Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCD)


The graduate training track in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology provides intensive training in the skills necessary to begin outstanding research and teaching careers in modern biology. The goal of the program is to produce graduates with both a broad foundation in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, as well as in-depth knowledge and skills in the specific area of their thesis research. New trainees undertake rigorous core coursework that emphasizes critical evaluation of scientific models and experimental results. New trainees also participate in three seven-week laboratory rotations and at the end of the first year initiate independent research, which ultimately leads to a dissertation. Second-year students take an oral qualifying exam. Graduate students work under the direct supervision of one of thirty-eight affiliated faculty members in a highly interactive, collaborative research environment. All students participate in a variety of seminars, advanced special topics courses, and research group meetings designed to provide continuing learning opportunities.

General Requirements

  • Coursework: Students take 7 courses – 5 core courses and 2 electives (courses listed below).
  • Research Rotations: Students complete 3 rotations in different laboratories during the 1st year.
  • Rotation Seminar: Students present a talk at the end of each rotation in the 1st year.
  • Teaching: Students must fulfill no less that 2 TAships in their graduate career.
  • Oral Qualifying Exam: Exam is taken at the end of the 2nd year.
  • Research Seminar: Students formally present their research at the end of the 3rd year.
  • Thesis Advisory Committee: Students must meet with their Thesis Advisory Committee at least once a year.
  • Doctoral Dissertation: Students must submit a doctoral thesis to their Thesis Advisory Committee.
  • Oral Dissertation Defense : Students must present a formal departmental seminar on their thesis research.

Required Course Work

Required Core Courses:

  • Bio 200A: Critical Analysis of Scientific Literature (Fall)
  • Bio 200B: Advanced Molecular Biology (Winter)
  • Bio 200C: Advanced Cell Biology (Spring)
  • Bio 200D: Advanced Developmental Biology (Spring)
  • Bio 289: Practice of Science (Year 2)

Elective Courses (students select 2)

  • Bio 201                 RNA Processing, M. Ares, M. Jurica, J. Sanford
  • Bio 203                Ribosomes and Translation, H. Noller
  • Bio 204                 Chromatin and Transcription, H. Boeger, G. Hartzog, R. Kamakaka
  • Bio 205                Epigenetics, S. Strome, J. Tamkun
  • Bio 206                Introduction to Stem Cell Biology, B. Sullivan
  • Bio 206L              Current Protocols in Stem Cell Biology, D. Feldheim
  • Bio 207                 Population Genetics
  • Bio 208                 Cellular Signaling Mechanisms, D. Kellogg
  • Bio 214                Advances in Cancer Biology, L. Hinck
  • Bio 215                Applied Statistics for Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
  • Bio 217                Influence of Environment and Experience on Brain Development, Y. Zuo & D. Smith
  • Bio 226                Advanced Neuroscience, Y. Zuo
  • Bio 228                Developmental Neurobiology, B. Chen
  • AMS 156*            Linear Regression
  • AMS 202*            Linear Models
  • AMS 205B*          Intermediate Classical Interference
  • AMS 256*            Linear Statistical Models
  • AMS 266A            Data Visualization and Statistical Programming in R
  • BME 110              Computational Biology Tools
  • BME 130/Bio182   Genomes
  • BME 160              Research Programming in the Life Sciences
  • BME 163/263        Applied Analysis and Visualization of Scientific Data
  • BME 205              Bioinformatics: Models and Algorithms
  • BME 210              Applications and Analysis of Microarrays
  • BME 220             Bioinformatics
  • BME 222              Applied Biotechnology: Engineering Immunotherapeutic Drugs
  • BME 229              Protein and Cell Engineering
  • BME 230              Computational Genomics
  • BME 237              Applied RNA Bioinformatics
  • Chem 200A           Advanced Biochem: Biophysical Methods
  • Chem 200B           Advanced Biochem: Protein Structure and Function
  • Chem 200C           Advanced Biochem: Structure and Function of Nucleic Acids
  • Chem 230**          Grant Writing
  • EE 215                 Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) Design
  • EE 293                 Advanced Topics in Electrical Engineering
  • METX 202            Cellular and Molecular Toxicology
  • METX 206A         Advanced Microbiology
  • METX 210            Bacterial Pathogenesis
  • METX 238            Pathogenesis: Molecular Mechanisms of Disease     
  • PDP**                 Training in teaching offered by the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators (ISEE)

* Students who have had no or very little Statistics should audit or take AMS 7 (5 credits) and perhaps also AMS 7L (2 credits) to learn the basics, before taking 1 of the graduate level courses.

** Students who take Chem 230 Grant Writing and participate in the Professional Development Program (PDP) may count only 1 of those toward additional graduate coursework.


Individuals may be advised to take additional undergraduate courses to remedy specific deficiencies in their academic background.

Detailed descriptions of courses and other requirements can be reviewed in the 2017-2018 MCDB Graduate Handbook.

For additional questions specific to the MCD Biology training track, email the MCDB Graduate Program Adviser, Grace Kistler-Fair at

nih UCSC's graduate  Program in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering is supported by training grants from the National Institute of General Medical Science and the National Human Genome Research Institute.