Molecular/Cellular Biology, PhD

The interdisciplinary PhD program in Molecular and Cellular Biology is focused on understanding the fundamental molecular events at the core of all life.

Our goal is to provide a diverse range of research and training opportunities for doctoral students interested in pursuing a multidisciplinary approach to their studies that extends beyond the traditional boundaries of biological research.

Participating faculty and researchers come from departments, colleges, centers and institutes across the university, as well as from partner institutions in the greater Phoenix area.

You will gain skills in contemporary approaches used in molecular and cellular biology and have the flexibility to tailor the program to meet your specific professional goals.

This dynamic research and training program embraces the goals of the New American University at ASU by breaking from traditional disciplinary constraints —allowing you to develop new knowledge that will help transform our world.

Program of Study
Your and your mentor, in consultatoin and input from the dissertation committee, will plan your program of study. Your program of study is tailored to your individual needs and goals.

Required Hours
A minimum of 84 credit hours is required to complete your  PhD degree program.

  • MCB Courses - 12+ credit hours
  • Electives - 6 credit hours
  • MCB 799 dissertation - 12 credit hours

You, in consultation with your mentor and dissertation committee, will choose the remaining courses. Of the 84 credit hours, at least 54 (which may include research credits) of the approved program of study must be completed after you are admitted to the PhD program.

You may not apply credit hours earned for a doctoral degree previously awarded at any institution toward your current ASU doctoral degree. Up to 9 credit hours earned towards an ASU master's degree may be applied to a doctoral program of study if approved by the program.

Written and oral comprehensive examinations are required before you will advance to doctoral candidacy. You must produce a written dissertation based on an original body of high-quality research that demonstrates your proficiency in your area of specialization. Your final defense consists of a public seminar immediately followed by a private discussion and questions with the dissertation committee. You must presesnt evidence that your presented research has been published or is publishable in peer reviewed literature.

Typical Curriculum for MCB PhD

First Year
You should attend the New Student Orientation the week before classes start. You will receive an overview of the Molecular and Cellular Biology program and will be advised on the selection of courses and laboratory rotations.

Note: Example of credit hours (3)

Fall Semester 

MCB 555  Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology: (6) Intensive lecture- and literature-based studies in membrane biology, neurobiology, signal transduction, bioimaging and molecular-based disease.

MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium. Weekly seminar series that includes student, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and visiting speakers. Registration and attendance is required each semester.

*Students who have completed a comparable graduate genetics class or who have significant research background in molecular genetics may select another elective with the approval of their committee.

Spring Semester 

  • MCB 556  Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology (3) Lecture- and literature-based studies in gene regulation, developmental genetics, protein structure and function, and microbiology and immunology.
  • Elective  (2-4) Typical electives are chosen from any area of molecular biology or cellular biology or from any area that substantially prepares you for your dissertation research. 
  • MCB 792  Research (5)
  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • BIO 610 Introduction to Research Ethics (1) All MCB graduate students must attend an Ethics in Research class during the first or second year. This 10-week course meets once a week for 75 minutes. It introduces the ethical and regulatory issues in the nine core areas of responsible conduct of research, as defined by the National Institutes of Health. 

Second Year

Fall Semester 

  • BIO 543  Molecular Genetics* (3) An in-depth and comprehensive treatment of molecular biology including DNA replication, repair, RNA processing, transcription and control of these processes.
  • BIO 610  Introduction to Research Ethics/Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research (1) A basic course in research ethics including issues concerning use of laboratory animals and human subjects, research collaboration and publishing.
  • Elective  (2-4) Note: A total of 6 hours of electives is required.
  • MCB 591  Literature Seminar/Journal Club (1) Student presentations of research literature with a faculty instructor(s).
  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • MCB 792  Research (6)

Spring Semester Curriculum

  • MCB 591  Literature Seminar/Journal Club (1) Student presentations of research literature with a faculty instructor(s). Note: 2 credits, e.g. 2 semesters, of literature seminars are required for the degree.
  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • MCB 792  Research (6)

The comprehensive exam must be completed no later than April 15 during the spring of the second year. The exam consists of a written research proposal, an oral presentation and defense of the proposal. Additional information regarding the oral exam is described below. 

Third Year

Fall and Spring

  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • MCB 792  Research (11)

Fourth Year

Fall and Spring

  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • MCB 792  Research (11)

Fifth and Last Year

Fall and Spring 

  • MCB 701  Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (1)
  • MCB 792  Research (11)

Application Deadline

Applications are accepted Oct. 1 - Dec. 15, with a preference date of Dec. 1.
The Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August.

There is no guarantee that applications received after Dec. 15 will be reviewed. In January, the top applicants will be invited to a recruitment event scheduled in mid- to late-February. 

Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

We will notify you of your admissions status by April 15. 

Desired qualifications:

  • Research experience 
  • Undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)
  • GRE scores: 50% Verbal and 70% Quantitative 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

Note: Your application is evaluated based on your entire application package.

To apply, follow the How and When to Apply link below.

 You will be asked to:

  1. Review the university standards, degree program timelines and application requirements
  2. Complete the graduate admission application
  3. Send official transcripts, general GRE scores and language tests (international students only) to graduate admissions services
  4. Fill out the academic record form and upload it 
  5. Submit a non-refundable application fee

Degree Offered

Molecular/Cellular Biology, PhD
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of


Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study

Application Deadlines

Applications for Fall 2019 accepted:  Oct. 1-Dec. 15, 2018
Priority deadline:  Dec. 1, 2018

Financial Support for Graduate Education

More information on financial support through the School of Life Sciences.

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