The Division of Medical Sciences is one of the programs in the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences, which facilitates collaboration and cross-disciplinary research. Visit HILS for additional application instructions.
Established at Harvard University in 1908, the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS) provides students wishing to pursue careers in research and teaching with a broad education in basic biomedical science fields and specialization in one of them. Classroom and laboratory instruction are conducted primarily by faculty in the basic sciences departments and affiliated hospital laboratories of Harvard Medical School, leading to a PhD awarded by GSAS. For over 100 years, this fruitful collaboration has spawned research achievements across the spectrum from basic science to experimental medicine. Since 1909, more than 2,200 division graduates, including six Nobel Laureates, have gone on to distinguished careers in biomedical research, university teaching, and a number of increasingly diverse careers.
DMS offers six interdisciplinary areas of study leading to a PhD in the biomedical sciences, which share a common purpose of fostering a stimulating and supportive environment for research training in the biomedical sciences: Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Immunology, Neuroscience, Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology, and Virology.
DMS students are enrolled in and receive a PhD from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, even though they may work primarily with Harvard Medical School faculty.
To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimal requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in the sciences. Strong consideration is given to letters of recommendation, particularly to comments from individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant’s research experience. In addition to taking the GRE general test, applicants are encouraged to take the GRE subject test in the area of their choice. Non-native English speakers must demonstrate English proficiency by scoring at least 100 in the iBT TOEFL. If you have published articles, list them in the Additional Academic Background section of the online application, citing the PubMedID.
When applying, select “Division of Medical Sciences” as your program choice and your area of interest in the Area of Study menu.
All DMS programs conduct personal interviews as part of the application process. Invitations for interviews are usually sent out between late December and early January, depending on the program.
DMS Areas of Study
Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics (BIG) trains future leaders in the field of bioinformatics and genomics by providing graduate students with the tools necessary to conduct original research in the development of novel approaches and new technologies to address fundamental biological questions. Students who study in BIG receive a PhD in medical sciences.
BIG is affiliated with several academic departments and centers:
- Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School
- Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- Computational Health Informatics Program, Children’s Hospital Boston
- Center for Computational and Integrative Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Harvard Stem Cell Institute
- Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School
- Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
BIG Admissions Requirements
Candidates for BIG must have completed a bachelor’s degree in a quantitative science or a bachelor’s degree with a substantial minor in engineering or physical science. Recommended degrees include chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, mathematics, computational sciences, and statistics. Recommended preparation includes at least one undergraduate subject in each of the following areas: biology, computational science, thermodynamics or physical chemistry, and advanced calculus.
The PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) offers training in the biosciences, built outward from core training in contemporary genetics, biochemistry, and molecular, cellular, and mechanistic biology. BBS provides a rigorous, nimble biomedical education, equipping trainees with tools to bring about scientific breakthroughs and to launch entrepreneurial paths in academics, industry, and education.
The BBS scientific umbrella is comprised of 9 interwoven research communities that bring together researchers that share a common interest. These groups serve as “neighborhoods within the city,” and give students additional support throughout their education and training. Each provides a close-knit environment where faculty and trainees with common interests work together to advance research in their field and participate in training activities tailored to the diversity of career trajectories for today’s PhDs. Based in a world-class research environment, BBS benefits from outstanding research laboratories spanning all areas of bioscience located at Harvard Medical School, its affiliated hospitals, and the greater Harvard system. BBS combines the unparalleled choice of research lab, made possible by its unique breadth and depth, with the cohesiveness of shared-interest communities typical of smaller departmental programs.
BBS Admissions Requirements
Applicants must complete the "Areas of Interest" form as part of the online application.
Admissions information is available from the PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, from the Division of Medical Sciences, and from the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences. Program requirements are detailed in the GSAS Student Handbook.
The PhD Program in Immunology educates scientists in investigative and academic medicine, preparing them to contribute to immunological research with a full awareness of the potential impact of immunology. The program combines an education in basic biology, a sophisticated training in immunology, and exposure to the immunological and non-immunological problems of disease. It has become the model of an integrated educational program in a growing discipline that now spans several of the classical fields of medical biology (microbiology, genetics, pathology, clinical medicine, and biochemistry, for example).
