Academic Requirements

  • One semester of Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • One semester of Gene Regulation
  • One semester of Grant Writing
  • One semester of Statistics
  • Two semesters of Developmental Biology
  • One semester of Development and Disease
  • One semester of Ethics in Research

Additional courses may be required depending on the area of emphasis you are studying.

To graduate with a PhD from the Molecular and Developmental Biology graduate program, you will need to:

  • Complete 90 graduate credit hours
  • Maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 in all doctoral course work
  • Complete at least two laboratory rotations
  • Present and attend required seminars
  • Participate in the program's Journal Club
  • Successfully pass the candidacy qualifying exam
  • Submit and defend a doctoral dissertation

The full requirements can be found in the Program Handbook.

Curriculum Overview

Curriculum MDB 

Core Course Descriptions

Introduction to Developmental Biology – DB9085C – 3 graduate credits

The course content includes principles of Developmental Biology and Molecular Medicine including but not limited to history of the field, model organism life cycles, evolution of developmental patterns, experimental embryology, the genetic code, differential gene expression, cell-cell communication, fertilization, invertebrate and vertebrate anatomy, body axis specification, organogenesis, comparative mechanisms of evolutionary change and underlying principles of topics relevant to human pediatric diseases. Current technologies in this area such as bioinformatics, microarrays, model organism transgenics, and exposure to developing worm, fruit fly, frog, zebrafish, chick and mouse embryos will be taught via demonstration laboratories. At the end of this course students are expected to understand key concepts, terminology and molecular mechanisms in Developmental Biology, the major model organisms of the field and laboratory experimental techniques used to investigate the development of these organisms.

Principles of Molecular & Cellular Biology – GNTD7001 – 4 graduate credits

The course is designed primarily as a 4 credit hour lecture-based course that will provide fundamental knowledge of the basic principles underpinning modern molecular and cell biology, with attention paid to the underlying biochemistry where relevant.   It is anticipated that the material will be appropriate and applicable for all new first year students in the various doctoral programs of the College of Medicine, as well as a subset of students enrolled in the College’s various master’s programs.  A (non-exhaustive) list of topics to be covered in the course follows:  Basic information on the range and types of biomolecules; DNA replication, recombination, and repair; Cell cycle regulation; Transcriptional regulation; Mendelian genetics; Chromatin structure and epigenetics; Basic genomics and bioinformatics; Translational regulation; Signal Transduction; Protein trafficking; Membranes, vesicles and sorting; Cell-cell interactions; Cytoskeleton: movement and polarity; Molecular motors; Cell death pathways. 

Grant Writing – DB9089 – 1 graduate credit

This course is intended to instruct Molecular & Developmental Biology students on grant writing strategies and techniques.

Regulation of Gene Expression – DB9088 – 2 graduate credits

Provides a fundamental knowledge of how eukaryotic gene expression is regulated, with a focus on state of the art experimental approaches. This knowledge is gained through a combination of both lecture and a discussion of the primary literature with ample opportunities for student-student and student-faculty interaction. Discussion sessions focus on the primary literature, utilizing a mix of both research publications and authoritative reviews of current trends in gene regulation research.

Advanced Topics in Developmental Biology – DB9086 – 1 graduate credit

Offered in odd years only (2023, 2025, etc)

This is an advanced level course comprised of two modules, varying by year, that covers “hot topics” and recent cutting-edge research centered on molecular and cellular mechanisms driving biological processes. The course employs a unique combination of approaches to rigorously convey complex topics in Developmental Biology including didactic lectures and student presentation of primary papers.

Development and Disease – DB9087 – 2 graduate credits

Offered in even years only (2024, 2026, etc)

This course explores the developmental basis of human disease processes. It is a natural consequence of recent insights into the molecular basis of normal and abnormal development. Presentations by researchers and clinicians emphasize the integration of basic science and medicine. The course focuses to the molecular basis of diseases affecting major organs. Meetings will include interactive discussions and presentations. Participants should have familiarity with developmental biology and biomedical research. This course will cover topics not covered in our other Developmental Biology courses.

Ethics in Research – GNTD7003 – 1 graduate credit

This course introduces students to ethical theories generally and the ethical and regulatory issues they are likely to encounter as researchers. Students will learn to identify issues, how to analyze ethical issues in research, and to develop coherent justifications for their ethical and responsible conduct of research.

Developmental Biology Seminar – DB9001 & DB9002 – 1 graduate credit

Contemporary research presented by leaders in the field of Molecular Medicine and Developmental Biology. Speakers will be faculty and invited researchers. Speaker led discussion groups will be held. May be taken repeatedly. 

