Department of Molecular Biology

  • Chair

    Bonnie L. Bassler

  • Associate Chair

    Jean E. Schwarzbauer

  • Departmental Representative

    S. Jane Flint

    Elizabeth R. Gavis (Director)

    Frederick M. Hughson

    Thomas J. Silhavy

    Jared E. Toettcher

  • Director of Graduate Studies

    Zemer Gitai

  • Professor

    Bonnie L. Bassler

    Carlos D. Brody, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Ileana M. Cristea

    Lynn W. Enquist, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    S. Jane Flint

    Elizabeth R. Gavis

    Zemer Gitai

    Frederick M. Hughson

    Yibin Kang

    Michael S. Levine, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Coleen T. Murphy, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Paul D. Schedl

    Gertrud M. Schüpbach

    Jean E. Schwarzbauer

    Thomas E. Shenk

    Thomas J. Silhavy

    Jeffry B. Stock

    David W. Tank, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Shirley M. Tilghman, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Samuel S.H. Wang, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Eric F. Wieschaus, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Ned S. Wingreen, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Nieng Yan

    Virginia A. Zakian

  • Associate Professor

    Michael J. Berry, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Rebecca D. Burdine

    Alexei Korennykh

    Mala Murthy, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

  • Assistant Professor

    Mohamed S. Abou Donia

    Danelle Devenport

    Martin C. Jonikas

    Ricardo Mallarino

    Sabine Petry

    Alexander Ploss

    Jared E. Toettcher

    Martin H. Wühr, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

  • Senior Lecturer

    Heather A. Thieringer

  • Lecturer with Rank of Professor

    Adel A. Mahmoud, also Woodrow Wilson School

    Daniel A. Notterman

  • Lecturer

    Philip G. Felton

    Karin R. McDonald

    Abby Notterman

    Jodi Schottenfeld-Roames

    M. Elizabeth Wright

  • Associated Faculty

    Peter Andolfatto, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Jose L. Avalos, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

    Lisa M. Boulanger, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Clifford P. Brangwynne, Chemical and Biological Engineering

    Mark P. Brynildsen, Chemical and Biological Engineering

    Jannette L. Carey, Chemistry

    Thomas Gregor, Physics, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Michael H. Hecht, Chemistry

    Ralph E. Kleiner, Chemistry

    A. James Link, Chemical and Biological Engineering

    Carolyn McBride, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

    Tom Muir, Chemistry

    Celeste M. Nelson, Chemical and Biological Engineering

    Joshua D. Rabinowitz, Chemistry, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost, Chemistry

    Joshua W. Shaevitz, Physics, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Stanislav Y. Shvartsman, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Mona Singh, Computer Science, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Howard A. Stone, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

    John D. Storey, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Olga G. Troyanskaya, Computer Science, Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

    Bridgett M. vonHoldt, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

At Princeton, courses in the biological sciences are offered in two departments. Students with interests in molecular, cellular, and developmental processes should enroll in the Department of Molecular Biology. Those with an evolutionary orientation and interest in organismal, population, and community processes should enroll in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Students considering a concentration in molecular biology are encouraged to attend a departmental sophomore open house that is held in the spring term to introduce them to the departmental requirements, courses, faculty, and research topics.

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

Prerequisites

To enter the Department of Molecular Biology, students must have completed one of the two introductory courses, either MOL 214 or MOL 215, with a grade of C or better. CHM 201/207 and 202, or one unit of chemistry AP credit and CHM 202 or 215, or two units of chemistry AP credit, are also required to enter the department.

An alternate path into the department is through the integrated science curriculum (see below).

Program of Study

General requirements. The following courses are required:

Organic Chemistry CHM 303 and 304/304B, or ISC 335. Courses taken at other institutions can be used toward fulfillment of the chemistry requirements with prior approval from the Department of Chemistry. The organic chemistry requirement must be completed before the beginning of the junior year.

Quantitative Students satisfy the quantitative requirement by taking one course in statistics (SML 201, NEU 314, or ORF 245) and one course in either computer science (COS 126 or above) or math (MAT 103, 104, 175, 192, or any 200-level MAT course). SML 201 and COS 126 are the recommended choices for most students. AP credit cannot be used toward the fulfillment of the quantitative requirement. Courses taken at other institutions can be substituted for the second required course (but not for the statistics course), if approved by the corresponding department.

Physics Physics 108 (strongly recommended), or PHY 103 & 104, or PHY 101 & 102. PHY 108 is a one-semester, biologically oriented alternative to the traditional full-year sequences. Pre-medical students needing two semesters of physics can combine PHY 101 or 103 with PHY 108. Neither AP credit nor courses taken at other institutions can be used toward the fulfillment of the physics requirement.

Departmental core courses. The following core courses are required: MOL 342, MOL 345, MOL 348, and MOL 350. Except under very special circumstances, these courses must be taken before senior year. All four departmental core courses count toward the eight required departmentals. No substitutions are allowed except in the case of study abroad which, if it entails intensive research and with advanced permission, can substitute for MOL 350. Note that MOL 345 may be taken concurrently with CHM 304/304B.

