What an exciting time to study virology! Here at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and affiliated hospitals, our virology community is at the forefront of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: from advancing vaccine candidates for human clinical trials and pioneering diagnostic and surveillance efforts to conducting basic research in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. This work continues our community’s long history of virology research. We have made, and continue to make, seminal contributions to basic research elucidating new structures of viruses, viral glycoproteins, and virus-encoded enzymes, characterizing viral trafficking within cells, and mechanisms that control cell growth. We are among the world leaders in the design and testing of HIV, genital herpes, and influenza vaccines.

With emerging and re-emerging viruses such as Ebola, Chikungunya, and Nipah, as well as the continuing HIV epidemic, next-generation vaccines are urgently needed. Furthermore, novel approaches to antiviral drug discovery and development are needed. Additionally, the role of such viruses as Merkel cell polyoma, papilloma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and Epstein-Barr virus in human cancer highlight challenges necessary to investigate to prevent and treat these diseases.

The Harvard Program in Virology provides extraordinary opportunities to conduct graduate study for the PhD degree in these exciting areas of biomedical science. The size of our program makes us ideally suited for students interested in collegial student-student and student-faculty interactions. First-year students meet weekly with more senior students and faculty at the Virology Program student journal club (the Data Club), at research seminars, and in luncheon discussion groups. Importantly, our virology community celebrates all aspects of every individual including, but not limited to, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sex, national origin, immigration status; we especially encourage all members of under-represented minorities to apply for graduate study.

The program is a joint effort of more than 50 faculty based throughout Harvard University, Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals, and Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health. Specific research areas include:

  • The molecular genetics, molecular biology, and molecular pathogenesis of latent, persistent, or cytolytic virus infections,
  • The characterization of virus-receptor interactions and the mechanisms of cell entry, structural studies of viruses and viral proteins,
  • Mechanisms of cell growth control, transformation, signal transduction, and transcriptional regulation,
  • The use of virus vectors for heterologous gene expression and for gene therapy,
  • The interaction of viruses with innate immunity,
  • The pathogenesis of viral infection and rational antiviral drug design.

The PhD Program in Virology was formed in 1983 and is conducted under the auspices of the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS), part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). PhD degrees are awarded through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University. As mentioned above, the relatively small size of the student body and faculty makes this program a good fit for students seeking a collegial environment for their graduate studies.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about the program.

With best wishes,

David Knipe
Head, Program in Virology


Ben Gewurz
Co-Head, Program in Virology