Princeton is starting a Ph.D. Program in Biophysics for students wishing to study at the interface between living systems and physics, at every scale from molecules to ecosystems, including experimental and theoretical work.
“Living matter organizes itself to do remarkable things,” said Joshua Shaevitz, the director of graduate studies for the new program. “The biophysics community at Princeton approaches these challenges from all angles, combining cutting-edge experiments with fundamental theory to understand complex biological phenomena. From the mechanics of molecules to bacterial communities to the evolution of tissues and networks of the brain’s thousands of neurons, we advance through collaborative efforts that bring together different departments and mindsets.”
The multidisciplinary program is led by professors from across the university: from the Lewis-Sigler Institute of Integrative Genomics, which administers the program, and from the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical and Bioengineering, Computer Science, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Molecular Biology , Neuroscience and Physics.
“In my opinion, we have the strongest theoretical biophysics group out there,” said Shaevitz, who is also a professor of physics and at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics. “We have Nobel Prize winners in this field. We have people who just won the Breakthrough Prize for phase separation — Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation — this is the core of molecular biophysics. We have a very strong group in imaging and microscopy. Lots of people are doing experimental physics, designing and building new kinds of tools.”
The program’s 35 professors include members of the National Academy of Sciences, Howard Hughes investigators, and junior faculty who have received major national research awards and prizes. The full list of faculties can be found here.
“It’s scattered across campus, but overall Princeton has one of the best biophysics research programs in the world,” Shaevitz said. “And it’s special because most biophysics programs are more narrowly focused. Here at Princeton, what we call biophysics and what we consider as our community extends from the smallest molecular scales to animal groups and ecosystems and almost the entire planet.”
Princeton is also home to the Center for the Physics of Biological Function, an NSF Physics Frontier Center focused on experimental and theoretical research in biophysics.
“Over the past 20 years, biophysics has grown a lot on campus,” said Shaevitz. “This was partly a conscious effort and partly organic. Today, biophysicists can be found in almost every science and engineering department on campus in one way or another. But what we found was that we had exceptional students, and in fact with the Physics Frontier Center, we had really great postdocs, but we didn’t have room for graduate students coming out of undergraduate and knowing that they’re at this interface between biology and want to work in physics.”
Students in the new Biophysics graduate program have access to a wealth of resources, including world-leading microscopy, computation and manufacturing skills.
The program is now welcoming applicants for the 2023-2024 school year. To enter the inaugural class, applicants should apply directly to the Biophysics Program through Princeton University Graduate School by December 1, 2022.