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Harvard University

PhD Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health

Boston, MA


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Biological Sciences in Public Health Program Integrates Interdisciplinary Knowledge and In-Depth Expertise

The Biological Sciences in Public Health (BPH) program at Harvard University results in a Ph.D. degree. The program is located at the Harvard School of Public Health and is offered by the faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University. The program's mission is to create graduates who are equipped to become leaders in the biological sciences and public health fields. Graduates possess in-depth knowledge in various fields of biological research, along with a broad interdisciplinary expertise in epidemiology and biostatistics.

Research Topics Span Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Cellular Biology

Harvard University's Biological Sciences in Public Health program trains research scientists who are interested in a wide range of areas of cellular and molecular biology. Research interests within the program span biological topics, from bioengineering and toxicology to the molecular and genetic mechanisms of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. In addition, the program is a good choice for individuals interested in a variety of approaches to health and disease, including genetics, nutritional biochemistry, and the study of disease-causing protozoa, helminthes, viruses, and bacteria. Other research specializations within the department include radiobiology, molecular adaptive responses to stress, pulmonary inflammation, immunology, and cancer research.

Work Closely with Epidemiological Analysis to Advance the Field of Public Health

Harvard's Ph.D. in Biological Sciences in Public Health focuses on better treatment and prevention of human diseases. In order to further this goal, students in the program have access to the latest technology in biomedical research, which they use to investigate problems that are of interest on a global scale. Because solutions and advancements being sought in the program have such potentially far-reaching impact, the BPH program is committed to optimizing its research structure. Part of this optimization is the close interaction between epidemiologists and laboratory sciences. This close interaction helps promote groundbreaking discoveries and furthers research in both fields. While the BPH Ph.D. program tends to emphasize laboratory research, the Division of Biological Sciences also offers a Doctor of Science degree, and individuals enrolled in the S.D. program work primarily with epidemiological analysis. The proximity of these two programs within the division fosters collaborative interaction and research and contributes to the division's position as a leader in the field of public health.

Prepare for Original Dissertation Research with Core Courses and Laboratory Rotations

All BPH students at Harvard take courses from a number of different departments, contributing to the interdisciplinary breadth of their expertise. Students can take a compliment of courses tailored to their individual research focus and background. Of seven core study areas, students are required to complete coursework in four. The seven areas are molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, physiology, toxicology/cancer cell biology, and immunology/infectious diseases. During the first two years of study, elective courses are available in advanced respiratory physiology, cell response to mutagens and carcinogens, cellular and molecular biology of parasites, genetic toxicology, human physiology, immunology, introductory cancer biology, the science of human nutrition, and toxicology. During these two years, students also participate in three laboratory rotations and two critical reading courses. These requirements prepare students to undertake original laboratory research during the remainder of the program, after completing a qualifying assessment. Students write and defend a dissertation within six years of beginning the program.

Access a Remarkable Array of Research Facilities in Boston's Longwood Medical Area

The Division of Biological Sciences is located in Boston's Longwood Medical Area, which encompasses several hospitals and research facilities. Harvard University prides itself on having a significant presence in one of the most concentrated clusters of scientific research facilities in the United States. This presence includes the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Medical School. Students and researchers from a number of institutions, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Joslin Diabetes Center, work in close proximity in the Longwood Medical Area. This allows BPH students and faculty members to gain experience, participate in research opportunities, and utilize facilities drawn from multiple departments and disciplines. These facilities include laboratories on fourteen floors of three buildings and the comprehensive Countway Library, which is dedicated to biomedical research collections. Students also have access to facilities at Harvard's main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A shuttle is available to take students directly to the campus from the Longwood Medical Area.

Ph.D. Program Opens Many Career Opportunities to Students

Upon receiving the Ph.D. degree, students typically secure positions as faculty members and researchers at the university level, with placements in top graduate schools, medical schools, and research institutes. Positions for public health experts also exist in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Due to the BPH program's location in the Longwood Medical campus, students have the distinctive opportunity to make connections with individuals working in many capacities in Longwood's schools and institutions. These connections often help students secure positions after graduation.

Fellowships and Awards Available to Support Graduate Student Work

A number of fellowships and awards are available to help outstanding graduate students support the cost of tuition in the Ph.D. in BPH program. These include the Graduate Prize Fellowship, awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which provides full tuition and stipend support. Other fellowships include the Taplin Fellowship and the Albert Schweitzer Award.

Career Support Available to Students and Alumni at All Stages

At Harvard, the School of Public Health's Career Services Office (CSO) strives to provide comprehensive support services to graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and alumni. A range of resources are available through the office to help students make and clarify career decisions, locate available positions, gain confidence, and prepare for all aspects of career development and professional goal achievement.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degrees Awarded

Degree Number Awarded
Doctoral Degrees 9

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? No
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? Yes

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Doctoral Degrees Entrance Exam GRE General Test
Qualifying examination, dissertation/defense


Acceptance Rate



applications accepted?

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Doctoral Degree Exam GRE General Test

International Students

Exam Details
TOEFL: Recommended TOEFL Paper score: 600
TOEFL IBT score: 100
IELTS: Recommended IELTS Paper score: 7

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Application deadlines for financial awards January 1
Types of financial support available Health Care Benefits
Institutionally-sponsored Loans


Focus of faculty research: Nutrition biochemistry, molecular and cellular toxicology, cardiovascular disease, cancer biology, immunology and infectious diseases, environmental health physiology
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year: 0

Location & Contact

Address Building 1-1408 C
665 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA  02115
United States
Contact Tatevik Holmgren
Assistant Director
Phone: 617-432-4397

Update my info
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Update my info
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Harvard University
Update my info
Your submission to PhD Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health has been sent.