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Department of Molecular Biology


Bonnie L. Bassler

Associate Chair

Jean E. Schwarzbauer

Departmental Representative

Rebecca D. Burdine

S. Jane Flint

Elizabeth R. Gavis (Director)

Frederick M. Hughson

Thomas J. Silhavy

Director of Graduate Studies

Zemer Gitai


Bonnie L. Bassler

David Botstein, also Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

Carlos D. Brody, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Lynn W. Enquist, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

S. Jane Flint

Elizabeth R. Gavis

Frederick M. Hughson

Yibin Kang

Mark D. Rose

Paul D. Schedl

Gertrud M. Schüpbach

Jean E. Schwarzbauer

Thomas E. Shenk

Thomas J. Silhavy

Lee M. Silver, also Woodrow Wilson School

Jeffry B. Stock

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

David W. Tank, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Shirley M. Tilghman, also Woodrow Wilson School

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

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

Virginia A. Zakian

Associate Professor

Michael J. Berry, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Rebecca D. Burdine

Ileana M. Cristea

Zemer Gitai 

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

Samuel S. H. Wang, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Assistant Professor

Mohamed S. Abou Donia

Lisa M. Boulanger, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Danelle Devenport

Alexei Korennykh

Mala Murthy, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Sabine Petry

Alexander Ploss

Senior Lecturer

Alison E. Gammie

Alan Gelperin, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Heather A. Thieringer

Lecturer with Rank of Professor

Adel A. Mahmoud, also Woodrow Wilson School

Daniel A. Notterman


 Jaclyn A. Schwalm

Associated Faculty

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

Clifford P. Brangwynne, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Mark P. Brynildsen, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Jannette L. Carey, Chemistry

Dorothea Fiedler, Chemistry

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

Michael H. Hecht, Chemistry

Laura F. Landweber, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A. James Link, Chemical and Biological Engineering

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

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

Brigett M. vonHoldt, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Information and Departmental Plan of Study

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.

Every student considering majoring in the department is encouraged to attend a departmental open house that is held in the spring term to introduce students to the departmental courses, faculty, and research interests.


Prerequisites for entry into the Department of Molecular Biology are the courses MOL 214 or MOL 215.

Early Concentration

Qualified students who have been granted advanced placement credit in departmental prerequisites, and who have taken advanced courses in molecular biology (300 level and above) during the freshman and/or sophomore years may be eligible for independent work in the spring of the sophomore year and/or fall of the junior year. To qualify for early concentration status, students must have received grades of B+ or better in departmental prerequisites and advanced molecular biology courses. Early concentrators may engage in experimental research in the laboratories of members of the department and associated faculty. A limited number of early concentrators will be offered the possibility of continuing research in the laboratories of their faculty advisers during the summer following the sophomore year. Students who are interested in an early concentration should contact a departmental representative early in the sophomore year.

Program of Study

The following courses are requirements and, in general, should be completed before the beginning of the junior year:

General Chemistry (CHM 201 and 202) or one unit of AP credit and CHM 202 or CHM 215 or two units of CHM credit

Organic Chemistry (CHM 303 and 304)

Mathematics (MAT 100 and 102) or (MAT 103 and [MAT 104 or MAT 175, COS 126, PSY 251, MOL 410, MOL/EEB 355]). Other courses may be substituted upon approval by a departmental representative.

General Physics (PHY 101 and 102) or (PHY 103 and 104)

EEB 211 (or equivalent AP plus one 300-level EEB course)

All of the above prerequisites and requirements, with the exception of MOL 214 or MOL 215, can be satisfied with advanced placement and/or summer courses at other universities (within University guidelines). MOL 214 or MOL 215 must be taken at Princeton University. If EEB 211 is not taken at Princeton (for example, because of advanced placement), the student must take one upper-level course (300 level or above) in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, which can also count as a departmental. All 300-level-and-above courses, where EEB is the primary listing, will be accepted; cross-listed courses must be individually approved.

The following departmental courses are required:

Genetics (MOL 342)
Biochemistry (MOL 345)
Cell and Developmental Biology (MOL 348)
Core Lab (MOL 350)

Except under very special circumstances, these courses must be taken during the junior year or earlier. All count as departmentals and they must be successfully completed. No substitutions are allowed, with the exception of students completing both years of the Integrated Science program (see below), and students who are pursuing study abroad. For students studying abroad, one course may be substituted for MOL 342 or MOL 345, in a qualified program with prior departmental approval. Additional departmentals can be chosen from among all 300-or-higher-level courses in molecular biology, and selected upper-level courses with a strong molecular or biological component from other departments (see list). Other courses may only be taken as departmentals with the written approval of a departmental representative. All students must take at least eight, but not more than 12, departmentals. Only Princeton courses can count as departmentals; there are no exceptions to this rule.

