While the Cell Biology program is broad-based, involving faculty members at both the medical school and the main campus of Yale, it is administered at the medical school by the Department of Cell Biology, which is sufficiently small and organized to provide students with close individual attention and a stimulating environment of intellectual and social activities that enhance learning and research.

There are 3 main requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Cell Biology: 

  • A thesis based on independent research
  • 2 terms of teaching
  • Completion of coursework

Click here to learn more about life in the department.

Primary emphasis is placed on independent research on a thesis topic. The student chooses the thesis topic in consultation with the faculty advisor. After passing the qualifying exam on the thesis topic by the end of the second year, students devote full-time to their research. A committee of 4 faculty members, including the advisor, meets with the student every year to provide guidance and to ensure adequate progress.

Students design their curriculum based on their individual needs and interests, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Only five courses are required, including core courses in molecular cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry, an advance seminar course, plus an elective in any area of the student's choosing such as in development, neurobiology, and immunology. Most students complete the course requirement in the first year.

Graduate Student Handbook

This handbook is intended to be a source of information for graduate students studying for the Ph.D. degree in the Department of Cell Biology at Yale.  

Students as well as faculty should be able to find answers to questions that may occur to them from time to time about the Cell Biology Ph.D. program and its specific policies. 

Graduate Student Handbook

Teaching is an important skill valued by the program. Students are expected to teach the equivalent of two terms, and can fulfill this requirement by teaching in any of a large number of lecture, laboratory, and seminar courses taken by undergraduate, graduate or medical students. Some students elect to teach an additional term for pay.

The Cell Biology program puts special emphasis on the development of effective communication skills, which are critically important for future success as scientists. Students, along with postdocs, participate in the weekly Progress Report series where they describe their research and hone their presentation skills in front of an audience of students, postdocs, and faculty. Students are also encouraged to attend national and international scientific meetings to present posters or to give talks about their research.

In addition to regular coursework, the seminars presented by scientists invited from other institutions in this country and abroad represent another integral component of the Cell Biology program. Students are expected and encouraged to enhance their knowledge of their own research area and to develop a broad appreciation of other scientific fields by attending these seminars scheduled regularly throughout Yale. In the Cell Biology program, students have exceptional opportunities to meet seminar speakers, and to play an active role in choosing, inviting, and hosting seminar speakers.

Fields of Study

  • Axon guidance 
  • Cell biology of bone remodeling and of the cytoskeleton 
  • Cell biology of protozoan parasites and of pathogen/host interactions
  • Cell biology of the immune response 
  • Cellular signaling and motility 
  • Cytokinesis 
  • Developmental genetics
  • Epithelial cell polarity 
  • Membrane function in the nervous system (synapse formation and function) 
  • Membrane traffic and protein sorting 
  • mRNA biogenesis and localization 
  • Non-coding RNAs 
  • Organelle biogenesis 
  • RNA folding 
  • Stem cells 
  • Structural biology