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The goal of EPB is to create young scientists who approach problems at the life sciences/physical sciences interface in a new way (above). A key element in such an endeavor is to spark the imaginations of students and mentoring faculty alike, always in the context of an intellectually rigorous environment. To this end, the focal point of the first year graduate student experience will be courses in which faculty members have the opportunity to impart, in a direct and personal way, his or her own special qualities and gifts as a scientist while concomitantly bringing out the special qualities in each individual student. At the same time, students and faculty will explicitly try to think and work together to come up with new ideas, new questions and new approaches in the area of physical biology.

The EPB track leads only to the PhD degree, which will ordinarily be granted by the Host Department through which the student has entered. During the first year, each student will be required to take three courses (corresponding to five half courses) designed specifically for EPB students plus an EPB-specific summer tutorial in computation. An additional three half-courses in the first year, and two to eight half-courses in the second year, will be used for two purposes: (i) to increase basic background training in unfamiliar disciplines and explore new subject areas, and (ii) satisfy any additional requirements of the Host Department. Each student will develop their own course program in consultation with the EPB Mentoring Committee and appropriate representative(s) of the relevant Host Department.

In spring of the second year, students will take a qualifying examination to confirm their suitability for PhD dissertation research. Research towards the dissertation may begin as early as the end of the first year or as late as the end of the second year. Students will also participate each year in the EPB/daVinci Annual Symposium, where they will be featured speakers. Students will also be involved teaching of graduate-level courses, normally in the second and third years. Opportunities for mentoring of younger students also be available.

EPB Courses
(Proposed for the academic year 2005-2006).

Interesting Questions in Physical Biology. One important limiting step in scientific progress is the formulation of appropriate questions. This is particularly true in an emerging perspective such as physical biology. "Interesting Questions in Physical Biology" is a full-year course designed to unite faculty and students in the search for such questions. The course will comprise a series of two-week modules, each given by a pair of daVinci faculty, one from the physical sciences and one from the life sciences, and will involve both lecture and literature-reading/discussion components.

Experimental Approaches to Physical Biology ("EPB Lab")
. A second limiting step in scientific progress, also particularly critical for emerging perspectives, is the development of new experimental methodologies. In the case of physical biology, the crucial task will be development of new methods for measuring physical and mechanical effects in living cells or, short of that, measuring effects in vitro which can then be correlated with validating in vivo phenomena. EPB Lab will be a full-year course that targets this issue. In the first half of this course, students will become acquainted with a variety of known methodologies, including many that are the unique provenance of daVinci Group faculty, via integrated research projects in which both biological and physical approaches are integrated to investigate new questions. In the second half of the course, Students (and faculty) envision and propose strange, innovative and interesting new approaches and then implement them in the laboratory setting.

Embedded Research Experience
. In order for students to understand the true nature of research, where problems are addressed at a detailed and highly sophisticated level, students will become "embedded" in the laboratories of relevant faculty members where they will carry out a research project under the direct guidance of the faculty member, in an apprenticeship role. These projects will often be offshoots of the ongoing project of an advanced graduate student or post-doctoral fellow. Students will make their selections from a list of potential projects suggested in advance by faculty. Students with physics/engineering backgrounds will be encouraged to embed themselves in laboratories with a biology emphasis; students with biology backgrounds will be encouraged to embed themselves in laboratories with a physics/engineering emphasis. This course may be taken more than once to provide an apprenticeship experience with more than one faculty member.

Summer Tutorial in Computation. To provide a foundation in investigating problems by computational and theoretical approaches, each student will spend the summer embedded in the group of a relevant faculty member carrying out a theoretical or computational project.

Requirements of Host Departments
Each student's course program must include courses that satisfy the requirements of the "EPB Track" within his or her Host Department. The EPB courses listed above satisfy some of these requirements; others are still being finalized but, tentatively, are as follows:

MCB. Three appropriate half courses in life sciences, physics or engineering.

Physics. EPB students will need to meet all of the requirements of other graduate students in the Department of Physics, as described:

DEAS. One half course in bio-engineering, bio-materials or bio-physics plus six half courses drawn from applied mathematics, applied physics and engineering. and

Additional information about specific courses suggested to meet these requirements and other conditions applicable to students studying for the Ph.D. in each of the three Departments is available on the corresponding web sites.

Non-EPB Course Offerings
EPB students will be free to sample the entire range of (appropriate) advanced undergraduate and graduate courses offered by Harvard University. To learn more about the available courses, see the Harvard University FAS "Courses of Instruction" ( Additionally, as a result of an exchange agreement between the universities, graduate students at Harvard may also enroll in upper level courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
The procedure for doing so is outlined under "Cross-Registration into Courses Offered by Other Faculties" in The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook:

Qualifying Examination
In spring of the second year, each student will be given an oral examination by a panel of faculty representing biology, biochemistry, engineering and physics. Abstracts of four scientific papers, one in each area, will be chosen from the recent literature and presented to the student. The student will be given an hour to prepare and will then answer questions regarding the subject, experimental approaches and conclusions in each abstract.

Dissertation Research
An EPB student may choose to carry out their dissertation research in the laboratory of any member of the daVinci Group or another member of the FAS science faculty. Dissertation research will normally be completed in four or five years from time of initiation, i.e. five or six years from the time of matriculation into EPB program.

Teaching Experience
Each student will be required to be a teaching fellow in two half-courses drawn from EPB210AB, EPB220AB and other approved courses. Teaching requirement to be completed no later than the end of the third year. Additional teaching permitted, subject to approval of the thesis supervisor.

EPB/daVinci Annual Symposium
One-day symposium to be held in early September of each year will include talks by four invited outside speakers plus individual ten-minute presentations by each EPB graduate student and other members of the daVinci Group, with ample opportunity for informal and individual discussions.

Mentoring by EPB/daVinci Faculty
The bulk of EPB student/faculty contacts will occur informally, in the context of EPB courses, EPB/daVinci Group activities, and via scientific interactions amongst different EPB/daVinci laboratories. However, to ensure that each student is on the right track, these interactions will be supplemented by a more formal mentoring process. Each first- and second-year student will meet twice with a standing committee of EPB faculty to plan his or her program and to discuss progress and any encountered difficulties. In later years, students will meet once per year to discuss progress and problems with a group of faculty of their own choosing. In all of these settings, faculty will play an advocacy role with respect to the involved students. Students may also meet with mentoring committees of the Departments through which they enter.

Tuition, Fees and Stipend
Every EPB student will be fully supported throughout his or her graduate career by some combination of GSAS funds, Departmental funds, teaching fellowships and faculty research grants. The exact source(s) of funding will vary according to the student's Host Department. Funding policies and stipend levels for Physics, MCB and DEAS graduate students are described in the corresponding web sites:


2005 daVinci Group retreat. For additional images explore the Retreat Program & Photos section.