PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry

The PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry (MCBB) is designed to build a solid foundation in these three, related fields through coursework and seminars, and to develop the skills for achieving cutting-edge research accomplishments. The program is based on an interdisciplinary environment and a breadth of approaches and biological interests, including faculty from multiple departments (e.g., Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Health Sciences). Its goal is to propel students into successful careers in academia, research institutions, or industry (e.g., biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries), or in government as policy makers. The program accepts applicants with degrees in related disciplines where the focus has been on biology, chemistry, biotechnology, biochemistry, or a relevant field.

Course Requirements

    A total of 64 credits is required. Of these, a minimum of 32 credits must derive from lecture or seminar courses, and a minimum of 12 credits from elective courses. Remaining coursework normally consists of research credits. Course requirements are as follows:

    *Students are required to attend BI 583/584 throughout their graduate career but only 4 credits may count toward the degree.


    All students participate in the MCBB seminar program that consists of one required weekly seminar, and a number of optional seminars and colloquia.

    Required seminar – CM/MCBB Graduate Student Seminar (BI 583/584): This seminar is the keystone of the program. It offers a chance each week for students in the biological sciences and faculty to meet, and creates a forum for the exchange of ideas. PhD students annually present their laboratory research. MA students must also attend.

      Lab Rotations

      First-year Ph.D. students who enter the MCBB Program are required to perform three laboratory rotations of their choice during their first academic year. These laboratory rotations are with MCBB faculty, and each rotation is 6-8 weeks.

      Teaching Requirement

      There is a one year teaching requirement for all MCBB students.

      Preliminary and Qualifying Examinations

      For the Ph.D. degree, preliminary and qualifying examinations must be passed. Once the student has passed these exams, she/he is formally a candidate for the Ph.D. in MCBB.

      Annual Report

      All MCBB students are required to submit an annual report each academic year. This report includes a summary of courses completed, research progress, teaching experience, examinations passed, committee members and meetings held, and publications and presentations.

      Dissertation & Final Oral Exam

      Conferral of the Ph.D. degree in MCBB is dependent upon the successful preparation and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation on original research conducted by the student. Each student has a dissertation committee who helps oversee the research progress. There are annual meetings with the dissertation committee. At the Final Oral Examination the dissertation committee discusses the dissertation work. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS Graduation GuidelinesPlease refer to the Graduate Program Guide for more details about the preparation and submission of the dissertation.

      Please also refer to the GRS Bulletin and the Graduate Program Guide.

      Learning Outcomes: Expectations

      • Demonstrate academic mastery in the interrelated biological disciplines encompassing at least two of three biological areas: Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry
      • Attain research expertise and complete a significant body of original research that advances a specific field of study in the biological sciences
      • Follow the ethics for appropriate behavior in the scientific discipline
      • Be able to teach and promote the field of biological sciences
      • Be prepared to enter the job market