A typical degree from the molecular biology department requires successful completion of the prerequisites, MOL 342, MOL 345, MOL 348, MOL 350, and four other departmentals.

No courses in biological sciences or other departmental courses may be taken pass/D/fail.

Independent Work

Junior Independent Work. In the fall semester of the junior year students participate in tutorials with postdoctoral instructors, read papers from the original literature, and prepare two short papers on assigned topics. In the spring term students carry out a second program of independent work with a faculty adviser with whom they will eventually do their senior thesis. In some instances this may include experimental work. A paper, in the form of a grant proposal, preparatory for the senior independent work, is due in early May.

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, field, or independent study that will be written and presented as a senior thesis.

Senior Departmental Examination

Students are required to present their work to the two (nonadviser) thesis readers during an oral exam, at which the adviser is not present. The exam usually takes about one-half hour and students should be prepared to describe the background of the thesis, defend its contents, and propose future directions. The grade for the oral defense will be the average of the two from the (nonadviser) faculty members. A grading rubric will be used by the examination committee. Grades are assigned by the Undergraduate Committee with the approval of the faculty.

Study Abroad

Students concentrating in molecular biology may spend part of the junior year abroad, provided that at least one core departmental course has been taken in the sophomore year and suitable arrangements are made to complete the junior independent work. Students may take part in existing exchange programs with the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institute or may arrange, in consultation with departmental representatives and the Office of International Programs, to participate in other approved programs abroad. Study abroad is most easily arranged for the fall semester. Students interested in study abroad should consult with departmental representatives and Dean Nancy Kanach as early as possible, preferably during the first year.

Integrated Science Sequence

An alternative path into the department is through the integrated science curriculum. ISC/CHM/COS/MOL/PHY 231-4 (a double course) can be taken in the freshman year, and ISC/CHM/COS/MOL/PHY 235-6 can be taken in the sophomore year. These courses can be substituted for CHM 203-204, PHY 103-104 or 105-6, COS 126 in the freshman year and MOL 214, 342, and 345 in the sophomore year. 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 a departmental representative. Note: Only one non-MOL course, in which the content is primarily related to ethical, social science, or policy implications of biomedical topics, will be accepted for departmental credit.

Early Research Opportunities. Students interested in research prior to junior year should consult the faculty Web page to become familiar with the types of research being conducted in the department. Students should then meet with the freshman/sophomore adviser, who can provide information about specific research opportunities.

Program in Biophysics. The Program in Biophysics 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. A certificate in biophysics is awarded to students who successfully complete the program. 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. Students who have placed out of EEB 211, and successfully complete the Biophysics certificate, will be excused from the requirement of taking an upper-level EEB course.

Program in Global Health and Health Policy. The Program in Global Health and Health Policy 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 would take GHP 350 by the end of junior year and GHP 351 by the end of senior year. Most upper-level MOL courses fulfill the requirements for the global health and health policy certificate.

Program in Neuroscience. The department offers the opportunity for concentrators to participate in the neuroscience program. Students who have placed out of EEB 211, and successfully complete the NEU certificate, will be excused from the requirement of taking an upper-level EEB course. Interested students should discuss the program with the directors and their departmental representative.

Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology. The Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology (QCB) 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 (e.g., microarray gene expression, sequence, phenotype) to understand physiological and evolutionary processes. At the core of the curriculum is the project lab (QCB 301), a double-credit laboratory course, taken during the fall of junior year, in which students participate in the design, execution, and analysis of experiments. The required courses provide a strong background in modern methodologies in data analysis, interpretation, and modeling. Courses are chosen with the help of advisers in molecular biology, ecology and evolutionary biology, physics, chemistry, computer science, and other related departments. A certificate in quantitative and computational biology is awarded to students who successfully complete the program requirements.


MOL 101 From DNA to Human Complexity (also STC 101)   Fall STL

This lecture and laboratory course will acquaint nonbiology majors with the theory and practice of modern molecular biology, with a focus on biological topics of current public interest. Topics include: structure of DNA, RNA, proteins, genomes, and an overview of state-of-the-art technologies including cloning, recombinant DNA, and PCR. The course will address how recent scientific advances impact issues relevant to human biology, including understanding how genes control complex patterns of cell differentiation and the origins of mutations and inherited defects. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory. E. Wieschaus, H. Thieringer, B. Bassler

MOL 110 Neuroscience and Everyday Life (see NEU 101)

MOL 211 Life on Earth: Chaos and Clockwork of Biological Design (see EEB 211)

