Our Vitals: Common Questions and Answers

What is HST’s mission?

We believe every class, every clinical experience, and every student we welcome should work toward a single goal: to use science and engineering to advance human health. We educate outstanding minds and cultivate leaders who will explore fundamental principles underlying disease and develop preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic innovations.

Are HST students part of Harvard, MIT, or both?

HST students enjoy the best of both worlds, with full access to classes, faculty, research labs, libraries, academic resources, and myriad opportunities at both Harvard and MIT. Each student has a primary institution for administrative purposes and ultimately to award their degree.

What degrees are offered by HST?

HST students work toward an MD degree or a PhD in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP). HST MD students can optionally join the Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program. For current MIT students only, HST offers a Graduate Education in Medical Science (GEMS) certificate.

How is the HST MD program different from other MD programs?

HST adds a new dimension to medical school. The HST MD curriculum highlights the frontiers of what is known and what remains to be discovered. HST MD students gain a deep understanding of the fundamental principles underlying disease and acquire the clinical skills of traditional medical training. In addition, each HST MD student undertakes a meaningful research project in one of several hundred laboratories at Harvard, MIT, and local hospitals. It’s the perfect beginning to a multidisciplinary career as a physician-scientist.

How is HST’s MEMP PhD program different from other PhD programs?

In the Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) PhD program, students choose one of 11 technical concentrations and design an individualized curriculum to ground themselves in the foundations of that discipline. They study medical sciences alongside MD students and become fluent in the language and culture of medicine through structured clinical experiences. MEMP PhD students select research projects from among laboratories at MIT, Harvard, and local hospitals, then tackle important questions through the multiple lenses of their technical discipline and their medical training. HST MEMP students learn how to ask better questions, identify promising research areas, and translate research findings into real-world medical practice.

Who should apply to HST?

HST thrives when it reflects the diversity of the community it serves. While admission is selective, we encourage applicants from groups historically underrepresented in STEM, students with non-traditional academic backgrounds, and students from academic institutions that have not previously sent many students to Harvard and MIT.

HST MEMP PhD applicants typically hold undergraduate degrees in an engineering discipline or a physical/quantitative science, such as chemistry, physics, computer science, or computational neuroscience. They demonstrate a sustained interest in applying engineering and physical/quantitative science to biology or medicine.

Half of the students in our MD program have majored in biological sciences and half in physical sciences. They’re comfortable with mathematics and computational methods, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

How many students are in HST?

Our program is home to about 300 students at any given time. Approximately 20 new MEMP PhD students and 30 new MD or MD-PhD students join our community each year.

What other academic programs does HST offer?

HST’s Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) certificate program is open to students already enrolled in an MIT doctoral program. Through coursework and tailored clinical experiences, GEMS scholars learn how advances in basic science and engineering can become therapies and tools for improving human health.

HST’s Summer Institute is a nine-week program designed for outstanding undergraduate students. Participants gain real-world research experience and explore potential careers in biomedical engineering and science, with emphasis on the field of biomedical optics.