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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences

Graduate Program (MCDB)

The MCDB path is particularly well suited for M.S. and Ph.D. students with interests in biomedical fields, but is also appropriate for non-biomedical research with a molecular/cellular focus. The MCDB group has broad, cross-disciplinary interests that include cancer and RNA biology, DNA repair, animal and plant development and disease, genomics and bioinformatics, neuroscience, and signal transduction pathways in normal and disease states.

Ph.D. students are required to complete 60 course credits. M.S. students are required to complete 30 course credits. A set of five core MCDB courses are considered important for most incoming students. If other courses are better suited to the academic development of the student, approval for a different curriculum must be obtained. Approval is by a committee that includes the student’s major professor and a provisional committee of the current head of MCDB and one other faculty member. Remaining credits typically are earned through research, and thesis or dissertation preparation. 

A typical curriculum for an MCDB graduate student is as follows:

Semester 1:
BIOL 711: Structure and Function of Nucleic Acids
BIOL 717: Biological Chemistry (part 1)

Semester 2:
BIOL 712: DNA Transactions and Gene Expression
BIOL 714: Advanced Cell Biology
BIOL 718: Biological Chemistry (part 1)

Future Fall Semesters:
BIOL 801: Directed Readings in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
BIOL 798 or 799 or 899: Research in Biology, Thesis Preparation (M.S.), or Dissertation Preparation (Ph.D.)

Future Spring Semesters:
BIOL 804: Seminar in Molecular Cellular, and Developmental Biology
BIOL 798 or 799 or 899: Research in Biology, Thesis Preparation (M.S.), or Dissertation Preparation (Ph.D.)

Several upper level courses open to undergraduates and graduate students may also be useful to MCDB students, such as Histology (BIOL 530), Immunology (BIOL 620), Neurobiology (BIOL 635).

Other Requirements:
Qualifying Exam: Research is considered a vital component of MCDB graduate programs. A brief written preliminary research proposal and defense of the proposal to a qualifying exam committee is expected at the end of the first year of study. This exam is designed to promote early consideration of a potential research direction. 

Dissertation Committee: During their second year students should assemble a Thesis (M. Sci.) or Dissertation (Ph.D.) Committee consisting of their major research professor/advisor and 4 other faculty members, one of which must be chosen from a department outside of Biological Sciences.

Research Proposal: Students will present and defend a more detailed research plan to their Dissertation Committee by the end of their second year. 

Comprehensive Exam: By the end of the third year students will complete a Comprehensive Exam administered by the Thesis or Dissertation Committee. Typically, the student will write a grant proposal on a topic unrelated to their dissertation work. The student will submit the written proposal to the committee and will subsequently defend the proposal orally. 

Teaching requirement: Students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of two semesters. 

Written thesis /dissertation and oral defense: Presented to the Thesis or Dissertation Committee. The Ph.D. defense is open to the public. The M. Sci. defense is not required to be open to the public. The committee determines whether the student has sufficient accomplishments to receive a degree.