The program is overseen by the Committee on Immunology at Harvard, which includes over 110 faculty representing a broad area of research interests including transplantation, neuro-immunology, autoimmunity, stem cell biology, infection and immunity, human translational immunology, tumor immunology, immunobiology, and mucosal immunity. Students who study in Immunology receive a PhD in medical sciences.
Immunology Admissions Requirements
To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimal requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in the sciences. Strong consideration is given to letters of recommendation, particularly to comments from individuals who have firsthand knowledge of the applicant’s research experience.
The program offers students options for thesis research with neuroscientists in departments throughout the University, including in labs based on the Cambridge campus and at Harvard-affiliated hospitals. The enormous number and diversity of affiliated labs means that students have a wide range of options in choosing research experiences.
Students who study in Neuroscience receive a PhD in neurobiology.
Understanding how humans communicate through speech and hearing requires depth in many disciplines. The strength of the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology (SHBT) doctoral program lies in its unusual coupling of knowledge and skills from acoustics, engineering, computer science, cellular and molecular neuroscience, psychophysics, cognitive science, linguistics, and clinical practice.
By introducing key concepts in an integrated set of core subjects early on, we give our students a solid foundation for pursuing individual research interests. During their first year, students gain broad exposure to clinical issues and practice. From the outset, they also encounter a range of research labs that take different approaches to solving problems in speech and hearing; because students participate directly in research, their classroom learning comes to life.
SHBT faculty members also focus students on the vital importance of personal integrity, scientific values, and standards of scholarly practice.
Because of our small scale, SHBT students enjoy great flexibility in shaping their course of study. We encourage students to cultivate their own special interests, consistent with the objectives of the Program. For example, students may make unusual course selections that match their particular research interests—so long as their academic advisor approves—and are encouraged to devise innovative research projects that transcend traditional scientific disciplines and institutional boundaries.
Our core curriculum (and nearly one-to-one student/faculty ratio) guarantees that students develop relationships with a wide range of faculty members. And because our courses often require work in groups, students form strong, durable ties with their classmates, building a network of contacts they can call upon throughout their careers. They establish further ties across classes through work in individual labs and through the many social gatherings the students organize themselves.
Students who study in SHBT receive a PhD in medical sciences.
Visit Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology to read admissions frequently asked questions.
Applicants who are invited for on-campus interviews are notified late December. Interviews generally occur in late January as part of a series of activities beginning on a Thursday evening and ending the following Sunday. Travel and hotel expenses for this visit are covered by the SHBT Program. Invited applicants should make every effort to attend the interview weekend, but those who are unable to do so should inquire about other arrangements. Students living abroad may be interviewed via teleconference.
New viruses—SARS, H1N1 influenza, and Nipah viruses among them—have emerged around the world; Ebola Chikungunya, and West Nile viruses have re-emerged; and the AIDS epidemic continues to sweep across sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. New vaccines for HIV, smallpox, avian influenza and genital herpes are sorely needed. New antivirals for Dengue, hepatitis C and HIV viruses are also desperately needed. The role of such viruses as Merkel cell polyoma, papilloma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and Epstein-Barr virus in human cancer highlight challenges to prevent and treat these diseases.
Researchers at Harvard University are working on all these biomedical problems. They conduct basic research defining new molecular structures of viruses and virus-encoded enzymes, new mechanisms within cells for molecular and organelle trafficking and function, and new mechanisms that control cell growth. Harvard researchers are among the world leaders in the design and testing of AIDS, genital herpes, and smallpox vaccines. The Harvard Program in Virology provides extraordinary opportunities to conduct graduate study for the PhD in these exciting areas of biomedical science.
The relatively small size of the Virology graduate program and faculty makes it ideally suited for students interested in collegial student-student and student-faculty interactions. Specific research areas include:
- The molecular genetics, molecular biology, and molecular pathogenesis of latent, persistent, or cytolytic virus infections
- The characterization of virus-receptor interactions and the mechanisms of cell entry, structural studies of viruses, and viral proteins
- Mechanisms of cell growth control, transformation, signal transduction, and transcriptional regulation
- The use of virus vectors for heterologous gene expression and for gene therapy
- The interaction of viruses with innate immunity
- The pathogenesis of viral infection and rational antiviral drug design.
Students who study in Virology receive a PhD in medical sciences.