Graduate Education

Ph.D. Program

The Omenn-Darling Bioengineering Institute (ODBI) at Princeton University provides world-class academic mentorship to students intending to work toward the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Bioengineering. ODBI sits at the nexus of a rapidly growing and interdisciplinary Bioengineering community, which is pioneering new research and training the next generation of Bioengineering leaders.

Based in the School for Engineering and Applied Sciences, with affiliate labs across campus, students in the Bioengineering doctoral program will benefit from Princeton's uniquely collaborative environment. Students' work will be based in one or more of the pillars of Princeton's Bioengineering research: Cellular Bioengineering, Device Bioengineering, and Computational Bioengineering. The Ph.D. is awarded primarily on the basis of a thesis describing original research in one area of Bioengineering. In order to be well-prepared to undertake this research, students will complete seven (7) courses, five (5) within their first year of study, and participate in adviser rotations. Once a student is matched with an adviser, they will work together to select a committee, consisting of the adviser and two other faculty members, with whom the student will meet annually.



Program Description

The new Bioengineering PhD program at the Ommen-Darling Bioengineering Institute is organized around building a vibrant community that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries, with research focusing on cellular, hardware, and computational bioengineering all “under one roof”. Our goal is to catalyze new collaborations and research directions, equally promoting both fundamental innovations and translational applications.

This approach is built into the DNA of our new institute, spanning our interdisciplinary faculty, cutting-edge in-house equipment, and our modern graduate education program focused on hands-on training. Our institute vision of promoting diverse perspectives, ideas, and following the research allows us to train future Bioengineering leaders and explorers. 


Departmental Coursework Requirement

Students are required to take seven (7) semester-long courses, which include five (5) core courses and two (2) electives.

Prior to the general exam (see below), students must pass:

  • Advanced Bioengineering I: Cellular Engineering, Imaging, & Devices;
  • Research Topics in Bioengineering;
  • Advanced Bioengineering II: Theory, Computation, & Analysis;
  • EGR501: A Course on Ethics in Engineering; and
  • BIOE: Bioengineering Innovation, Organization, and Entrepreneurship.

Prior to the end of the third year, students must complete two more elective courses, selected from a large set of current Princeton courses by the student and their adviser based on their research interests.

Students will need to complete a curriculum consisting of 7 required semester-long courses. This includes 5 core courses, and 2 electives. 

To ensure that all incoming students are properly prepared to pursue their PhD work with appropriate depth, breadth, and rigor, students must demonstrate proficiency in molecular cell biology, computer science/programming, and advanced mathematical theory/techniques. This proficiency can be demonstrated either prior to admission through undergraduate coursework or by taking one or more relevant courses (decided in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) during the first year of graduate study at Princeton.

Additional pre-generals requirements

Rotations and Advisor Selection

Students will complete three unique research rotations of equal length in the first year of study. To ensure significant exposure of students to a spectrum of both theoretical and experimental work, the rotations must include at least one theoretical/computational rotation, and at least one experimental rotation. Students will be matched with their thesis adviser after the completion of their third rotation in their first year of study. If no suitable match is found, students will have the option of undertaking a fourth rotation.

Bioengineering Colloquium

Bioengineering students will also be required to participate in our weekly Bioengineering Colloquium. This includes attending regularly and interacting informally during a dedicated lunch meeting with each of our invited speakers, and also working with the other students to choose and host one external speaker. Attendance will be documented with a sign-in sheet; satisfactory student participation will be considered as attendance of 80% or more of the lectures.

General exam

The general examination will consist of two components. The first component is mastery of graduate-level Bioengineering material, demonstrated by satisfactory grades in the departmental core courses. “Satisfactory” means a passing grade in EGR 501, the Research Topics Course, and the BIOE course, and a minimum grade of B- in the other two core courses. The second component is the thesis proposal document, which is a written document defended orally. The written document outlines plans for dissertation research, including progress already made. This document is submitted in late Fall of the second year and is defended orally in January, before a committee of three faculty members–at least two must be core faculty members in Bioengineering. Note that the advisor will not be present during the defense of the thesis proposal. Prior to the exam, the candidate and their advisor will submit a list of proposed examiners to the Director of Graduate Studies who will make the final examiner assignments. The committee will take into account Satisfactory completion of the core course requirements, and defense of the thesis proposal is required to advance to degree candidacy. Students must pass both components before May of the second year. If deficiencies are found either at the end of the first year or during the proposal defense, the advisor or examiners, respectively, may require the candidate to take or audit additional coursework from the undergraduate or graduate course offerings.

Qualifying for the M.A.

The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree will normally be an incidental degree on the way to Ph.D. candidacy and will be earned after a student successfully passes the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met. 


A student must teach a minimum of one full-time assignment (6 AI hours), or teach two or more part-time assignments for a total of 6 AI hours. Students will typically teach in year 3 or 4 of the program. For students who secure certain competitive fellowships that do not allow teaching, this requirement can be lifted with approval from the DGS.

Post-generals requirements

After students complete course work, lab rotations, and the general exam, a yearly committee meeting is required for re-enrollment. This meeting is scheduled by the student. The committee consists of the adviser and two other faculty members; the committee must include faculty with a mix of experimental and theoretical/computational expertise. The responsibility of the committee is to work with the advisor to help advise students during their research. At the conclusion of each committee meeting, a brief summary and any recommendations will be provided by the committee. To facilitate students maintaining progress in formulating and meeting their goals through the Ph.D., they will also be encouraged to implement individual Development Plans, and review these plans and the recommendations of their committee with their primary advisor and committee members.

Dissertation and FPO

The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral (FPO) examination sustained. The FPO committee will consist of the student's adviser, two committee members, and one additional faculty member.

Contact information

Director of Graduate Studies:
Daniel Cohen, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Graduate Program Administrator:
Jessica Varela


Applications are closed for Fall 2024. To learn about the next application cycle, please contact Jessica Varela.



Contact information

Director of Graduate Studies

Daniel Cohen, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Graduate Program Administrator

Jessica Varela, Manager of Educational Operations, Outreach and Events