Department of Molecular Biology
- Bonnie L. Bassler
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Elizabeth R. Gavis
Director of Graduate Studies
- Ileana Cristea
- Bonnie L. Bassler
- Ileana M. Cristea
- Lynn W. Enquist
- Elizabeth R. Gavis
- Zemer Gitai
- Frederick M. Hughson
- Yibin Kang
- Michael S. Levine
- Coleen T. Murphy
- Paul D. Schedl
- Jean E. Schwarzbauer
- Thomas E. Shenk
- Thomas J. Silhavy
- Jeffry B. Stock
- Shirley M. Tilghman
- Eric F. Wieschaus
- Ned S. Wingreen
- Nieng Yan
- Rebecca D. Burdine
- Danelle Devenport
- Alexei V. Korennykh
- Alexander Ploss
- Mohamed S. Abou Donia
- Brittany Adamson
- Martin C. Jonikas
- Ricardo Mallarino
- Sabine Petry
- Eszter Posfai
- Jared E. Toettcher
- Martin H. Wühr
Lecturer with Rank of Professor
- Daniel A. Notterman
- Heather A. Thieringer
- Karin R. McDonald
- Laurel Lorenz
- Jodi Schottenfeld-Roames
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
To enter the Department of Molecular Biology, students must have completed MOL 214 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
The following courses are required:
CHM 301 and 302/304, or CHM 337. 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.
Students satisfy the quantitative requirement by taking one course in statistics (SML 201 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 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 302/304.
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 301, CHM 302/304, and CHM 337 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). The sole exception is that, at the point of declaring the MOL concentration, students may appeal to 'uncover' a single P grade in order to meet a prerequisite or requirement for entry. See the Office of the Dean of the College's policy on appealing to rescind a P grade.
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.
Juniors who wish to study abroad must complete at least one departmental core course beforehand. Specifically, molecular biology concentrators who wish to study abroad must complete the following courses by the end of the sophomore year: MOL 214 (or ISC 231-234), CHM 302/304, and at least one of the four MOL core courses (MOL 342, MOL 345, MOL 348, MOL 350).
While abroad, students need to complete the equivalent of the fall semester junior paper. Programs that entail intensive laboratory research can, with advance permission, substitute for MOL 350. None of the other core courses (MOL 342, MOL 345, MOL 348) can be completed abroad, nor can any concentrator graduate wtih fewer than eight approved departmentals taken at Princeton.
The Office of International Programs has a detailed list of study abroad options listed on their website. Interested students should, at their earliest opportunity, discuss their plans with the departmental study abroad adviser, Fred Hughson.
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 first year and substitutes for MOL 214, CHM 201 and 202, COS 126, and PHY 103 and 104. 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
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.
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.
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 meets 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.
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.