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Traditional Master's Curriculum

MCDB’s traditional Master of Science Program is flexible and can be customized for the next stage of a student’s career—medical school, a Ph.D. program, classroom teaching, a research position, or other biology related vocation. Students have access to a diverse and challenging array of courses, seminars, and laboratory research opportunities to prepare for a career in the biological or medical sciences.

Program Requirements

Students must complete

  •  24 credit hours of approved coursework, with a minimum of 16 credit hours coming from MCDB courses.
  • Only graduate level courses (400 level and above) may count toward the M.S. degree
  • Up to eight credit hours of the required 24 can take the form of independent research (MCDB 700).

Master’s students who lack required prerequisite courses below the 400 level may take these courses during their first two terms of enrollment, but credit from these classes will not count toward the required 24 credit hours. Students who lack prerequisites or are aware of curricular deficiencies are encouraged to address these issues as early as possible.

Students in the MCDB Master of Science Program must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.00, a “B” average.


The University of Michigan offers a variety of graduate-level courses taught by faculty who are leaders in their academic fields. We encourage you to explore the large number of course choices available on the Ann Arbor campus and to choose those that will best prepare you for your future plans in the biological or medical sciences.

Courses offered by the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA), including MCDB courses, can be found on LSA’s online course guide   Departments of the University of Michigan School of Medicine and the School of Public Health also offer many relevant graduate level courses.

MCDB Master’s Courses

Below is a partial list representing the broad range of courses that Master's students will be eligible to take during their studies.

MCDB 401—Advanced Topics in Biology
MCDB 402—Molecular Biology of Pain
MCDB 403—Molecular and Cellular Biology of the Synapse
MCDB 404—Genetics, Development, and Evolution
MCDB 405—Molecular Basis of Development
MCDB 408—Genomic Biology
MCDB 411—Protein Structure and Function
MCDB 415—Microbial Genetics
MCDB 417—Chromosome Structure and Function
MCDB 418—Endocrinology

MCDB 421—Topics in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
MCDB 422—Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology; Brain Development
MCDB 423—Introduction to Research in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
MCDB 425—Biotechnology: From Concepts to Technologies
MCDB 426—Molecular Endocrinology
MCDB 427—Molecular Biology
MCDB 428—Cell Biology
MCDB 430—Molecular Biology of Plants
MCDB 432—Biochemistry and Physiology of Prokaryotes
MCDB 435—Intracellular Trafficking
MCDB 436—Human Immunology
MCDB 441—Cell Biology and Disease
MCDB 444—Bacterial Cell Biology
MCDB 450—Genetics and Molecular Biology of Complex Behavior

MCDB 451—Molecular Neurobiology of Health and Disease
MCDB 455—Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration

MCDB 462—Epigenetics
MCDB 489—Microbial Genes and Genomes

MCDB 499 Research Ethics
MCDB 589—Mechanisms of Microbial Evolution

MCDB 600—Special Topics in MCDB
MCDB 614—Experimental Models in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
MCDB 700—Advanced Studies (Independent Study)
MCDB 800—Biology Seminars
PIBS 503—Research Responsibility and Ethics

  • MCDB 800 (MCDB Departmental Seminar) is a popular 1 credit MCDB course that can be taken every term. This course consists of a weekly research seminar that features visiting biologists discussing a wide range of biological questions.
  • PIBS 503 (Research Responsibility and Ethics) is a popular 1 credit course for master’s students who work in research labs.

Research and Thesis Option

Though the MCDB’s master's program is not thesis-based, students who plan to conduct research in the future or are otherwise interested in conducting laboratory research are encouraged to seek research opportunities in the laboratories of MCDB faculty. Up to eight credit hours of the required 24 can take the form of independent research (MCDB 700). If you are interested in conducting research in an MCDB lab, please contact research faculty directly

If a student wishes to pursue the thesis option, the requirements are:

  • assemble a committee of three faculty including their advisor (two MCDB faculty and one faculty member from another department also accepted) [Thesis committee meeting form]
  • complete the thesis
  • give a public seminar and a closed defense [Thesis defense form]

Standards of Conduct

Master’s students are responsible for understanding and adhering to the academic and ethical standards of The University of Michigan. University policies pertaining to graduate student conduct are discussed in detail in Rackham’s academic policies available online.

Financial Support

Though the MCDB master’s program does not guarantee financial support, master’s students are eligible for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) positions. Please note that students from MCDB’s Ph.D. program are given first priority for these positions, and such positions may not be available to master’s students. To inquire about GSI positions please contact Kimberly Pavuk ( in the Program in Biology Advising Office. GSRA positions must be arranged directly with MCDB research faculty.

School loans and work-study programs are available through the University of Michigan’s Office of Financial Aid

Part-time positions are sometimes available at University of Michigan, though they vary in type and availability. Students interested in such positions should contact the student employment office


It is important that you seek advice from the Director of Master’s Programs and the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) during all phases of your Master’s career. It is recommended that students schedule an advising appointment once per semester.

For questions concerning the program, advice on the curriculum, or any concerns you may have please contact: 

Departmental Retreat

The Department of MCDB gathers yearly for a retreat. This is an excellent opportunity to meet faculty and fellow students and to learn about the research being conducted in the department. Master’s students are encouraged to attend this yearly event.