Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) brings together and serves life science PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). HILS is a federation of 14 life sciences PhD programs and subject areas across four Harvard faculties: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. We facilitate cross-disciplinary academic and research collaboration, support student flexibility, and encourage extracurricular participation by our students, faculty, and staff. HILS brings together the unparalleled expertise of Harvard's faculty with the abundant resources that span Harvard’s life sciences disciplines to advance innovative collaboration, world-changing breakthroughs, and incomparable opportunities for our students.

As a GSAS graduate student within the HILS federation, you’ll have:

  • Access to University-wide training, resources, equipment, and facilities and to more than 700 affiliated faculty.
  • Abundant opportunities to participate in new interdisciplinary areas of study as they develop.
  • Flexibility to customize your training, including options to take courses, do laboratory rotations, and even choose a dissertation advisor from across the HILS federation, subject to specific program requirements and lab availability.
  • Exceptional breadth and depth of research opportunities with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and peers, including workshops, journal clubs, seminars, and graduate consortia.
  • Access to a wide range of career and networking resources, as well as varied and dynamic extracurricular programming.
  • Guaranteed full financial support for at least five years, and typically until you complete your degree. Funding for HILS students comes from a range of sources including Harvard University, training and research grants, and student-won fellowships.

How HILS Works

The PhD programs in the HILS federation cover a broad spectrum of life science research. In addition to its scientific focus, each program has its own admissions criteria, curriculum, and degree requirements. In this way, the HILS programs offer students a diverse range of options to find the best fit in regards to subject area, program structure, and size. Further, since each program has its own identity, students and faculty can be integrated into supportive communities while also being able to take advantage of all that Harvard has to offer.

You’ll be enrolling in only one program or subject area as your home program. After enrollment, you will normally continue in your home program, which governs your curriculum and degree requirements while accommodating your individual interests. This includes oversight of your preliminary qualifying examination, your teaching requirements (if applicable), and supervision and advising while carrying out original research and writing your dissertation. Your home program affiliation also determines the title of your degree.

In rare cases, a student may choose—and be accepted by—a dissertation advisor in another program or subject area that is part of the HILS federation. In these cases, the advisor and the home program will work together to ensure coordinated oversight and advice. 

Note the list of programs and areas of study in the HILS federation in the box at right.

Interested in Enhancing Your Research Experience Before Applying?

GSAS and Harvard University offer a range of exciting and challenging summer research and internship programs designed to help current undergraduates boost crucial research skills.

Applying to a Program Affiliated with the HILS Federation

All HILS programs strive for inclusive excellence, based on the belief that diversity in every dimension makes our programs stronger. While each program has its own admissions requirements and committee, all HILS programs take an integrated look at each application, holistically evaluating all aspects of the application rather than relying on any single factor to determine admission. 

If you are interested in applying to a program affiliated with the HILS federation, be sure to review the specific application requirements for your program of interest and the general GSAS application instructions. In a change from previous years, 11 of the 14 HILS programs no longer require GRE scores.

Most applicants apply to one program, and we strongly recommend this targeted approach. While each program’s admissions committee makes decisions independently, the committees may also consider a candidate’s suitability for a different program within the HILS federation as part of their evaluation process and transfer applications accordingly. You will be notified by the GSAS Office of Admissions if this occurs.

Applying to Multiple Programs in the HILS Federation

While prospective students are encouraged to apply to only one program in the HILS federation, interested applicants may apply to up to three programs and pay only one application fee; you may only apply to up to two DMS subject areas. The fee waiver for additional applications is ONLY available for those applying to multiple programs in the HILS federation. See the Admissions FAQ page for information about fee waivers related to financial hardship.

You may begin and work on multiple applications through the application home section. Each application must be unique, containing a tailored statement of purpose and separate recommendations.

After you submit your first application and pay the application fee, the fee will be waived for subsequent submissions.

You may submit up to three applications to GSAS during the course of your academic career, which includes applications to multiple programs in the HILS federation regardless of whether you submitted them under a single application fee.


October 22, 2018
How Silvia Cañas-Duarte uses systems biology to explain bacterial behavior.Read More
October 19, 2018
Krissy Lyon, PhD candidate in neuroscience, studies neurotransmitters and aggression.Read More
October 9, 2018
Matt Smith’s life is full of acronyms. “My PI is part of OEB. And my grad program is MCO, which is... Read More
October 2, 2018
The Harvard Integrated Life Sciences ( HILS ) hosted a welcome dinner for new graduate students as part of the September 2018 GSAS Welcomes events.Read More