Course Information

Curriculum Philosophy

Our curriculum has been designed to give students a broad, integrative overview of biological research in order to support their experimental training. The heart of our curriculum is Fundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology (aka MCB200) – an immersive, team-taught course - which exposes students to the breadth and depth inherent to our interdisciplinary department. Modern biological research is often data rich. A focus on data science and statistical analysis is therefore woven throughout. At the conclusion of MCB200, our goal is that students can engage and appraise across all topics of modern, molecular biological research. Finally, this course is taught in the fall upon matriculation and also serves as a social hub for the first-year class. In the spring and beyond, students enroll in Advanced Topics and related courses in order to enrich their training in specific, elective areas.

Course Overview and Timeline

During the first year, graduate students are required to take the Fundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB 200A-200B) during the fall semester and two Advanced Topics courses in the spring. All courses must be completed with grade of B of better. Courses required by the department are marked below with a plus (+). Courses marked with one or two asterisks (*) meet the Advanced Topics requirement; two stars indicate that the course is highly recommended by the Division. All coursework must be completed prior to taking the qualifying exam (a.k.a. orals) in the spring semester of the second year. With the approval of the student's academic adviser, a course offered by another department may be substituted for one of the two required Advanced Topics courses. Some Divisions may recommend additional courses as appropriate to their disciplinary areas. Following the successful completion of the qualifying examination, all students must enroll in three semesters of special topics seminars (MCB 290) offered by faculty in areas of current research in the field of molecular and cell biology (typically 6 offerings per semester).

Course Descriptions

200A-200B+ Fundamentals of Molecular and Cell Biology

Six hours of lecture per week. Prerequisites: 200A and 200B must be taken concurrently. Combined course required for all MCB first-year graduate students. The goal of this course is to provide graduate-level instruction on molecular and cellular biosciences from a highly-integrated systems perspective, rather than using a more classic, techniques-oriented format. A collection of approaches, and a focus on critical thinking and problem solving, will be used to show how fundamental, highly-significant biological problems are "cracked open." Statistics and modern data science methods for working with large biological data are also integrated throughout. Reading will be assigned from a mix of classic and current peer-reviewed papers selected by the instructors.
View 200A-B Syllabus and Schedule

MCB C205 Modern Optical Microscopy for the Modern Biologist

This course is intended for graduate students in the early stages of their thesis research who are contemplating using modern microscopy tools as part of their work. It endeavors to cut through the confusion of the wide array of new imaging methods, with a practical description of the pros and cons of each. In addition to providing an intuitive physical understanding how these microscopes work, the course will offer hands on experience with cutting-edge microscopes where students will be able to see firsthand how different imaging modalities perform on their own samples, and where they will be able to access computational tools for the visualization and analysis of their data. Also listed as PHYSICS C218.
View C205 Syllabus

MCB 206* Physical Biochemistry

Application of modern physical concepts and experimental methods to the analysis of the structure, function, and interaction of large molecules of biological interest.
View 206 Syllabus

MCB 210** Macromolecular Reactions and the Cell

General course for first-year graduate students. Covers our current understanding of, methodological approaches for analyzing, and recent advances in the function of cellular macromolecules and macromolecular complexes in DNA replication, recombination, transposition and repair, gene expression and its regulation, mRNA splicing, genome organization, non-coding RNAs, signal transduction, protein synthesis, folding and degradation, growth control, and other life processes.

Admission to the course requires formal consent of the instructors, except for MCB graduate students and graduate students in the laboratories of MCB faculty. Enrollment is restricted to 45. Auditors are not permitted in the discussion sessions.
View 210 yllabus

MCB C212A* Chemical Biology I - Structure, Synthesis and Function of Biomolecules

This course will present the structure of proteins, nucleic acids, and oligosaccharides from the prospective of organic chemistry. Modern methods for the synthesis and purification of these molecules will also be presented. Also listed as Chemistry C271A.
View C212A Syllabus

MCB C212B* Chemical Biology II - Enzyme Reaction Mechanisms

This course will focus on the principles of enzyme catalysis. The course will begin with an introduction of the general concepts of enzyme catalysis which will be followed by detailed examples that will examine the chemistry behind the reactions and the three-dimensional structures that carry out the transformations. Also listed as Chemistry C271B.
View C212B Syllabus

MCB C212C* Chemical Biology III - Contemporary Topics in Chemical Biology

This course will build on the principles discussed in Chemical Biology I and II. The focus will consist of case studies where rigorous chemical approaches have been brought to bear on biological questions. Potential subject areas will include signal transduction, photosynthesis, immunology, virology, and cancer. For each topic, the appropriate bioanalytical techniques will be emphasized. Also listed as Chemistry C271C.
View C212C Syllabus

MCB C214* Protein Chemistry, Enzymology, and Bio-organic Chemistry

The topics covered will be chosen from the following: protein structure, protein-protein interactions; enzyme kinetics and mechanism; enzyme design. Intended for graduate students in chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular and cell biology. Also listed as Chemistry C230.
View C214 Syllabus

MCB C216 Microbial Diversity Workshop

This workshop for graduate students will parallel C116, Microbial Diversity, which would be taken concurrently. Emphasis in the workshop will be on review of research literature and formulation of paper pertinent to research in microbial diversity. Also listed as Plant and Microbial Biology C216.

