About the Program



The PhD program in Cell Biology (CB) is a concentration within the Cell and Developmental Biology Training Program, which also includes a parallel PhD program in Delvelopmental and Regenerative Biology (DRB). Membership in CB is open to all Harvard BBS students. To become an official CB training program student and be eligible for certain opportunities and awards, you need to complete a Commitment Form in the summer following your G1 academic year. Click here to download.




Students are encouraged to take all BBS core courses necessary to provide a broad foundation in genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry. In addition to the BBS course requirements in critical analysis of primary literature (BBS230) and research proposal design (BBS330), CB program students are also required to take our advanced cell biology course (CB201). For those students with prior graduate-level background in Cell Biology, elective alternatives for this requirement may be obtained after conferring with the CB program director and CB201 course director. Students will also be required to take one graduate course in statistics/quantitative biology, and at least two advanced seminar courses in Cell Biology. See the Curriculum page for course listings.


Rotation and Dissertation Lab

Students should follow regular BBS guidelines when selecting lab rotations, dissertation advisor, or the dissertation advisory committee (DAC). There are no restrictions or requirements to choose a program-affiliated dissertation lab.



All BBS students are required to participate for one semester as an unpaid teaching assistant.  Several options including serving as a teaching assistant in CB201 are available.


Programmatic Activities


Monthly Meetings

The CB program has monthly meetings of three different types, as described below. Meeting schedules for the current academic year can be found at our Events page.


Weekly Student/Post-doc presentations

The Department of Cell Biology hosts weekly student/postdoc lunch talks, which are widely attended by trainees and faculty. Students in the CB program will have the opportunity present their research through this venue. Associated with this program is the opportunity to perform practice talks attended by peers and faculty in order to get formalized feedback, which is particularly important for students early in their training career.


Access to the breadth of Cell Biology research at HMS.

Students have the opportunity to interact with numerous faculty members through a course in Advances Topics in Cell Biology (CB309qc). This quarter course focuses on presentations by faculty members in a small group setting that are directly related to the research in the faculty member’s lab.


Annual Fall Cell Biology Retreat.

All CB students are expected to participate in the HMS Cell Biology retreat, a 2 day off-site meeting. The forum involves talks by faculty, students, and post-docs, as well as poster sessions. Dates are available on the Events calendar.


Department of Cell Biology Seminar Series

CB students are strongly encouraged to attend these weekly seminars (see Events Calendar), followed by lunch with the guest speaker. Additionally, CB students have the opportunity to invite and host two of the seminar speakers each year.


Innovation Grant Program (IGP)

The IGP offer predoctoral students the chance to propose novel experiments that bring transformative tools and collaboration across discipines to cutting edge questions in their own research.  By participating in a proposal-writing workshop, CB program students have the opportunity to craft proposals and compete for two year grants (up to $25,000 per year funded by the Biogen-Idec Foundation). The IGP workshop will use case methods to familiarize students with strategies that have brought transformative discoveries to different fields in the recent past.  IGP awardees will present their proposed research and progress reports at the beginning of each year to a joint (Harvard/Biogen Idec) panel, and then, after the award is complete, they will present their findings at a special Symposium.


Executive Committee

David Van Vactor, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell Biology, Program Co-Director


Wade Harper, PhD.
Professor of Cell Biology, Program Co-Director


Randy King, Ph.D.
Professor of Cell Biology


Samara Reck-Peterson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Cell Biology


Marcia Haigis, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Cell Biology


Amy Wagers, Ph.D.
Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology


Mark McClintock, B.S.
BBS Graduate Student Representative


© 2015 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College