Molecular and Cell Biology

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of Molecular and Cell Biology offers a program of graduate study leading to the PhD in molecular and cell biology. This program provides advanced training in the research methods and concepts of the study of the molecular structures and processes of cellular life. The training is intellectually focused, but at the same time offers an unusually wide range of opportunities for varied disciplinary specialization.

The teaching and research activities of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) concern the molecular structures and processes of cellular life and their roles in the function, reproduction, and development of living organisms.

This agenda covers a broad range of specialized disciplines, including biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, structural biology, genetics, genomics, bioinformatics, cell biology, developmental biology, tumor biology, microbiology, immunology, molecular medicine, and neurobiology.

The types of living organisms from which the departmental faculty draws its working materials are as diverse as its disciplinary specializations, ranging from viruses and microbes through plants, roundworms, annelids, arthropods, and mollusks to fish, amphibia, and mammals.

The faculty is organized into five divisions: Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural Biology; Cell and Developmental Biology; Genetics, Genomics and Development; Immunology and Molecular Medicine; and Neurobiology.

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Admission to the University

*GRE score submission is not required for application to the MCB program.

Minimum Requirements for Admission

The following minimum requirements apply to all graduate programs and will be verified by the Graduate Division:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;
  2. A grade point average of B or better (3.0);
  3. If the applicant has completed a basic degree from a country or political entity (e.g., Quebec) where English is not the official language, adequate proficiency in English to do graduate work, as evidenced by a TOEFL score of at least 90 on the iBT test, 570 on the paper-and-pencil test, or an IELTS Band score of at least 7 on a 9-point scale (note that individual programs may set higher levels for any of these); and
  4. Sufficient undergraduate training to do graduate work in the given field.

Applicants Who Already Hold a Graduate Degree

The Graduate Council views academic degrees not as vocational training certificates, but as evidence of broad training in research methods, independent study, and articulation of learning. Therefore, applicants who already have academic graduate degrees should be able to pursue new subject matter at an advanced level without the need to enroll in a related or similar graduate program.

Programs may consider students for an additional academic master’s or professional master’s degree only if the additional degree is in a distinctly different field.

Applicants admitted to a doctoral program that requires a master’s degree to be earned at Berkeley as a prerequisite (even though the applicant already has a master’s degree from another institution in the same or a closely allied field of study) will be permitted to undertake the second master’s degree, despite the overlap in field.

The Graduate Division will admit students for a second doctoral degree only if they meet the following guidelines:

  1. Applicants with doctoral degrees may be admitted for an additional doctoral degree only if that degree program is in a general area of knowledge distinctly different from the field in which they earned their original degree. For example, a physics PhD could be admitted to a doctoral degree program in music or history; however, a student with a doctoral degree in mathematics would not be permitted to add a PhD in statistics.
  2. Applicants who hold the PhD degree may be admitted to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program if there is no duplication of training involved.

Applicants may apply only to one single degree program or one concurrent degree program per admission cycle.

Required Documents for Applications

  1. Transcripts: Applicants may upload unofficial transcripts with your application for the departmental initial review. Unofficial transcripts must contain specific information including the name of the applicant, name of the school, all courses, grades, units, & degree conferral (if applicable). 
  2. Letters of recommendation: Applicants may request online letters of recommendation through the online application system. Hard copies of recommendation letters must be sent directly to the program, by the recommender, not the Graduate Admissions.
  3. Evidence of English language proficiency: All applicants who have completed a basic degree from a country or political entity in which the official language is not English are required to submit official evidence of English language proficiency. This applies to institutions from Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Latin America, the Middle East, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, most European countries, and Quebec (Canada). However, applicants who, at the time of application, have already completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better at a US university may submit an official transcript from the US university to fulfill this requirement. The following courses will not fulfill this requirement:

    • courses in English as a Second Language,

    • courses conducted in a language other than English,

    • courses that will be completed after the application is submitted, and

    • courses of a non-academic nature.

Applicants who have previously applied to Berkeley must also submit new test scores that meet the current minimum requirement from one of the standardized tests. Official TOEFL score reports must be sent directly from Educational Test Services (ETS). The institution code for Berkeley is 4833 for Graduate Organizations. Official IELTS score reports must be sent electronically from the testing center to University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division, Sproul Hall, Rm 318 MC 5900, Berkeley, CA 94720. TOEFL and IELTS score reports are only valid for two years prior to beginning the graduate program at UC Berkeley. Note: score reports can not expire before the month of June.


Where to Apply

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Normative Time Requirements

  • Normative time to advancement is 2 years
  • Normative time in candidacy is 3.5 years
  • Total normative time is 5.5 years

Course Requirement by Year in Program

  • 1st Year
    • MCB 200A
    • MCB 200B
    • MCB 291 A
    • MCB 291 B
    • MCB 293A
    • MCB 293C
    • Two advanced topics courses
  • 2nd Year
    • MCB 375
    • MCB 292
  • 3rd Year
    • MCB 380
    • MCB 292
    • MCB 290
  • 4th Year and Beyond
    • MCB 292
    • MCB 290

Other Requirements

  • 1st-author or co-1st-author publication
  • Individual Development Plan (IDP) in 1st, 3rd, and 5th years
  • Annual thesis committee meetings after advancement to candidacy (3rd year and beyond)


MCELLBI 200AFundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology3
MCELLBI 200BFundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology3
MCELLBI 291AIntroduction to Research2-12
MCELLBI 291BIntroduction to Research2-12
MCELLBI 293AResearch Seminar2
MCELLBI 293CResponsible Conduct in Research1
MCELLBI 293DRigor and Reproducibility in Research1
MCELLBI 293RResponsible Conduct of Research Refresher1
MCELLBI 375Pedagogy for MCB Graduate Student Instructors2
MCELLBI 380Teaching of Molecular and Cell Biology (2 courses)1-2
Two MCELLBI advanced topics electives6-8
MCELLBI 290Graduate Seminar (3)1
MCELLBI 292Research3-12


Molecular and Cell Biology

Contact Information

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology

497 Weill Hall

Phone: 510-643-3406

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Department Co-Chair

Rebecca Heald, PhD

311A Weill Hall

Phone: 510-643-5493

Department Co-Chair

Iswar Hariharan, PhD

525B Weill Hall

Phone: 510-643-7438

Head Graduate Advisor

Diana Bautista, PhD

355 Weill Hall

Phone: 510-642-8460

Graduate Advising

Graduate Affairs Office

299 Weill Hall

Phone: 510-642-5252

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