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Molecular and Cellular Biology

The Molecular and Cellular Biology program (MCB) is a leader in applying the techniques of molecular and cellular biology to advance the understanding of basic biological sciences. The goal of the doctoral program is to broadly train students to think about science in a rigorous and critical manner. Since scientific methods, equipment, and knowledge are changing rapidly, students learn to focus on important issues in an evolving research environment. This program is appropriate for students interested in future careers in research and teaching in academia as well as biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

Twelve departments across three schools have faculty members actively pursuing research in molecular and cellular biology. The departments participating in the program include Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biological Structure, Biology, Environmental Health, Genome Sciences, Immunology, Microbiology, Pathobiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, and Physiology and Biophysics.

At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), the divisions of basic sciences and molecular medicine participate in the joint Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program. Shared FHCRC facilities are available for electron microscopy, flow cytometry, tissue culture, and image analysis. A biotechnology center for DNA and protein synthesis and sequencing, animal facilities, a biological production facility that focuses on monoclonal antibody production, extensive libraries, and a biocomputing center provide further support for the research effort.

Recently the MCB Program has established relationships with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) as well as Seattle Biomed. These collaborations allow MCB students access to labs conducting research using a systems approach to biology or a global focus on infectious disease.

Faculty Interests

Over 250 faculty members from the UW, the FHCRC, the ISB, and Seattle Biomed are researching molecular and cellular biology and are skilled in the training of graduate students. Faculty research interests are categorized into eight areas of interest: cancer biology; genetics: genomics and evolution; microbiology, infection and immunity; molecular structure and computational biology; and neuroscience.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
T466 Health Sciences, Box 357275
(206) 543-0253

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

  1. Applicants must have completed a baccalaureate or advanced degree by the time of matriculation; degrees emphasizing biology, physical or natural sciences, and mathematics are preferred.
  2. GRE scores. General Test. A Subject Test (e.g., biology, biochemistry, chemistry) is not required but recommended.
  3. Letters of recommendation
  4. Statement of purpose
  5. Personal resume

Degree Requirements

90 credits, including:

  1. Credit Requirements: MCB students complete 21 graded credits of coursework with 9 credits of the CONJ series and 12 credits of graded elective courses. M.S.T.P. students receiving a Ph.D. through the MCB Program are required to have 18 graded credits, and should petition the MCB directors to accept medical school courses in lieu of the remaining 3 credits.
  2. First Year: Students complete most of their formal course requirements, select a permanent adviser, and establish a doctoral Supervisory Committee. A typical first-year class schedule includes six five-week modules of the MCB conjoint series, three lab rotations, three quarters of literature review and one or more graded elective classes. Following the third rotation, students generally choose a permanent adviser in whose lab they pursue research for the rest of their educational career, generally three to four years. During the summer, students complete the biomedical research integrity lecture series.
  3. Second Year: Students form their doctoral Supervisory Committee by the end of December, define their doctoral projects, take additional elective courses, participate as teaching assistants for a minimum of one quarter, complete either a second academic teaching assistantship or an alternative education experience, and hold their first committee meeting.
  4. Third Year and Beyond: By the end of spring quarter of the third year, the student completes the general examination and is conferred official Ph.D. candidacy by the Graduate School. The student then focuses on the dissertation research and continues to meet with the Supervisory Committee each spring quarter to report on research progress and plans for the coming year. When the Supervisory Committee agrees that a student is ready, the final examination is scheduled. Upon successful completion of the final examination and acceptance of the completed dissertation by the Graduate School, a student is conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

Financial Aid

The MCB Program provides a stipend plus tuition and health benefits for the first year of study. At the end of the first year of study, students choose a doctoral committee, and subsequent years of support are provided by the department of the committee chair. Students maintaining satisfactory academic progress receive funding for the duration of their graduate training.