PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry

The PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry (MCBB) is designed to build a solid foundation in related fields in the molecular biosciences 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 several departments (e.g., Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Health Sciences). The primary goal of the degree is to prepare students for successful careers in academia, research institutions, or industry (e.g., biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries), or in government as policymakers. The program accepts applicants with degrees in related disciplines where the focus has been on biology, chemistry, biotechnology, biochemistry, or a relevant field.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate academic mastery in the interrelated biological disciplines encompassing at least two of three biological areas: 1) molecular biology, 2) cell biology, and 3) biochemistry, plus in computational analysis.
  • Achieve research expertise and complete a body of original research that advances a specific field of study in the molecular biosciences.
  • 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.

Course Requirements

For details on requirements regarding grade point averages, annual reports, and responsible conduct in research, please see the MCBB graduate program guide.

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. Incoming students with previous graduate credits, including from a master’s degree at a different institution, may apply to transfer course credits toward the PhD degree. Course requirements are as follows:

  • CAS MB 583 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (first semester)
  • CAS MB 584 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (second semester)
  • GRS BI 735 Advanced Cell Biology
  • GRS BI 753 Advanced Molecular Biology
  • GRS MB 697 A Bridge to Knowledge: A Practical Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students
  • GRS MB 721 Graduate Biochemistry or MB 722 Advanced Biochemistry
  • A graduate-level quantitative course from a list of options
  • 12 credits in elective courses

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Qualifying Examination

This examination is designed to test the student’s general knowledge encompassing molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry, as well as the student’s grasp of the proposed research project and ability to synthesize findings and propose and experimentally test hypotheses. It consists of an oral qualifying exam where the student will defend a written research proposal. The exam is administered by a committee of no fewer than five faculty, at least four of whom must be members of the MCBB program (including the thesis advisor). The qualifying exam should be completed within 2.5 years of matriculation into the MCBB PhD program. Any student failing this examination, at the discretion of the examination committee, may have the opportunity to take it again. Failure of the second examination will be grounds for automatic dismissal from the PhD program and the loss of any further financial aid, although the student may still be eligible for the MA provided that those degree requirements are met.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation that presents original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be approved by the readers, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Department Chair/Program Director. Candidates must pass a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their field and demonstrate a mastery of their field of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Teaching Requirement

The PhD program requires a minimum of two semesters of teaching during a graduate student’s career.

Students electing to leave the PhD program may leave with a master’s degree if they have completed their core course requirements, have obtained 32 credits, and have passed their Qualifying Exam, or have otherwise satisfied the requirements of the master’s degree.