The Graduate Programs in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) provide rigorous and individualized graduate research training that emphasizes innovative, cross-disciplinary research leading to the Ph.D., M. A. and M.A./Ph.D. degrees. MCDB graduate programs provide a solid foundation in biomedical science, yet allow students the flexibility to choose their own path of inquiry.

Research in MCDB spans a broad range of topics in including: bacterial pathogenesis, biochemistry, cell biology, cell physiology, developmental biology, gene regulation, genetics, immunology and allorecognition, microbiology, molecular marine biology, neurobiology, pharmacology, plant molecular biology and physiology, and virology.

Modern biomedical research moves at a rapid pace that requires novel ideas, scientific interaction and new experimental approaches. The MCDB program provides multiple opportunities to gain expertise in diverse fields of research, in addition to lab rotations and courses that are usually completed in the first year of study. A full schedule of weekly seminars by invited speakers and annual research retreat  form the framework for scientific interactions. Students participate in weekly research seminars presented by postdoctoral fellows and advanced graduate students. Individual faculty members also organize special topics seminars that focus on important research problems in their own disciplines.

Students may be admitted to Ph.D., M.A. / Ph.D. or M.A. graduate programs depending on the students' goals and time to degree. MCDB offers the M.A. degree by research thesis (Plan 1) or examination (Plan 2). Students are typically admitted under Plan 2, but may petition later for transfer to Plan 1. Graduate degree candidates must meet University requirements outlined in the UCSB Graduate Handbook as well as Departmental requirements.

Technological Advances

UCSB offers a full range of state-of-the-art facilities that are available to MCDB researchers. These include digital imaging and microscopy instrumentation as well as DNA sequencing and computer analysis laboratories. In addition a wide range of biochemical and biophysical instrumentation including ESI and MALDI mass spectrometers, circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy, and X-ray crystallography facilities are available on campus.

MCDB graduate students have access to the only Technology Management Program in the UC system. The Tech Management Program at UCSB offers MCDB graduate students experience in technology entrepreneurship, product development and business practice, while they pursue their advanced research degrees. Advanced coursework, a business plan competition, and mentorship activities are all designed to give students the knowledge and industry connections they need to be competitive in the healthcare, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.


The approximately 30 research groups within MCDB cover a wide range of current biological problems in the areas of molecular and cellular biology. Areas of particular focus include molecular microbiology and pathogenesis, molecular neurobiology, developmental and cellular genetics, plant molecular biology and physiology, biological materials and marine molecular biology.


MCDB faculty have earned numerous distinctions and awards including election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and receipt of National Institutes of Health Merit Awards, Keck Foundation Awards, and NIH Pioneer Awards.

Student Organization

MCDB graduate students play an active role in MCDB governance, with participation in recruitment, the Departmental seminar series, and curriculum planning. Graduate students run their own research seminar series and are represented by the Graduate Union of Molecular Biology Investigators (GUMBI), an organization that provides services and advocacy for graduate students.