Molecular Cell Biology

Students and faculty in the Molecular Cell Biology program are involved in a wide array of investigations into many fundamental cell processes and the mechanisms that control them. Among the subjects currently under investigation are:

  • gene expression
  • mechanisms of transcription and tissue-specific transcription regulation
  • molecular mechanisms involved in cell proliferation; cell cytoskeleton, motility and chemotaxis
  • pathways for the trafficking of molecules into and out of cells
  • receptor-ligand interactions involved in regulation of cell growth and cell phenotype
  • signal transduction molecules and pathways
  • lipid metabolism
  • assembly of supramolecular structures including extracellular matrix
  • mechanisms of enzyme catalysis and inhibition
  • mechanisms of pathogenesis

A common theme uniting these research programs is the desire to understand essential cellular functions at the highest possible level of molecular resolution.

Program of study

Students in the Molecular Cell Biology (MCB) program will typically take four (4) to five (5) courses during their first year. Students will also participate in three laboratory rotations over the fall and spring semesters of Year 1 prior to selecting a thesis lab.  Students are expected to complete the following coursework during their entire graduate education:

DBBS required courses

Graduate Research Fundamentals
Ethics and Research Science – typically taken in Year 2

Program required courses

Fundamentals in Molecular Cell Biology
Nucleic Acids and Protein Biosynthesis

One (1) advanced elective

Advanced Genetics
Biology and Pathology of the Visual System
Biotech Industry Innovators
Computational Molecular Biology
Developmental Biology
Immunobiology I
Immunobiology II
Macromolecular Interactions
Molecular, Cell and Organ Systems
Molecular Microbiology and Pathogenesis

Two (2) semesters of journal clubs

Advanced MRI Techniques
Cancer Biology
Cardiovascular Biophysics
Computational Molecular Biology
Current Research in Chromatin, Epigenetics and Nuclear Organization
Current Topics in Biochemistry
RAD (Regeneration, Aging and Development) Journal Club
DNA Metabolism
Experimental Hematopoiesis
Experimental Skeletal Biology
Extracellular Matrix and Cell Matrix Interactions
Genetics and Development of C. Elegans
Ion Channels
Imaging Science & Engineering
Misfolding & Aggregation
Molecular Mechanism of Aging
Molecular Microbiology and Pathogenesis
Molecular Virology
Nanomedicine Applications
Oral Presentation of Scientific Data
Plant and Microbial Biology
Protein NMR
RNA Biology
Structural Biology
Tropical and Molecular Parasitology

Qualifying exam

In the spring/summer semesters of Year 2, students must pass a Qualifying Exam (QE). Following a successful QE defense, students will identify and finalize their committee and complete their thesis proposal by December 31 of Year 3.

Thesis committee, proposal, and defense

In the summer and/or fall semesters of Year 2 after rotations are completed, students will select a thesis advisor and begin working in their thesis labs. Students will then select a thesis committee and complete their thesis proposal. Students will complete their thesis research, defense, and graduation over the rest of their graduate career. Most students graduate within five (5) to six (6) years of beginning their program.

Alumni outcomes

MCB graduates pursue a variety of careers. Most program graduates go into academia, but many find paths in industry, government, and other fields, like science communication, law, and business and entrepreneurship.

Graduate Program Administrator: 
Stacy Kiel

Faculty Co-Directors: 
Roberta Faccio, PhD
Zhongsheng You, PhD