MCB 218 & MCB 219 Research Review in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Review of current literature and discussion of original research (Lab Group Meeting).

MCB 220** Therapeutic Modalities

This class is designed to introduce graduate students to a range of therapeutic modalities that are in development or use. It will focus on small molecules, genomic therapies (including genome editing), and biologics. This class will present different applications of small molecules, RNA or DNA therapeutics, and biologics and discuss both advantages and challenges in their clinical use.
View 220 Syllabus

MCB 230** Advanced Cell and Developmental Biology

This course will discuss modern concepts of cell and developmental biology, with a strong emphasis on regulatory mechanisms at different length-scales (intermolecular, intracellular and intercellular). It will cover methods of quantitative, single-cell, and organismal biology in cell lines, stem cells, and model organisms. A solid foundation of core cell biology concepts, such as the cell cycle, cytoskeleton, or vesicle transport, is strongly recommended.
View 230 Syllabus

MCB 231** Advanced Stem Cell and Developmental Biology (no longer offered)

Principles of animal development will be set forth from the classical and recent experimental analysis of induction, localization, patterning mutants, axis formation, regional gene expression, and cell interactions. Early development of selected vertebrates and invertebrates will be described. Basic experimental methods and new approaches will be presented. A weekly discussion section with readings from the research literature is required. Students will prepare a mini grant proposal.
View 231 Syllabus

MCB 236** Advanced Mammalian Physiology

Principles of mammalian (primarily human) physiology emphasizing physical, chemical, molecular, and cellular bases of functional biology. The following topics will be covered: cellular and membrane ion and nonelectrolyte transport; cell and endocrine regulation; autonomic nervous system regulation; skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscle; cardiovascular physiology; respiration; renal physiology; gastrointestinal physiology. Discussion section will study advanced physiological topics, including: presentations by the faculty; problem sets; discussion of the primary literature and of reviews; two presentations by each student on topics in current physiological research.

MCB 237L* Advanced Physical Biology of the Cell

Biology is being revolutionized by new experimental techniques that have made it possible to measure the inner workings of molecules, cells and multicellular organisms with unprecedented precision. The objective of this course is to explore this deluge of quantitative data through the use of biological numeracy. We will develop theoretical models that make precise predictions about biological phenomena. These predictions will be tested through the hands-on analysis of experimental data and by performing numerical simulations using Matlab. A laptop is required for this course, but no previous programming experience is required.​
View 237L Syllabus

MCB 239 Research Review in Cell and Developmental Biology (Lab Group Meeting).

MCB 240** Advanced Genetic Analysis

Principles and practice of classical and modern genetic analysis as applied to eukaryotic organisms, including yeast, nematodes, Drosophila, mice and humans; isolation and analysis of mutations; gene mapping; suppressor analysis; chromosome structure; control of gene expression; and developmental genetics.
View 240 Syllabus

MCB C243 *Seq: Methods and Applications (no longer offered)

A graduate seminar class in which a group of students will closely examine recent computational methods in high-throughput sequencing followed by directly examining interesting biological applications thereof.
View C243 Syllabus

MCB C244 Discrete Mathematics for the Life Sciences (no longer offered)

Introduction to algebraic statistics and probability, optimization, phylogenetic comcinatorics, graphs and networks, polyhedral and metric geometry. Also listed as Math C239.

MCB 249 Research Review in Genetics and Development (Lab Group Meeting).

MCB 250* Advanced Immunology

Molecular and cellular analysis of the immune response, emphasizing concepts and methodology. Innate immunity, pathogen sensors, antibodies and T cell receptors, lymphocyte activation, tolerance and selection. Antigen processing, T cell subtypes and T regulatory cells. NK cells, tumor surveillance and AIDS.
View 250 Syllabus

MCB 251 The Regulation of Immune System Development and Function

This is an advanced seminar course which will consider current research questions and experimental approaches in molecular and cellular immunology. Each registrant will present a 30-minute research talk describing the problems they are studying, the approach they are taking, their preliminary data, and technical problems. Other course participants (including basic immunology faculty) will provide criticism and suggestions.

MCB 259 Research Review in Immunology & Pathogenesis (Lab Group Meeting)

MCB C261** Advanced Cellular Neurobiology

Physical-chemical basis of membrane potentials, electrotonus, action potential generation and propagation, synaptic transmission, sensory receptor function, and volume conductor potentials. Also listed as Neuroscience C261.
View C261 Syllabus

MCB C262* Advanced Topics in Systems Neuroscience

Advanced coverage of current research problems in systems-level neuroscience, and experimental and computational techniques used for these studies. Also listed as Neuroscience C262.
View C262 Syllabus

MCB 269 Research Review in Neurobiology (Lab Group Meeting)

