Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology

UCSC researchers use X-ray crystallography to study ribosome structure and function.


This is an extraordinary time to be involved in biomedical research. New technologies are rapidly changing our understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of life, with dramatic implications for how we treat human disease. The Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, along with Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Microbiology & Environmental Toxicology, and Physics, are participating in a revolution in biomedical science. A broad spectrum of cutting-edge research tools are being employed to tackle problems in key areas that include: the structural and functional role of RNA in regulation of gene expression; chromatin biology and epigenetic control of genes; the cell biology of the cytoskeleton and the cell cycle; decisions controlling embryogenesis and organ development; and developmental neurobiology. The insights generated by this research enable new strategies for treatments of aging disorders, birth defects, neurological diseases, cancer, and other human ailments.

The department offers a spectrum of courses that reflect the exciting new developments and directions in these fields and trains students to participate in these exciting fields. Students may plan a program that leads to one of several bachelor of science (B.S.) degrees (see also Human Biology, Neuroscience, Biology, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology).

Degrees Offered

  • B.S.
  • M.A.
  • Ph.D.

Study and Research Opportunities

Advanced undergraduates, with the guidance of faculty mentors, have access to extensive departmental laboratory facilities for independent research. Many students take advantage of the numerous opportunities with local physicians, health care providers, and biotech companies to gain experience in a real world setting. This array of opportunities for directed independent study enables students to enhance their upper-division programs to reflect and strengthen their own interests and goals.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students who intend to major in biology should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics (precalculus and/or calculus), and physics.

The MCDB department has a qualification policy that applies to the molecular, cell and developmental biology B.S.; human biology B.S. and neuroscience B.S. majors. For more information about these and other MCDB majors, see the MCD Biology Undergraduate Program website.

Information for Transfers

Junior transfer students who plan to major in the biological sciences must complete the introductory requirements prior to transfer, at minimum a complete year of calculus, general chemistry, and introductory biology. Additionally, students who complete a year of organic chemistry and calculus-based physics will transfer prepared to begin their advanced degree requirements and allow time in their senior year for doing research. California community college students should follow the prescribed coursework in the UCSC transfer agreements available at

Prospective transfer students should review the transfer information at:

Department Website

More Information

Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology Advising
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064