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About the MIT Department of Biology

Training and research in the department range from general biology to more specialized fields of study and investigation. Quantitative aspects of biology are emphasized and molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, and cell biology are an essential part of the academic program. Courses are designed to give students a solid background in the physical sciences and an integrated scientific perspective. Students graduate from the MIT Department of Biology with the intellectual resources they need to assume leading roles in many areas, including research, teaching, and industry.

MIT biologists are deeply engaged in both fundamental research and its applications. The department promotes a highly collaborative environment that allows for a free exchange of ideas across research areas and academic disciplines. The result is a rigorous, creative, dynamic culture in which scientists and students tackle the important problems and questions in biology and related fields. Our location at the heart of one of the world’s most important biotech/pharma hubs creates exciting opportunities for research, employment, and the commercialization of new discoveries. The department is commited to a culture of inclusion and to promoting participation from diverse groups of students, staff and faculty.

Learn more about MIT Biology's areas of research.

Leading-edge research centers and facilities

The MIT Department of Biology is headquartered at the Koch Biology Building, but the activities of the department span five additional state-of-the-art research locations:

The technology platforms and interdisciplinary collaborations located in these facilities are rare or even unique among peer institutions. Each facility has grown out of the work of MIT biologists, and many faculty members have labs at these locations. All facilities are within a few minutes walk of one another.

Learn more about MIT Biology’s research locations.

Pioneering collaborations

Many members of the MIT Biology faculty are also members of one of the department’s five research centers. Still others hold joint appointments in biology and another MIT academic department, such as

These interdisciplinary partnerships result in innovative approaches to applied and basic research in areas like brain and cancer research, genetics and the human genome, infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, and stem-cell biology and regeneration.

Commitment to instruction and mentoring

MIT Biology’s strong faculty rankings reflect the passion of its professors for instruction and mentoring. A commitment to rigor and the highest standards of excellence combine in equal measure with support and collegiality. Collaboration and communication skills are highly valued. Professors mentor graduate students and they, in turn, mentor younger students. As part of their training, MIT Biology graduate students complete two semesters as teaching assistants.

Commitment to diversity and inclusion

A diverse student body is and has long been critical to the educational mission of MIT. We are committed to providing our students “with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community.”

Our goal in forming the student body might simply be to select students who are, individually, excellent. Indeed, this is essential to our practice: every student we admit has demonstrated academic and personal excellence that placed them at the top of our applicant pool. But we strive for more than just individual excellence. Because our students learn so much from one another, our goal is to form a student body that is, collectively, excellent: an excellent group of excellent students, who will surprise, challenge, and support one another.

Our educational approach, reflected in the MIT motto Mens et Manus, engages graduate students directly in the process of innovation — hands-on work, often carried out in research groups, that requires creativity as well as camaraderie. Our graduate students’ success depends on their exposure to many viewpoints and their ability to trust peers to provide both support and criticism. Moreover, the experience of working with a diverse set of peers at MIT prepares our graduate students to work effectively in the world outside MIT: it opens their minds and attunes them both to the variety of strengths and the variety of concerns of others.

Diversity of viewpoints is derived from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences along many dimensions, among which are gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, nationality, disability, religion, age, veteran status and socio-economic background.

How much diversity is necessary to achieve our goals? Every student should feel that “there are people like me here” and “there are people different from me here.” No student should feel isolated; all students should come into contact with members of other groups and experience them as colleagues with valuable ideas and insights.

It is through this experience of the richness and diversity of interests, strengths, viewpoints and concerns of their fellow students that our graduate students become open-minded intellectuals, leaders and innovators, primed to pursue the MIT mission of the betterment of humankind.

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MIT Biology Community

The department is home to approximately 180 undergraduates, 200 graduate students, 100+ postdoctoral researchers, and more than 70 world-renowned faculty, including:

  • 3 Nobel laureates 
  • 29 members of the National Academy of Sciences 
  • 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators
  • 4 recipients of the National Medal of Science

Read about some of the honors and awards presented to MIT Biology faculty

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MIT Biology is known globally for

BIOLOG, the Department of Biology Newsletter

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Additional information about digital learning in the Department