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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

Carlos D. Brody, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

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

Mark D. Rose

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

Virginia A. Zakian

Associate Professor

Michael J. Berry, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Rebecca D. Burdine

Ileana M. Cristea

Assistant Professor

Mohamed S. Abou Donia

Danelle Devenport

Alexei Korennykh

Mala Murthy, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Sabine Petry

Alexander Ploss

Jared E. Toettcher

Senior Lecturer

Alan Gelperin, also Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Heather A. Thieringer

Lecturer with Rank of Professor

Adel A. Mahmoud, also Woodrow Wilson School

Daniel A. Notterman


Bruce Patterson

Jaclyn A. Schwalm

Associated Faculty

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

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

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

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 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 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 (not offered fall 2015). Courses taken at other institutions can be used toward fulfillment of the organic 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 without AP credit in calculus can satisfy the quantitative requirement for the MOL major by taking SML 201 and either COS 126 (recommended) or MAT 103. For students with AP credit in calculus, the quantitative requirement for the MOL major can be met by taking SML 201 and either COS 126 (recommended) or a higher-level math course. Neither AP credit nor courses taken at other institutions can substitute for SML 201. Courses in computer science or mathematics taken at another institution can be substituted for the second required course, if pre-approved by the corresponding department.

Physics Physics 108 (strongly recommended), or PHY 103 and 104. 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 108 with PHY 101 or PHY 103. 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 (or ISC 326), MOL 345, MOL 348, and MOL 350. Except under very special circumstances, these courses must be taken before senior year. All count toward departmental credit. No substitutions are allowed except in the case of integrated science courses (see below) and study abroad which, if it entails intensive research and with advanced permission, can substitute for MOL 350.

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 departmental courses 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, ISC 335, and ISC 326 qualify as departmentals. Only Princeton courses count as departmentals; there are no exceptions to this rule.

All prerequisites, required courses, and departmentals must be taken for a letter grade (no P/D/F).

For the Class of 2016: Students must fulfill the requirements in place at the time of matriculation, except that PHY 108 now fulfills the physics requirement.

For the Classes of 2017 and 2018: For those subjects in which the general requirements have changed (physics, math, ecology and evolutionary biology), students can fulfill either the current or former requirements. Please consult the 2014-2015 Undergraduate Announcement regarding the former requirements.

Students in the Class of 2018 must follow the new requirements for "Other departmentals" as specified above.

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. 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 substitute for MOL 214/215, CHM 201/207 and 202, COS 126, and PHY 103 and 104. Students who complete this sequence will not be required to take SML 201. ISC 335 offers an alternative to CHM 303 and 304/304B. ISC 326 offers an alternative to MOL 342. 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 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 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 in 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.


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

This lecture and laboratory course will acquaint non-biology 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 affect issues relevant to human biology including forensics, stem cells, molecular evolution and the genetic basis of human traits and behaviors such as obesity and aggression. Three lectures, one three-hour laboratory. B. Bassler, E. Wieschaus, H. Thieringer

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)   Fall, Spring STL

Important concepts and elements of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology, are examined in an experimental context. This course fulfills the requirement for students majoring in the biological sciences and satisfies the biology requirement for entrance into medical school. Two 90-minute lectures, one three-hour laboratory. Staff

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, C. Nelson, P. Felton

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 Approach to Genetics and Genomics (see ISC 236)

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

MOL 326 Human Genomics: The Past, Present and Future of the Human Genome (see ISC 326)

MOL 327 Immune Systems: From Molecules to Populations (see EEB 327)

MOL 330 Molecular Evolution (see EEB 320)

MOL 340 Molecular and Cellular Immunology   Fall 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. A. Ploss

MOL 342 Genetics   Spring 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: MOL 214/215, or permission of instructor. M. Rose, G. Schupbach

MOL 345 Biochemistry (also CHM 345)   Fall, Spring 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. Prerequisites: MOL 214/215 and either CHM 304/304B or ISC 335. CHM 304/304B may be taken concurrently with MOL 345. Staff

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, cell death, signal transduction and intracellular trafficking play in the commitment, differentiation and assembly of cells into specialized tissues. Two 90-minute lectures, one two-hour class. Prerequisite: MOL 214/215. R. Burdine, D. Devenport

MOL 350 Laboratory in Molecular Biology   Fall 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 three-hour laboratories. Prerequisite: MOL 214/215. Staff

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

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 levels. 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 biology, mechanisms of pathogenesis, and 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 of 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. Prerequisite: MOL 214/215. 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 precept. Prerequisites: MOL214/215, or permission of instructor. Staff

MOL 437 Computational Neuroscience (see NEU 437)

MOL 438 Biomolecular Engineering (see CBE 438)

MOL 440 Genome Integrity and Human Disease   Fall STN

This course deals with the basic science that led to the molecular understanding of human diseases associated with defects in genome maintenance, such as aging and cancer. The first two-thirds of each class is a group discussion of an assigned paper. The last third is a lecture-type introduction to the material for the next class. Topics include telomeres, trinucleotide repeats, fragile sites, transcriptional sources of genome instability, and massive genome rearrangements.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. Prerequisites: MOL 214/215. 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: MOL 214/215 or permission of instructor. 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: MOL 214/215. Two 90-minute classes. D. Notterman

MOL 470 Advanced Topics in Genetic Analysis   Not offered this year 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. Staff

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