MCB C277 Communicating Quantitative Information

This course will cover several aspects of communicating quantitative information, with a primary focus on visualizations for publications, presentations, and posters. Other topics include sharing of data and analyses, such as new publication models and interactive notebooks, as well as lifecycle data management and publication. Primary discussion will be on conceptual issues, and students will be expected to use various systems and resources as self-directed home study. Also listed as Plant and Microbial Biology C277

MCB 280* A-F Selected Topics in molecular and Cell Biology

This modular course focuses on fundamental principles, essential concepts, and recent advances in select topics in molecular and cell biology. Topics include Genomics and Computational Biology, Molecular Evolution, Neurons and Synapses, Microbiology and Immunology, Macromolecular Structure and Function, and Scientific Writing. The purpose of the course is to provide a unique opportunity for graduate student to gain both breadth and depth in a variety of topics in molecular and cell biology. The course will also offer senior graduate students the opportunity to delve into new areas of research to help define potential postdoctoral research topics.

Each module is three hours of lecture and one hour of discussion per week for 5 weeks. Sections are taught in tandem and may be taken individually. Three modules may be taken in lieu of a core course. Course may be repeated for credit with change of content.

MCB 280A Molecular Evolution

MCB 280B Genomics and Computational Biology

MCB 280CMicrobiology and Immunology

MCB 280D Neurons and Synapses

MCB 280E Macromolecular Structure and Function

MCB 280F Scientific Writing

MCB 288 Data Science for Molecular and Cell Biology

Data science is rapidly becoming a critical skill for molecular and cell biologists. This course provides a survey of data science concepts and methods, including practical statistical inference and modeling, data visualization and exploration, elementary machine learning, and simulation. The course is practically oriented. Diverse real-world datasets, along with simulated data, will be used to develop skills and intuition.

MCB 290+ Graduate Seminar (usually 4 to 6 seminars per semester)

Graduate student presentations on selected research topics in molecular and cell biology. Several sections covering different topics offered each semester. Concurrent enrollment in more than one section is permitted. List of topics to be announced before each semester.

MCB 291+ Rotation Research

Three ten-week laboratory rotations during the first year of the program. Closely supervised experimental work under the direction of an individual faculty member; an introduction to experimental methods and research approaches in particular areas of molecular and cell biology. Each rotation involves an individual research project selected by the chosen faculty mentor and the student. In recognition of the fact that a student''s scientific interests often evolve considerably during the first few months in the program, each rotation is arranged just prior to the start of each ten-week period. This gives students sufficient opportunities to explore all the options for laboratories in which thesis research might be pursued. Rotation in a particular laboratory does not constitute a commitment on the part of the student or faculty mentor regarding the ultimate choice of thesis laboratory. When the cycle of rotations ends in April, students select and join the thesis laboratories where they will pursue research projects for their doctoral dissertations.

MCB 292+ Dissertation Research
Laboratory research, conferences. Individual research under the supervision of a faculty member.

MCB 293A+ Research Seminar (FERPs)

Seminar for first-year students on faculty presentations of the research areas under investigation in their laboratories.

MCB 293C+ Reponsible Conduct in Research

The purpose of this course is to ensure that research trainees receive ample training in Responsible Conduct in Research. Students also gain an understanding of federal, state, and UC Berkeley policies and resources available to further support their research endeavors.

MCB 293DRigor and Reproducibility in Research

The purpose of this course is to ensure that research trainees receive training in Rigor and Reproducibility in Research. Students also gain an understanding of federal, state, and UC Berkeley policies and resources available to further support their research endeavors.

MCB 293RResponsible Conduct of Research Refresher

This refresher course will cover topics in responsible conduct in research drawing from case studies of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the NIH. Students will review case studies in preparation for class discussion. Required of all 4th year MCB graduate students funded on NIH training grants.

MCB 293SFoundations of Biostatistical Practice

This course is designed to introduce students to the foundations of statistics in the context of biological research. Rather than focusing on a catalog of specific methods (by essence non-exhaustive and rapidly outdated), the course emphasizes general concepts and approaches necessary for sound statistical practice. Topics covered include: exploratory data analysis (EDA); data visualization; inferential reasoning; models and assumptions; statistical computing; computationally reproducible research. The statistical methods and software are motivated by and illustrated on data structures that arise in current biological and medical research.

MCB 295 Careers for Life Sciences Ph.D.'s

This course is designed to assist graduate students in the biological sciences with planning their post-doctoral careers. Weekly guest speakers will present their experiences in a variety of career areas and/or offer training in: academia; job searches; setting up a laboratory; patent law/technology transfer; public policy/regulatory affairs; bioinformatics; science writing/technical support; forensic science; postdoctoral positions in industry; teaching, and other topics of interest. Postdoctoral researchers are invited.

MCB 375 Pedagogy Course for MCB Graduate Student Instructors

This course will introduce you to effective teaching methods that you can use in the courses you will be teaching. Through readings, discussions and demonstrations, you will learn how to engage and motivate students, facilitate active participation, plan a class period, and write exam or practice problems. Emphasis will be placed on science education literature and proven practical techniques. We will also provide support and solutions for dealing with difficult situations that may come up during your first semester of teaching.

MCB Course Information

Schedule of classes

Berkeley Bulletin - MCB Courses