Graduate Students

The Center for Systems Biology provides a limited number of graduate students with a sophisticated and rigorous program in a multi-disciplinary environment, enabling them to become creative, independent and productive researchers. CSB can currently accommodate up to three full-time graduate students each year. Graduate students are accepted from a wide range of PhD or MD-PhD programs in the Boston area including MIT-HST program, Harvard University and Boston University. The requirement for students to enroll in taught courses at their home university each semester precludes acceptance of students based outside the Boston area for thesis work, however, students from other universities are welcome to apply for short term rotations or internships.

Acceptance & Support

Students in an accredited graduate program can apply for research rotations, fellowships and/or thesis work at CSB. Students are encouraged to schedule an interview, typically conducted with 3 of the Center’s staff. All students must complete an application form and submit all supporting material, including letters of recommendation. Acceptance into the program is competitive. The level of support is comparable to that at other Harvard programs. Students are encouraged to apply for pre-doctoral funding from agencies such as HHMI, NSF and NIH. Students are encouraged to apply for extramural funding with the full support of the faculty and administrative staff at CSB who will assist in targeting appropriate funding sources and in the application procedure(s). Students are backed by the superb funding history of CSB and MGH.

Course Work and Thesis

Students must enroll in required courses each semester at their home university. During the first year, students spend variable time carrying out experimental research in the laboratories of CSB faculty members. At the end of the first year of study, each student, in consultation with their home university graduate program and faculty at CSB, arranges for two permanent faculty sponsors. Thesis work commences shortly thereafter, usually before the end of the summer break. Completion of the Ph.D. degree customarily requires 4 to 5 years of full-time year round research, after which the student consults with his or her committee for approval to present a written thesis. The thesis must be defended in an oral examination as determined by the student’s home university requirements, and granting of the degree requires the approval of a committee of faculty members which reviews the thesis.


Students meet annually with a committee of faculty to review their progress. The committee of three faculty members is selected in consultation with the student and the thesis supervisor. Formal acceptance of the student as a candidate for the Ph.D. degree is contingent upon the thesis’ committee’s approval of the project.