Developmental Biology Journal Club -  DB9004 – 1 graduate credit

Presentation and discussion of current or classical research papers in Molecular Medicine and Developmental Biology. May be taken repeatedly.

Laboratory Research – DB9073 – variable graduate credits

Research in Molecular Medicine and/or Developmental Biology. In the first year, may be taken to familiarize the student with the research of a particular faculty member (Research Rotation). Subsequently, taken as research in the lab of a faculty member on a focused research problem working toward the ultimate goal of generating a doctoral thesis. Offered each term. May be taken repeatedly.

Elective Courses

Introduction to Biostatistics – BE7022 – 3 graduate credits
Students will learn basic statistics such as mean, median, mode, standard deviation, variance, etc. Topics include probability, parametric statistics such as t tests and one way analysis of variance, and nonparametric statistics including both Wilcoxon tests and Kaplan-Meier estimation of survival. Bayes theorem, discrete (eg Binomial) and continuous probability distributions (eg normal distributions and one variable regression and product moment correlation and rank correlation are covered.

Genetics of Complex Disease – BE8068 – 2 graduate credits
The course is designed to provide basic understandings of the inherited basis of complex diseases that involve both genetic and environmental factors. With an introduction of the principles of gene mapping and their applications in non-Mendelian traits, emphasis will be placed on changes in the paradigm with rapid developments in technologies and analytical approaches to identify genetic variants influencing the risk of common diseases. Lectures will cover topics on:

  • Fundamental principles of heredity
  • Principles of population genetics, measures of genetic variation, Hardy-Weinberg Law
  • Genetic markers - RFLPs, SNPs, CNVs
  • Fundamentals in gene mapping: linkage and association, linkage disequilibrium, haplotypes
  • Non-Mendelian inheritance, complex disease
  • Evolving paradigm of complex disease genetics
  • Human genome project, HapMap, ENCODE project, 1000 Genome project
  • Genome-wide association studies o Statistical concepts - statistical significance, effect sizes, multiple testing, population substructure
  • Choice of population - isolated versus cosmopolitan populations in complex disease studies
  • Pathophysiology, natural history and genetics of few common diseases - obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke.

Biology of Cancer – CB8080 – 3 graduate credits
A one semester course that covers a broad spectrum of issues relating to the genesis and progression of cancer. Some topics that are covered include cell kinetics and cell cycle regulation in normal and cancerous cells, oncogenes and growth factors, tumor suppressors, the genetics of cancer, mutation and environmental exposure, signal transduction and the role of the immune system in cancer.

Grant Writing – CB9025 – 1 graduate credit
Students receive instruction in grantsmanship and participate in grant writing exercises. Completed grants are critically reviewed by instructors and students.


Embryology – GC7050 – 3 graduate credits
A course designed for understanding the process of usual human development in order to appreciate the timing and mechanisms underlying birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities and genetic syndromes.

Teratology – GC7080 – 2 graduate credits
Basic principles of teratology will be discussed. Topics include drug testing, pharmacokinetics, retinoids, thalidomide, environmental chemicals, anticonvulsants, diabetes, behavioral teratology, fetal alcohol syndrome, therapeutic drugs, infectious diseases, radiation, and hormones.

Introduction to Functional Genomics – GNTD8001C – 3 graduate credits
The course consists of lectures/seminars on the theory and use of functional genomics approaches in biomedical research. Each lecture is accompanied by a lab session in an electronic classroom that provide hands-on experience in practical application of functional genomics principles. A key part of the course is group research projects in which students analyze primary genomics data to answer research questions.

Foundations of Immunology I – IMM8088 – 3 graduate credits
Foundations in Immunology is a comprehensive immunology course for first year graduate students. It covers the structure, function, and organization of the immune system; including cells, genes, and molecules of the innate and adaptive immune systems, cross-talk between these compartments, immune system development, autoimmunity and immunodeficiency. Lectures will be didactic in nature and "team-taught" by several faculty depending upon their area of expertise. Although a text will not be directly assigned as part of the course, some lectures will be somewhat textbook based. While the course has no prerequisites, students will find that some background in basic biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular genetics will be helpful. Grades will be based on essay examinations and graded assignments.


