Division of Biological Sciences

Director of the Division of Biological Sciences Graduate Program
Brendan D. Manning, PhD

The Division of Biological Sciences is an umbrella organization encompassing the HSPH Departments of Environmental Health, Genetics and Complex Diseases, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Nutrition. In some of these departments, two doctoral degrees are offered: the PhD and the SD. The PhD programs generally center on laboratory-based investigation in the biological sciences, while the SD programs emphasize epidemiologic analysis, as described in more detail in the sections of this catalog devoted to the respective departments.

Degree Programs in the Division

The PhD programs of the four participating departments are administered by the Division of Biological Sciences. The name of the degree is PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health, with the name of each departmental specialty following in parentheses. Students wishing to study cellular and molecular biology or physiology as it pertains to major problems in public health should apply to the PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health (BPH), which grants the PhD degree through the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The participating HSPH departments offer PhD specialties in the following areas:

  • Environmental health (molecular and integrative physiological sciences).
  • Genetics and complex diseases (molecular mechanisms of adaptive responses to stress; molecular and cellular toxicology; radiobiology; genetic and molecular mechanisms of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer).
  • Immunology and infectious diseases (immunology and molecular biology of parasitic and other infections).
  • Nutrition (biochemistry and cardiovascular biology).


Program Requirements

All program degree requirements are in addition to the school-wide degree requirements.

PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health
Minimum prerequisites for entrance: Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in calculus, physics, biology, and chemistry, both physical and organic. To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge for optimal human health. Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test in time to meet the application deadline in early December.

Program requirements: The program offers a firm foundation in the basic biomedical sciences, as well as in epidemiology and biostatistics. It also features interdisciplinary training, as students take courses in several different departments to meet their individual requirements. During the first two years of study, all students complete a minimum of 15 credits in core areas. Core courses cover the principles of toxicology; introductory cancer biology; genetic toxicology; tumor cell metabolism; aging; lipid metabolism; human physiology; advanced respiratory physiology; and advanced topics in physiology, exposure biology, epigenetics, pathophysiology, immunology, cellular and molecular biology of parasites, immunobiology, and the science of human nutrition. Other requirements for the first two years include the following: courses in epidemiology, biostatistics, and the conduct of science; two to three 10-week laboratory rotations; 7.5 credits in critical-reading courses; and 5.0 elective credits. At the end of the second year, students take a preliminary qualifying examination to assess their ability and preparation for an original, laboratory-based scientific investigation. Students must write and defend a dissertation, generally within five to six years of beginning the program.

All students enrolled in the program receive full tuition, health insurance, and stipend support for at least five years if they are making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Applicants are not required to complete the Statement of Financial Resources for Graduate Study application form or the Financial Aid Form in the application
booklet provided to them.

Graduates ordinarily assume positions as faculty members and research scientists in graduate schools, medical schools, research institutes, or schools of public health. Career opportunities in the biological sciences as they apply to public health are expected to grow both in academia and in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.


Contact Information

Biological Sciences in Public Health PhD Program Office
665 Huntington Avenue, Building 2-111
Boston, MA 02115
Email: BPH@hsph.harvard.edu
Web: bph.hsph.harvard.edu

For Reference
Schoolwide degree requirements

Online application to the PhD program is required. Use the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences online application form, available at: gsas.harvard.edu/prospective_students/application_instructions_and_information.php