MOL 214 Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology (also EEB 214)   Spring STL

Important concepts and elements of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology are examined in the context of classic experiments. During the last four weeks, the class will split into topic-based sections taught by different faculty in the following areas: cell biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, microbiology, and development. This course is strongly recommended as the introductory course for students who are considering majoring in the biological sciences. It also satisfies the biology requirement for entrance to medical school. Two 90-minute lectures, one three-hour laboratory. D. Notterman, H. Thieringer, E. Gavis

MOL 215 Quantitative Principles in Cell and Molecular Biology (also EEB 215/CBE 215)   Fall STL

Central concepts and experiments in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology with an emphasis on underlying physical and engineering principles. Topics include the genetic code; energetics and cellular organization; communication, feeding, and signaling between cells; feedback loops and cellular organization; problems and solutions in development; the organization of large cellular systems, such as the nervous and immune systems. Satisfies the biology requirement for entrance into medical school. Prerequisites: AP biology, physics, and calculus. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory. A. Korennykh, P. Felton, C. Nelson

MOL 231 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences I (see ISC 231)

MOL 232 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences I (see ISC 232)

MOL 233 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences II (see ISC 233)

MOL 234 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences II (see ISC 234)

MOL 235 An Integrated, Quantitative Approach to Biochemistry and Neuroscience (see ISC 235)

MOL 236 An Integrated, Quantitative Introduction to the Natural Sciences IV (see ISC 236)

MOL 301 Experimental Project Laboratory in Quantitative and Computational Biology (see QCB 301)

MOL 330 Molecular Evolution (see EEB 320)

MOL 340 Molecular and Cellular Immunology   Spring STN

A broad survey of the field of immunology and the mammalian immune system. The cellular and molecular basis of innate and acquired immunity will be discussed in detail. The course will provide frequent exemplars drawn from human biology in health and disease. E. Weiss

MOL 342 Genetics   Fall STN

Basic principles of genetics illustrated with examples from prokaryote and eukaryote organisms with emphasis on classic genetic techniques. The evolving conception of the gene and genome will be the primary focus of the course. Selected advanced topics will include Drosophila developmental genetics, yeast cell biology, and human disease. Two 90-minute lectures, one class. Prerequisite: 214 or 215, or permission of instructor. G. Schupbach, M. Rose

MOL 345 Biochemistry (also CHM 345)   Fall STN

Fundamental concepts of biomolecular structure and function will be discussed, with an emphasis on principles of thermodynamics, binding and catalysis. A major portion of the course will focus on metabolism and its logic and regulation. Three lectures, one class. Prerequisite: 214 or 215. Prerequisite or concurrent: CHM 304 and 304B. F. Hughson

MOL 348 Cell and Developmental Biology   Spring STN

The mechanisms that underlie development of multicellular organisms, from C. elegans to humans, will be examined using biochemical, genetic, and cell biological approaches. The course will investigate the roles that gene regulation, cell-cell communication, cell adhesion, cell motility, signal transduction, and intracellular trafficking play in the commitment, differentiation, and assembly of stem cells into specialized cell types. Two 90-minute lectures, one two-hour class. Prerequisite: 342 or 345. D. Devenport, R. Burdine

MOL 350 Laboratory in Molecular Biology   Spring STL

The major objective of the course is to introduce students to a variety of tools required to perform independent research in the field of molecular biology. While conducting original research, students will employ a number of techniques that are used by molecular biologists, molecular geneticists, and biochemists. Students will gain an understanding of how, when, and why certain techniques and skills are used in a research setting. In addition, students will learn to write a research report modeled on the scientific literature. One lecture, two laboratories. Prerequisite: 342 and 345, or either course alone with permission of instructor. , A. Snyder Staff

MOL 355 Introduction to Statistics for Biology (see EEB 355)

MOL 403 Neurogenetics of Behavior (see NEU 403)

MOL 408 Cellular and Systems Neuroscience (see NEU 408)

MOL 410 Introduction to Biological Dynamics   Not offered this year STN

Designed for students in the biological sciences, this course focuses on the application of mathematical methods to biological problems. Intended to provide a basic grounding in mathematical modeling and data analysis for students who might not have pursued further study in mathematics. Topics include differential equations, linear algebra, difference equations, and probability. Each topic will have a lecture component and computer laboratory component. Students will work extensively with the computing package MATLAB. No previous computing experience necessary. Two 90-minute lectures, one laboratory. N. Wingreen, T. Gregor

MOL 414 Genetics of Human Populations (see EEB 414)

