Video from Alexandre W. Bisson, Assistant Professor of Biology, from paper "Division plane placement in pleomorphic archaea is dynamically coupled to cell shape," Molecular Microbiology (2019) 0(0), 1–15

Program and Course Requirements

The PhD program is intended to be completed in 5-6 years.  Students take 6 courses (4 required and 2 electives) over their first two to three years. Students may take advantage of the Boston Area Graduate Consortium and enroll in graduate courses at Boston College, Boston University or Tufts University.

First Year

  • Students take three required classes that focus on Molecular Biology, Mechanisms of Cell Function, and Data Analysis. In addition students take one elective graduate level course.          
  • Students rotate in four different research labs. Following each rotation, students write a rotation report.
  • At the end of their first year, students join their thesis labs and begin working on their dissertation research.

Second Year

  • Students take a required Proseminar that focuses on Grant Proposal writing and oral presentation. They may take their final elective.
  • Students serve as teaching assistants for two courses, one of which is typically a lab-based class.
  • At the end of the second year, students write and orally defend their Thesis Qualifying proposal.

Third Year and Continuing Years

  • Students continue their dissertation research, participate in Journal Club and Pizza Talks (see below).
  • Students take their final elective if they have not already done so.

Research Rotations

The interactive culture of the Brandeis Life Sciences programs begins with first year rotations: all incoming PhD students perform research rotations in four labs, so upon choosing a PhD research lab each student will have established scientific and personal connections with at least three other labs. Students sometimes chose two co-mentors for their PhD, combining research from two rotations for their dissertation work.

Additional Scientific Training

“Pizza Talks”

The “Student Research Seminar Series”, colloquially known as “Pizza Talks” is in many ways the highlight of graduate training at Brandeis. Starting in their third year, MCB and Neuroscience PhD students present their research progress to the entire Life Sciences community. These talks are taken very seriously by students, and many credit Pizza Talks for giving them the skills, confidence, and ability to communicate their science to the broader community.

Journal Clubs

MCB students participate in a weekly Journal Clubs focusing on broad topics in genetics, cell biology and molecular biology. Students present in journal clubs starting in their second year, and receive presentation feedback from peers, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty.

Joint Biology & Neuroscience Colloquium

The weekly Joint Biology & Neuroscience Colloquium brings eminent scientists from across the world to present their work. Students attend seminar, and have the opportunity to meet with speakers in small groups for lunch.

View Colloquium schedule

Quantitative Biology Program

The  Quantitative Biology program (QB) at Brandeis University is an interdisciplinary program whose goal is to prepare the next generation of scientists working at the interface of the physical and biomedical sciences.  The program is open to students from all the PhD programs at Brandeis.  The QB program provides additional training to apply quantitative experimental techniques, physical models and mathematical analysis and also provides the opportunity to work in cross-disciplinary teams.  MCB students who complete the program will receive a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a Specialization in Quantitative Biology.

Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC)

Many MCB laboratories are involved in Bioinspired Soft Materials Center, which seeks to understand the properties of biological materials such as filaments, membranes and viral capsids.