PhD in Biological Sciences in Public Health

Prepare for a high-impact academic or research career at the forefront of the biological sciences in public health.

As a student in the PhD in biological sciences in public health program, you will gain expertise in the prevention and treatment of diseases that affect thousands—even millions—of people. Working with leading public health scientists, you will learn both mechanistic and quantitative approaches to biomedical research, while specializing in one of four areas of investigation:

  • The metabolic basis of health and disease
  • Immunology and infectious diseases
  • Gene-environment interactions
  • Inflammation and stress responses

Each area of investigation emphasizes biochemical, cell biological, and genetic approaches to understanding disease. In your research, whether basic or translational, you will apply cutting-edge tools and techniques to advance the understanding, treatment, and prevention of human diseases that significantly impact global populations today. Current research within our laboratories includes these and other diseases and risk factors:

  • Aging
  • AIDS
  • Asthma
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Chagas’ disease
  • Diabetes
  • Environmental exposure to toxins
  • Gene-environment interactions
  • Infection
  • Inflammation and stress responses
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Kidney disease
  • Malaria
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Tuberculosis


As a graduate of the program, you will be prepared for a career as a faculty member in a college, university, medical school, research institute, or school of public health. You may also choose to pursue a career in research at a government agency, or in the private sector at a consulting, biotech, or pharmaceutical firm.


The program provides broad interdisciplinary knowledge of both mechanistic and quantitative approaches to biomedical research and prepares graduate students for research careers with courses in the following areas:

  • Biochemistry, Genetics
  • Biostatistics
  • Cell biology
  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology/Infectious diseases
  • Molecular biology
  • Physiology
  • Toxicology/Cancer cell biology


All students admitted to the PhD in biological sciences in public health program, including international students, are guaranteed full funding, which includes a stipend, tuition, and health insurance for five years, provided they maintain satisfactory progress.


To qualify for admission, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for the vigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge. Minimum requirements include a bachelor’s degree and undergraduate preparation in the sciences.


Like all PhD (doctor of philosophy) programs at the School, the PhD in biological sciences in public health is offered under the aegis of the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Harvard Griffin GSAS). Applications are processed through the Harvard Griffin GSAS online application system. The program is located within the Division of Biological Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


As a PhD candidate in the biological sciences in public health program, you will be part of a diverse and accomplished group of students with a broad range of research and other interests. The opportunity to learn from each other and share ideas outside of the classroom will be one of the most rewarding and productive parts of the program. The School fosters those relationships by sponsoring an “informal curriculum” of seminars, journal clubs, retreats, and other opportunities that will broaden your knowledge, hone your presentation skills, and teach you how to critically evaluate scientific literature while providing a supportive, collaborative community within which to pursue your degree. Our location in the heart of Boston’s Longwood Medical Area—home to Harvard Medical School, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and many world-class hospitals—makes collaboration with eminent laboratory and clinical researchers a natural part of the educational experience. And when you graduate, you will benefit from Harvard’s unparalleled global network of alumni leaders.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-21-54-pmRobert Farese and Tobias Walther’s highly collaborative lab in the Department of Molecular Metabolism is cracking the secrets to diseases ranging from diabetes to dementia. “I come from labs where people talk to each other and spend a lot of time discussing science with a high intensity,” Walther explains. “That’s the kind of culture we’re trying to foster.”


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