Prospective Students

The MolE Ph.D. program is an interdisciplinary graduate program housed in the UW Graduate School, administered by the Molecular Engineering & Sciences Institute, and overseen by a committee comprised of representatives from the departments of bioengineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, electrical & computer engineering, materials sciences & engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics. Our program removes conventional boundaries between science and engineering disciplines to prepare the next-generation of interdisciplinary researchers and innovators to solve complex health and energy challenges.

student sits in front of computer

“My research benefited from the training I received in that it gave me both a deep and holistic understanding of molecular science as well as the ability to approach my work with an engineering mindset."

– MolE Alum Hao Shen

Engineering Systems from the Molecular Level Up

Our program teaches students a rational approach to engineering highly-complex, multifunctional molecular systems. Students draw on an understanding of the chemical and physical origins of system properties in order to manipulate them and create novel materials and devices. As a trainee, you will learn to design and characterize molecules and systems of molecules, model molecular system behaviors, and exploit the molecular constraints that impact system functionalities.

Program Features

Our program offers you the opportunity to:

Unique Partnerships

MolE graduate students can carry out their doctoral research in one of the over 130 MolES affiliated laboratories located at the University of Washington, Fred Hutch, Institute for Systems Biology, Pacific Northwest Research Institute, and Seattle Children's. This provides students the flexibility to pursue diverse research interests in a range of unique environments.

Distribution of students across UW departments and local research institutes for 2023

Program Timeline and Milestones

Each student’s progress is monitored throughout their tenure at the UW. The total time to degree varies for each student, but most students finish in approximately five years.

Year 1

Select lab

Year 2

Preliminary exam

Year 3

Master of Science

Year 4

General exam

Year 5

Final exam


Students secure a lab placement after completing 1-3 rotations of their choice.


Students are evaluated on their understanding of molecular engineering.


Students receive their M.S. if they have made adequate research progress thus far.


Students are evaluated on the quality of their research.


This exam marks the completion of the student’s dissertation.


MolE students have great flexibility in shaping their curriculum around their own research interests. MolE program coursework is broadly divided into two focus areas: CleanTech (CT) and BioTech (BT). All students are required to take two foundational courses in molecular engineering, a core course in either CleanTech or BioTech depending on their interests, and a seminar course featuring molecular engineering experts. Beyond that, much freedom is given to students to take elective courses that satisfy their research goals and interests. More detailed information about required coursework can be found here.

MolE students can also choose to pursue our Data Science Option, supported by the UW eScience Institute, to receive credentialed training in the analysis of large datasets.

Program Overview

In 2021 the MolE program hosted a virtual information session featuring MolES Education Director Alshakim Nelson moderating a panel with MolES faculty members James Carothers, Eleftheria Roumeli and Jesse Zalatan.