PhD Course Requirements

phs-photos-2016-0312024-2025 CURRICULUM & COURSE REQUIREMENTS
These courses satisfy the minimum curriculum requirements for the BPH program, and students are encouraged to seek further coursework in areas of specific interest. Core courses should be selected to broaden the student’s scientific knowledge base, while critical reading courses should build depth in their individual research area. Students may petition the BPH Program to consider more advanced coursework to satisfy core and critical reading requirements. To offer a broad perspective on modern biology, students may enroll in courses offered not only by BPH Faculty but also within other PhD programs affiliated with the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS), as well as graduate level classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A free shuttle bus (M2) connects the Harvard Medical Campus in Boston to the Harvard main campus and MIT in Cambridge, to facilitate travel between these locations if needed for chosen courses.

Please note that the number of “credits” vary at each school. FAS uses a 2, 4, 8 credit system while the Harvard Chan School uses a 2.5, 5, and 10 credit system. Please use the Credit Conversion Chart to see the credit equivalent at each school. Harvard Griffin GSAS students, including BPH, use FAS credits. Harvard Griffin GSAS students need to enroll in 16 credits per semester.  

Additionally, all Harvard Griffin GSAS students are required to take courses for a grade (sometimes referred to as “ordinal”) if the course is offered for both ordinal and sat/unsat.  The only time a student can take a course for ‘sat/unsat’ is if that is the only grading option.  In that case, it is expected that Harvard Griffin GSAS students receive a satisfactory grade.  This is outlined in the Harvard Griffin GSAS Handbook.

REQUIRED COURSES (for all BPH students)
1. BPH 201r  Laboratory Rotations  (Fall/Spring)  (Year 1) (4 credits)
2. BPH 219  Biological Sciences Communications (Fall)  (Year 1) (4 credits)
3. ID 201 Core Principles of Biostatistics and Epidemiology (Fall) (Year 1) (4 credits)
4. Med-Sci 300qc  Responsible Conduct of Science (Fall)  (Year 2) (2 credits)
5. Med-Sci 302qc  Responsible Conduct of Science (Fall)  (Year 6) (2 credits)
6. ID 100  Foundations for Public Health (Online course, plus in-person case study (Year 1) (1 credit)
7. BST 272*  Computing Environments for Biology  (January) (1 credit) [more introductory course for those with little or no programming experience] or BST 273* Introduction to Programming (Fall 1) (2 credits) [more advanced course for those with previous programming experience]  – *either course can be taken as a pre-requisite for BST 281
8. BST 281   Genomic Data Manipulation (Spring)  (Year 1, 2 or 3) (4 credits)

At least 3 (12 credits total) of the following 4 credit CORE COURSES (or approved equivalent)
Course offerings vary from year to year, so please consult with the course catalog for the most up to date course list. You can also review FAS Course of Instruction website.

BPH 208  Human Physiology (Fall) (4 credits)
BPH 215  Principles of Toxicology (Fall) (4 credits)
BCMP 200  Principles of Molecular Biology (Fall) (4 credits)
GENETIC 201  Principles of Genetics (Fall) (4 credits)
HBTM 235  Principles of Human Disease: Physiology and Pathology (Fall) (4 credits)
IMMUN 201  Advanced Topics in Immunology (Fall) (4 credits)
MICROBI 202  Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Host Immune Response (Fall) (4 credits)
MICROBI 205  Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis (Fall) (4 credits)
MICRO 210  Microbial Sciences: Chemistry, Ecology and Evolution (Fall) (4 credits)
NEUROBIO 215A The Discipline of Neuroscience (Fall) (4 credits)

BPH 210 Pathophysiology of Human Disease (Spring) (4 credits)
BCMP 234 Cellular Metabolism and Human Disease (Spring) (4 credits)
BCMP 236  Principles of Drug Action in People (Spring) (4 credits)
BCMP 250 Biophysical and Biochemical Mechanisms of Protein Function (Spring) (4 credits)
CELLBIO 201  Principles of Cell Biology (Fall) (4 credits)
CELLBIO 211  Molecular and Systems Level Cancer Cell Biology (Fall) (4 credits)
CELLBIO 212  Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer (Spring) (4 credits)
GENETIC 216  Advanced Topics in Gene Expression (Spring) (4 credits)
HBTM 200 Pathlogy of Human Disease (Spring) (4 credits)
IMMUN 202  Immune and Inflammatory Diseases (Spring) (4 credits)
MICROBI 201  Molecular Biology of the Bacterial Cell (Spring) (4 credits)
NUT 202  The Biological Basis of Human Nutrition (Spring) (4 credits)

At least 2-3 (6 credits total) of the following CRITICAL READING COURSES (or approved equivalent)
A critical reading course is defined as a course that spends a minimum of 50% of its class time reviewing and discussing primary research on a given topic.