Other departmentals. All students must take a total of at least eight departmentals. In addition to the four departmental core courses, students must take at least one 300, 400, or 500-level course with MOL as the primary listing. The remaining three departmentals can be chosen from among all 300-or-higher-level MOL, MOL-crosslisted, or other approved courses (see list on department website). Note that CHM 303, CHM 304/304B, and ISC 335 qualify as departmentals. Only courses taken at Princeton count as departmentals; there are no exceptions to this rule.

Any course that is a prerequisite, requirement, or departmental must be taken for a letter grade (no P/D/F).

Students in the Class of 2018 must fulfill the Major Requirements outlined above, with the following exceptions: 

  • Students in the Class of 2018 may satisfy the Quantitative requirement by taking MAT 103 plus one additional semester of calculus or statistics or computer science.
  • Students in the Class of 2018 may satisfy the Quantitative and/or Physics requirements using advanced placement and/or summer courses at other universities (within University guidelines).

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work. In the fall semester of the junior year students participate in tutorials in which they read papers from the original literature and prepare two short papers on assigned topics. In the spring semester, students carry out independent work with a faculty adviser with whom they will eventually do their senior thesis research, culminating in a paper in the form of a grant proposal.

Senior Independent Work. During the senior year each student, with the guidance of a faculty adviser, undertakes a major research effort. This research project can be a laboratory or non-laboratory-based study that will be written and presented as a senior thesis.

Senior Departmental Examination

Students are required to present their work to two faculty thesis readers during an oral exam at which the adviser is not present. The exam usually takes about 30 minutes and students should be prepared to describe the background of the thesis, defend its contents, and propose future directions.

Study Abroad

Juniors who wish to study abroad must fulfill chemistry requirements, and if possible MOL 345, beforehand.

While abroad, students must complete the equivalent of the fall semester junior paper. This requirement may be fulfilled by completing an independent scientific literature reading program, including weekly communication with a Molecular Biology faculty member and written reports, while abroad. Alternatively, students may join a journal club in a research laboratory abroad, with close monitoring by a Molecular Biology faculty member.

Study abroad that entails intensive laboratory research can, with advance permission, substitute for MOL 350. None of the other departmental core courses can be completed abroad.

Integrated Science Sequence

An alternative path into the department is through the integrated science curriculum. ISC 231-234 (a full-year, double-credit course) can be taken in the freshman year and substitutes for MOL 214/215, CHM 201 and 202, COS 126, and PHY 103 and 104. ISC 335 offers an alternative to CHM 303 and 304/304B. Students cannot receive credit for both an ISC course and its alternative. For full course descriptions and more information, see the integrated science website.

Approved Courses for Departmental Credit. See the departmental website for an up-to-date list of approved departmentals. Other courses may be approved upon consideration by the departmental undergraduate committee.

Program in Biophysics. The biophysics certificate program is designed for students with strong interests in molecular biology and physics who wish to combine these two subjects in their junior and senior independent work. The program offers a combination of courses and interdisciplinary research that meet the requirements of the physics or molecular biology departments, and entry requirements of graduate schools in both physics and molecular biology. Courses are chosen with the help of advisers in the Departments of Physics and Molecular Biology. Students are admitted to the program once they have chosen their field of concentration and consulted with the program director, who will assign them an adviser.

Program in Global Health and Health Policy. The global health and health policy certificate program is an interdepartmental program in which undergraduates can study the determinants, consequences, and patterns of disease across societies; the role of medical technologies and interventions in health improvements; and the economic, political, and social factors that shape domestic and global public health. In addition to the core departmental courses, molecular biology concentrators should take GHP 350 and GHP 351 by the end of junior year. Most upper-level MOL courses fulfill the requirements for the global health and health policy certificate.

Program in Neuroscience. The neuroscience certificate program is designed for undergraduates with strong interests in neuroscience who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary study of the brain in their senior independent work. The program encourages the serious study of molecular, cellular, developmental and systems neuroscience as it interfaces with cognitive and behavioral research. The program offers a combination of courses and interdisciplinary research that meet the requirements of the molecular biology and psychology departments. Students in the neuroscience certificate program will be prepared to meet the entry requirements of graduate schools in neuroscience, as well as molecular biology or psychology.

Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology. The quantitative and computational biology certificate program is designed for students with a strong interest in multidisciplinary and systems-level approaches to understanding molecular, cellular, and organismal behavior. The curriculum introduces the students to experimental and analytic techniques for acquisition of large-scale quantitative observations, and the interpretation of such data in the context of appropriate models. Strong emphasis is placed on using global genome-wide measurements to understand physiological and evolutionary processes. The required courses provide a strong background in modern methodologies in data analysis, interpretation, and modeling.

Courses