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Graduate Student Program

Graduate Fields at Cornell University

Graduate education at Cornell University is organized by Fields – groups of faculty who share an area of common scientific interest and come together in the training of graduate students. For example, the core of the Graduate Field of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology (BMCB) is supported by over 50 faculty and is formed by faculty members of the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics and also by a specialized group of faculty with similar interests in a variety of other Departments, such as Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Plant Biology, Nutritional Sciences, Applied and Engineering Physics, Microbiology, Physics, Biomedical Sciences, Microbiology and Immunology, and Molecular Medicine. Since graduate students entering the program have the opportunity to work in the laboratories of any Field member, this provides a diverse, but related, set of research opportunities. For more information on Cornell’s Graduate Fields of study, and admission deadlines, click here.

Graduate Fields in which Weill Institute faculty participate

Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology (BMCB)

To expand strength in the areas of biochemistry, structural biology, genetics, and molecular, cellular and developmental biology, a new home for the Field of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology was created: the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, which was formed by merging the Section of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology and the Section of Genetics and Development and adding new faculty. In cooperation with the Cornell Genomics Initiative, new faculty are being added to the department and Field, particularly in the areas of structural biology and molecular and cellular functional genomics.

Biomedical Engineering

To prepare students to work in the rapidly changing Field of Biomedical Engineering, the programs focus on developing intellectual breadth in the many aspects of biomedical engineering, as well as depth in one particular area of engineering. Throughout their program, students work closely with biological and clinical scientists, integrate knowledge from a broad range of fields to synthesize solutions, and use their technical problem-solving skills to translate ideas into needed products.


A relatively young and interdisciplinary field compared with the traditional sciences of physics and chemistry, Biophysics holds great promise for new understandings and practical applications. One team of biophysicists at Cornell, the Structure-Based Drug Design Group, is applying advanced techniques for determining three-dimensional molecular structures to the development of new methods for creating novel drugs. Combining the X-ray diffraction patterns of crystals, the results of high-resolution, multidimensional NMR spectroscopy and advanced computational methods, the biophysicists study the molecular architecture of specific target proteins, such as viral components, at atomic resolution to gain insight into the design of new inhibitors that could bind and disable those proteins.

Computational Biology

The graduate Field of Computational Biology offers Ph.D. degrees in the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological systems. Computation has become essential to biological research. Genomic databases, protein databanks, MRI images of the human brain, and remote sensing data on landscapes contain unprecedented amounts of detailed information that are transforming almost all of biology. The computational biologist must have skills in mathematics and computation as well as in biology. A key goal in training is to develop the ability to relate biological processes to computational models.

Genetics and Development (G&D)

Cornell’s Field of Genetics and Development encompasses a wide range of research areas in molecular genetics of developmental and cellular processes as well as population and evolutionary genetics (see Faculty interests). New graduate students are introduced to specific research programs by faculty members during their first semester. In addition, current graduate students and postdoctoral fellows discuss their research progress in weekly seminars.

During the first semester, new graduate students pick three laboratories they might want to work in and arrange to spend 2-month rotation period in each. Students generally start rotations in mid-October of their first year and settle into a laboratory for their thesis research at the beginning of their first summer. Rotations provide valuable exposure to different research goals, styles and approaches, and are therefore strongly encouraged. However, they are not a formal requirement.

Plant Biology

The Graduate Field of Plant Biology at Cornell ranks as one of the top Plant Biology programs and most interdisciplinary Ph.D. training programs (no M.S. degree) in the country; the program continues to produce tomorrow's leaders in Plant Biology Research and Education. There are about 45 graduate students in the field of plant biology. Currently 47 Faculty are members of the Plant Biology Graduate Field and they include the faculty in the Department of Plant Biology, as well as several faculty from other Departments.