Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) is a federation of 14 life sciences PhD programs and subject areas. We facilitate cross-disciplinary academic and research collaboration, support student mobility, and encourage extracurricular participation by our students, faculty, and staff. Our network combines the unparalleled expertise of our faculty with the abundant resources that span Harvard’s life sciences disciplines, fueling innovative collaboration, world-changing breakthroughs, and incomparable opportunities for our students.

Administered by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, HILS is a response to the reality that groundbreaking research and discovery in the life sciences is more interdisciplinary than ever. We integrate the activities of 14 life sciences graduate programs and subject areas across four Harvard faculties: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, the Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. This allows us to track emerging trends in the life sciences and respond rapidly to the world’s evolving scientific landscape—including the need for new cross-disciplinary study areas such as translational medicine, regenerative biology, bioinformatics, and integrative genomics.

As a 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
  • Freedom to move among programs, subject to specific program requirements and lab availability
  • Integrated research opportunities with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and peers, including workshops, journal clubs, seminars, and graduate consortia

How HILS Works

Each individual program and subject area has its own admissions, curriculum, and advising processes. You’ll be enrolling in only one program or subject area as your home program.

After enrollment, you will normally continue your affiliation with your home program, which governs your curriculum requirements while accommodating your individual interests. This includes oversight of your preliminary qualifying examination, your teaching requirements (if applicable), and supervision and advising while writing your dissertation. Your home program affiliation also determines the title of your degree.

If you choose—and are accepted by—a dissertation advisor in another program or subject area that is part of the HILS federation, the two groups will work together to ensure coordinated oversight and advice. This may include a “migration,” where you’ll maintain your affiliation with your home program while conducting dissertation research in another program’s lab, or a “transfer,” which involves changing your home program.

Areas of Study

The 14 programs within the HILS federation represent the depth and breadth of current thinking in the life sciences. 

When applying, students interested in studying for a PhD in the biomedical sciences select the Division of Medical Sciences as their program of interest and choose one of six interdisciplinary areas of study: Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Immunology, Neuroscience, Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology, or Virology.

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

If you are interested in applying to a program affiliated with the HILS federation, be sure to review your program of interest and the GSAS application instructions. Most applicants apply to one program, and we strongly recommend this targeted approach. While each program’s admissions committee makes decisions independently, the committees also consider each 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.

If you decide you wish to apply to more than one program, you may submit separate applications to as many as three programs within the HILS federation and pay only one application fee (fee waiver is ONLY available for those applying to programs in the HILS federation). 

Special Application Information

Applying to the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms Program

Before applying, those interested in studying in the Molecules, Cells, and Organisms (MCO) PhD training program must review MCO's special instructions and requirements, paying close attention to the instructions for the Engineering and Physical Biology (EPB) track.

Applying to a Division of Medical Sciences Area of Study

When applying, students interested in studying for a PhD in the biomedical sciences select the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS) as their program of interest and may choose up to two of the six DMS areas of study: Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Immunology; Neuroscience; Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology; and Virology. Before applying, review DMS’s student qualifications and admissions requirements. Only applicants to the Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology program are required to complete the abstract of courses section of the online application.

If you have questions about applying, visit DMS Admissions or e-mail dms@hms.harvard.edu.

Instructions for Applications Interested in Biological and Biomedical Sciences 

If you apply for the Biological and Biomedical Sciences area of study within DMS, you will be prompted to enter up to three research interests ranked by order of preference in the “DMS Areas of Interest” tab of the online application. If you are accepted, this information will guide the program’s assignment of a mentor.

You may choose from:

  • Biochemical and Biophysical Mechanisms
  • Cancer Biology
  • Cellular Systems and Mechanics
  • Computational Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genomics
  • Human Biology
  • Immunobiology
  • Metabolism and Physiology
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Microbial Systems and Infectious Disease
  • Molecular Neuroscience
  • Proteomics
  • Regenerative Biology
  • Stem Cell Biology
  • Structural Biology
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Therapeutics

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. Please note: this fee waiver is ONLY available for those applying to programs in the HILS federation Each application must be unique, containing a separate statement of purpose for each program applied to, as well as separate copies of transcripts, recommendations, and test scores. Please note that 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.

Submission of the first application is required in order for the application fee to be waived on the second or third application. Submitting multiple applications requires a multi-step process:

Step 1: Create an application account, complete and submit your first application, and pay the application fee. Log out of the application system.

Step 2: Create an additional account by clicking on the “Create Account” tab on the application system’s login page. You must use a different login name than you used for your prior applications; you may use the same password.

Step 3: Select “Click here to login and start your application” to begin your next application using the newly-created username and your password. Complete but do not submit the application: choose “Save and Continue” and, if you plan to apply to a third program, go back to step 2 and create a third login name for the third application. Otherwise, proceed to step 4.

Step 4: When you have completed any additional applications and are ready to submit, select “HILS Multiple Application Process and Submission” on the left-hand navigation menu. At the bottom of the screen, re-enter the login credentials used for the first submitted application, then click the “Verify” button. The system will verify the credentials from your first submitted application and you will not have to pay the application fee. Submit your remaining applications.

Note: You do not have to submit your first application in order to begin your second or third application. However, the first application must be submitted prior to requesting an application fee waiver in advance of submitting your second or third applications.