MCB Requirements

Lab Rotation

A one-semester introduction to the research ongoing in an MCB lab of the student’s choice.

Advanced Molecular Biology

MOLCLBIO/BIOCHEM 642 covers structure, biosynthesis, and function of nucleic acids and the translational apparatus. Also, DNA replication; gene organization; chromatin structure; RNA transcription, regulation of gene expression; protein biosynthesis; mRNA, tRNA, and ribosomes.

Teaching Assistants

Students are assigned duties by the faculty member in charge of a course. Typical assignments include instructional laboratory assistance, grading, office hour help, and assistance with lecture setup.

MCB Seminar

The MCB seminar is held weekly during both semesters. Outside speakers are invited by MCB faculty and students.

MCB Colloquium

The MCB colloquium is held each Monday at noon during both semesters. MCB labs present their research and MCB students present rotation results. Pizza is provided for attendees.

Advanced Biochemistry

BIOCHEM 623 emphasizes experimental approaches and problem solving. Topics include protein structure-function, protein folding and modification, enzyme kinetics, and the study of metabolic processes (pathways and their regulation) with a molecular genetic approach. Prerequisites: a minimum of a one-semester course in upper-division biochemistry and BIOCHEM 642.

Advanced Cellular Biology

MOLCLBIO 641 focuses on structure and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Properties of membranes and cellular transport systems, energy transduction, assembly and morphogenesis of organelles, organization of nucleus and cytoskeleton covered. Experimental approaches emphasized.

Journal Club

Journal clubs are led by faculty members and focus on one area by reading and discussing papers from the scientific literature. Students typically are responsible for one presentation each semester.

Written Comprehensive Exam

The written comprehensive exam uses a small number of papers from the literature. Students get the paper in advance and are expected to answer questions about the paper covering topics from the core courses.

Elective Courses

Advanced electives can be selected from a number of different courses in a variety of fields.  Students and their mentors often chose appropriate courses together.

Oral Exam

Students propose a research topic different than their dissertation work. Upon approval of the topic, students write a short proposal and defend it in front of a faculty committee.

Ph.D. Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee is composed of four members of the graduate faculty, one of whom is the student’s dissertation adviser. The dissertation committee meets regularly with the student to discuss progress toward completion of the dissertation research, administers the final exam, and approves the dissertation.


The prospectus describes the proposed research that will form the student’s dissertation. The prospectus, upon approval of the dissertation committee, forms a “contract” between the student and committee on the scope of work needed to complete the Ph.D.


The dissertation is the written summary of the research leading to the PhD degree. It is a substantial document that is prepared prior to the final exam. Upon approval by the dissertation committee, it leads to conferral of the PhD degree.