Graduate Medical Physiology I – MCP8041 – 3 graduate credits
Physiology is the integrative study of molecular, cellular, and organ systems and their homeostatic control mechanisms that function to maintain life. The course is divided into four units containing a total of twelve sections. Unit I is focused on cellular and muscle physiology, Unit II on cardiac physiology, circulatory physiology, and the physiology of hemostasis, Unit III on renal, respiration, acid-base, and temperature regulation, and Unit IV on gastrointestinal, endocrine, and reproductive physiology. The course is composed of lectures, small group sessions that focus on problem solving exercises, translational clinical correlations and review presentations. Finally, a detailed syllabus and CD-ROM, structured to cover the primary facts and concepts central to physiology are available through the Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology. Medical Physiology is taught during the fall and winter quarters. Many components of the course are integrated with information from Gross Anatomy, Microscopic Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Clinical Foundations of Medical Practice.

Molecular Physiology – MCP9051 – 2 graduate credits
This course investigates the relationship between genotype and phenotype in human diseases which result from defects in membrane transport proteins. Students will analyze prototypical examples of diseases involving the major classes of membrane ion channels and transporters. For each disease, this analysis will be based on assigned readings and discussion of the primary scientific literature on the genetics, functional consequences at the protein level, and clinical presentation in the patient. Each student will select one disease to analyze in depth and give a class presentation on the relationship between genotype and phenotype in the selected disease.


Proteins:  Structure & Function – MG7004 – 1-3 graduate credits
Designed for graduate students who have completed the first semester graduate Biochemistry core course (GNTD 7002). Protein design; enzyme specificity and mechanisms of catalysis; macromolecular assembly, protein-protein interactions; spectroscopy and binding techniques; NMR and X-ray crystallography. Prerequisites are the GNTD 7002 biochemistry course and/or by permission of the instructor. Section 1 (1 credit hour) is the minimum requirement for all doctoral students in Molecular Genetics. Section 2 (3 credit hours) is a further in-depth coverage of the topic involving quantitative tools. This section is designed for students specializing in structural biology.

Mechanisms of Signal Transduction – MG8002 – 2 graduate credits
Provides a research literature-based view of modern aspects of signal transduction and includes student driven discussions of seminal papers in the signal transduction field. Topics include receptor mediated signal transduction originating at the plasma membrane and covers major effector pathways including those leading to second messenger generation, kinase cascade assembly, and activation of transcription factors. We will be discussing signaling mechanisms related to cellular homeostasis, developmental biology, immunology, and cancer.

Integrative Molecular Pharmacology and Medicine – MCBP8023 – 3 graduate credits
The course uses cardiac and skeletal muscle as model systems, and introduces students to integrated concepts of cellular and molecular organization, cell signaling networks, structure and function, molecular mechanisms, and their applications in contemporary therapeutics. The course combines didactic lectures with student presentations and discussion. Each lecture will be accompanied by a discussion class, focusing on presentation, discussion and critique of scientific literature on that topic. The discussion classes use a journal club-like, informal format. One or two papers will be presented, and a review article will also be given to provide background information, but will not be presented or discussed. The discussions will be led by the lecturers or invited external experts. The students will be graded based on their presentation as well as participation. There will two exams as listed in the syllabus. The two exams will each be worth 30% of the final grade. Oral presentation and participation in group discussions will be worth 40% of the final grade.


Neurochemistry and Behavior – NS8030 – 2-3 graduate credits
This course provides in-depth analysis of the neurochemical basis of behavior, molecular basis of psychotropic drug action in the brain and the behavioral consequences of drug intoxication and ingestion. The format will include lectures and discussions of primary literature paper and reviews.

Brain and Behavior I – NS8041 – 4-10 graduate credits
The goal of Brain and Behavior I is to provide varied learning opportunities to assist the student in developing a strong structural, functional, and clinically-oriented knowledge base in the neurosciences. This course is part of the 4-year longitudinal neuroscience curriculum in the College of Medicine . It lays a solid foundation on which the second year Brain and Behavior II course, third year psychiatry clerkship, and the fourth year neuroscience elective can build.

Brain and Behavior II – NS8061 – 4-10 graduate credits
The goal of Brain and Behavior II is to provide experiences, which enable the second year medical student to reinforce basic neuroscience concepts, and to understand pathologic characteristics, signs, symptoms, and treatment modalities for common neurologic and psychiatric disorders. This course is an integrated neuroscience course emphasizing diseases and treatment of diseases of the nervous system and utilizing general concepts and principles of the basic and clinical neurosciences. The concepts and principles presented in the disciplines of neuropharmacology, neuropathology, psychiatry, and neurology are emphasized in this course.