BPH 304qc  Eradicating Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (Fall 2)(2 credits)
BPH 305qc  Interdisciplinary Training in Pulmonary Sciences Part I (Fall 1) (Year 2) (2 credits)
BPH 318qc  Topics in Immunology and Infectious Diseases (Fall 2) (2 credits)
BPH 320qc  Advanced Topics in Molecular Metabolism (Fall 2)(2 credits)
BCMP 218  Molecular Medicine (Fall) (4 credits)
BCMP 308qc  Cell Fate Decisions in Development and Disease (Fall 1) (2 credits)
IMMUN 307qc  Cancer Immunology (Fall 2) (2 credits)
IMMUN 315qc  Therapeutic Human Antibody Engineering (Fall 1) (2 credits)
MICROBI 202* (formerly 214) Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Host Immune Response (Fall) (4 credits)*can also be considered a core course


BPH 250  Biology and Control of Vector-Borne Parasites (Spring in even years)
(4 credits)
BPH 301qc  Molecular Basis for Nutritional & Metabolic Diseases (Spring 1 in odd years) (2 credits)
BPH 302qc  Interdisciplinary Training in Pulmonary Sciences Part II (Spring) (2 credits)
BPH 310qc  Molecular Mechanisms of Aging (Spring 2 in even years) (2 credits)
BPH 322qc  Innovative Techniques and Experimental Design for Biologists (Spring 1) (2 credits)
EH 298  Environmental Epigenetics (Spring 2) (2 credits)
GENETIC 216  Advanced Topics in Gene Expression (Spring) (4 credits)
IMMUN 301qc  Autoimmunity (Spring 2) (2 credits)
IMMUN 305qc  Neuro-Immunology in Development (Spring 2) (2 credits)
MICROBI 201*  Molecular Biology of the Bacterial Cell (Spring) (4 credits)
*can also be considered a core course

For more info on half and quarter courses at HMS, including several that are reading-focused. Please note: if courses are not listed above you will need to request special approval from the program office to meet the reading or core course requirements.

300-Level Research Course
Once a dissertation advisor has been selected, they can enroll in the BPH 300-level course specific to their BPH dissertation advisor. Students should register for up to 16 credits* equivalent of dissertation research each semester. [*depending on the number of other courses students are registering for each semester]. Each faculty member’s 300-level course number can be found by searching their name in the my.harvard ‘course search’.

DMS curriculum and course locations
Harvard Chan course locations are found through searching on My.harvard
Epidemiology Course Offerings

Want to know what courses are like?  Check out past course evaluations through these tools:


First Year: First Summer


BPH 201r Laboratory Rotations

Neurobiology 306qc: Quantative Methods for Biologists (=MATLAB Bootcamp – optional, but strongly recommended)

Fall Semester

16 credits total

BPH 219 Biological Sciences Seminars

BPH 201r Laboratory Rotations

ID 201 Core Principles of Biostatistics and Epidemiology

Introduction to Public Health (ID 100) online course, along with in-person case study session

1 critical reading course

*If you took MATLAB and received 2 credits, then you would reach the 16 credits for the fall semester

Spring Semester

16 credits total

BPH 201r Laboratory Rotations or BPH 300-level thesis research credit

BST 272 (during January session) or BST 273 (either course can be taken as pre-requisite needed for BST 281)

12 FAS credits worth of core or critical reading electives

Choose dissertation advisor/begin thesis

Second Year: Fall Semester

16 credits total

MedSci 300qc Conduct of Science

Core or critical reading electives

BPH 300-level thesis research credit

Preliminary qualifying exam preparation

Spring Semester

16 credits total

Preliminary qualifying exam preparation

BIOSTAT 281 Genomic Data Manipulation

BPH 300-level thesis research credit

Possible core or critical reading electives

Preliminary qualifying exam completed

Third and Subsequent Years: 16 credits total each semester Continue thesis research; elective courses optional; report to Dissertation Advisory Committee every 6-9 months

For some students who have successfully completed graduate-level course work, BPH course requirements may be waived if graduate-level competence is demonstrated before the end of the first semester of year 1. A “Course Waiver Form” may be requested from the BPH Program Office. A signed copy will be kept in the student’s file as documentation of the program’s authorization to grant an exemption to a student from further course work in these areas.  However, the number of total course credits required to complete the coursework part of the curriculum will remain the same.  Thus students are encouraged to take more advanced courses, or additional core courses, if a course waiver is approved.

To learn how to cross register at other Harvard Schools, you can read through the cross-registration website.
If your course has a FAS/Harvard Griffin GSAS course number associated with it, you can just register for the course.  If a course is only offered by another school, such as the Harvard Chan School or the Harvard Medical School, then you will need to cross-register for the course.  All course enrollments including cross-registration is completed electronically through my.harvard.

The most current and complete Harvard Griffin GSAS academic calendar can be found here.
The most current and complete Harvard Chan academic calendar can be found here. Filter by selecting Calendars and then Academic Calendar.

Biostatistics Student Consulting Center
The Biostatistics Student Consulting Center (BSCC) is open for the Spring 2019 semester! Through the BSCC, doctoral students in the Department of Biostatistics provide FREE help to students in the School of Public Health on statistics questions that arise outside of the classroom. Please drop by our walk-in group office hours on Mondays and Thursdays from 1:00-1:50pm in Building 2 Room 428, or schedule one-on-one consultation by submitting an online inquiry. Contact with questions and review their website for the most up to date information.