MOL 425 Infection: Biology, Burden, Policy (also WWS 355)   Spring STN

This course will examine fundamental determinants of human microbe interaction at the biological and ecological aspects. The focus will be on major global infectious diseases, their burden of illness, and policy challenges for adequate prevention and control. Each infectious agent will be discussed in terms of its mechanism of pathogenesis, disease progression, epidemiology, as well as strategies for its control. Specific emphasis will be placed on the public health aspects of each disease. Prerequisite: MOL 101, 214, 215, or permission of instructor. Two 90-minute lectures. A. Mahmoud, T. Shenk

MOL 433 Biotechnology (also CBE 434)   Spring STN

This course will consider the principles, development, outcomes and future directions on therapeutic application of biotechnology, with particular emphasis on the interplay between basic research and clinical experience. Topics to be discussed include production of hormones and other therapeutic proteins, gene therapy, oncolytic viruses, and stem cells. Reading will be from the primary literature. J. Flint

MOL 435 Pathogenesis and Bacterial Diversity   Not offered this year

An examination of current topics exploring the microbial world with emphasis on signal transduction, and the molecular basis for bacterial diversity and their roles in bacterial pathogenesis. Topics will include the regulation of cell division and sporulation, quorum sensing, mechanisms of microbial differentiation, evolution of communicable diseases, molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis, and identification of virulence factor and immunization. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisites: 214, 215, or permission of instructor. Staff

MOL 437 Computational Neuroscience (see NEU 437)

MOL 440 Genome Integrity and Human Disease   Spring STN

Focuses on the basic science that provides the background for understanding diseases caused by defects in chromosome maintenance. Readings will be in the primary literature, and classroom participation will be a key part of the course. Topics will include telomeres, trinucleotide repeats, DNA damage check points, tumor susceptibility genes, and chromatin modification. Two 90-minute seminars. V. Zakian

MOL 447 Neuroimmunology: Immune Molecules in Normal Brain Function and Neuropathology (also NEU 447)   Spring STN

In this course, we will explore the diverse and complex interactions between the brain and the immune system from the perspective of current, cutting-edge research papers. In particular, we will focus on the molecular mechanisms of these interactions and their role in brain development and function as well as their potential contributions to specific neurological disorders, including autism. In the process, students will learn to read, critically evaluate, and explain in presentations the content of articles from the primary literature. L. Boulanger

MOL 450 Stem Cells and Cell Fate Decision Processes in the Genomic Era   Not offered this year

Focuses on the current state of stem cell research and the future directions for this field. Stem cell research has great promise for the future of regenerative medicine. Very little is known about the molecular biology that underlies stem cell fate determination. The completion of the human and mouse genome sequences, together with novel technologies to observe global gene expression, offer unique opportunities to unravel stem cell regulatory mechanisms. Explores parallels to other, more mature biological systems. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: 342 and 348, or instructor's permission. Staff

MOL 455 Introduction to Genomics and Computational Molecular Biology (see QCB 455)

MOL 459 Viruses: Strategy and Tactics   Fall STN

Viruses are unique parasites of living cells and may be the most abundant, highest evolved life forms on the planet. The general strategies encoded by all known viral genomes are discussed using selected viruses as examples. The course covers the molecular biology (the tactics) inherent in these strategies. It also introduces the biology of engagement of viruses with host defenses, what happens when viral infection leads to disease, vaccines and antiviral drugs, and the evolution of infectious agents and emergence of new viruses. Three lectures, one two-hour preceptorial. Prerequisite: 342 and 348, or instructor's permission. L. Enquist

MOL 460 Diseases in Children: Causes, Costs, and Choices (also STC 460)   Fall

Within a broader context of historical, social, and ethical concerns, a survey of normal childhood development and selected disorders from the perspectives of the physician and the scientist. Emphasis on the complex relationship between genetic and acquired causes of disease, medical practice, social conditions, and cultural values. The course features visits from children with some of the conditions discussed, site visits, and readings from the original medical and scientific literature. Prerequisite: 214 or 215. Two 90-minute classes. D. Notterman

MOL 470 Advanced Topics in Genetic Analysis   Fall STN

The application of current tools of human genetics and genomic analysis including SNPs, copy number variants, HapMaps, high throughput DNA sequencing and DNA microarrays to perform genome-wide association studies of complex traits with an emphasis on neurological diseases including autism and schizophrenia. Covers recent evolution within the human species and genetic divergence of human populations in response to selective forces. Extensive use will be made of online genome databases as interactive tools for genome analysis. One three-hour seminar. Prerequisite: MOL 342. L. Silver

MOL 499 Seminar in Global Health and Health Policy (see GHP 400)