying. You can find degree program-specific admissions requirements below and access additional guidance on applying from the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Academic Background

Applicants should have a record of introductory courses in chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics. While the following courses should not be regarded as prerequisites for admission to graduate study, most admitted students have completed these courses as undergraduates:

  • Biology (at least one general course in biology and two terms of biology at a more advanced level)
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Physics (a general course)
  • Mathematics (a basic knowledge of differential and integral calculus). Competence in elementary programming is also desirable.
  • Laboratory in biology, biochemistry, or instrumental analysis.

Statement of Purpose

Describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen degree program, noting the experiences that shaped your research ambitions, indicating briefly your career objectives and concisely stating your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Your statement should not exceed 1,000 words.

In addition to the above guidance, your statement of purpose should also address the following questions:

  • What do you consider your most significant personal scientific discovery? 
    • The focus of this question should be a discovery in which you had substantial engagement and personal impact on the research. Do not reference a large group project simply because it was interesting. 
    • If you have not had significant research experience, please describe a scientific discovery that motivated you to pursue research. 
    • Using simple language, describe what you or others did, why, and what it means.
  • Describe your research interests within the following areas:
    • Molecular Mechanism
    • Cell and Developmental Biology
    • Molecular Ecology and Evolution
  • Choose two MCO faculty members that you are interested to work with and explain why using a specific example from their published work.

Standardized Tests

GRE General: Not Accepted
iBT TOEFL preferred minimum score: 100
IELTS preferred minimum score: 7

Theses & Dissertations

Theses & Dissertations for Molecular and Cellular Biology


See list of Molecular and Cellular Biology faculty


Degrees Offered


Questions about the Program?