Molecular and Cellular Biology, PHD

At a Glance: program details

In this flexible program, you'll tailor your experience to meet your specific professional goals. Through a wide range of research and training opportunities led by world-class faculty, you'll come to understand the essential molecular functions at the core of all life.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Molecular and Cellular Biology

The PhD program in molecular and cellular biology emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches in fundamental and highly applied molecular and cellular biology to answer basic and translational research questions. Students can tailor the program around their interests while gaining skills in the most innovative approaches and techniques.

Faculty have a diverse range of research interests and training opportunities for doctoral students interested in pursuing a degree that extends beyond the traditional boundaries of biological research. Participating faculty members and researchers are drawn from multiple departments, colleges, centers and institutes across the university including:

  • New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
  • School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy
  • School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering
  • School of Human Evolution and Social Change
  • School of Life Sciences
  • School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
  • School of Molecular Sciences

Participating faculty members are also based at partner institutions in the greater Phoenix area, including:

  • Caris Life Sciences
  • Mayo Clinic Arizona
  • Phoenix Children's Hospital
  • Translational Genomics Research Institute
  • University of Arizona College of Medicine -- Phoenix

Application and admission information

Applications open September 1 for admission in Fall of the following year. The application deadline is December 1. We accept applications for Fall semesters only. We cannot guarantee that applications received after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission.

All applicants must apply by filling out ASU's Graduate Admissions application. All application materials must be submitted through the application or to Graduate Admissions directly. Please do not mail or email any documents to the School of Life Sciences. 

Required materials and information include the following:

  • 1-2 page personal statement
  • An up to date CV or resume
  • The names of relevant SOLS faculty you have been in touch with who you might be interested in being supervised by
  • Unofficial transcripts and English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • The names and emails of at least 3 recommenders to write you letters of recommendation

Following the December 1 deadline, faculty will begin reviewing applications. Applicants should monitor their My ASU priority tasks to ensure there are no missing materials in their application.

Faculty will decide which applicants they would like to invite to our Graduate Recruitment Weekends (GRWs), typically held in February. Applicants will hear from the School of Life Sciences in January if they are invited to participate in the GRWs.

Admission decisions will begin after the GRWs, and applicants typically receive final decisions by April 1.

Minimum requirements for admission include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • International applicants must satisfy university minimum requirements for English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, PTE)
    • There are other ways to demonstrate English proficiency beyond the tests, so please refer to ASU's English proficiency webpage to review how you might satisfy requirements

Desired qualifications typically seen in competitive candidates:

Please note that the GRE is not required.

Students offered admission to a PhD program in the School of Life Sciences will typically receive a funding offer as well. While individual funding offers may differ to some degree, they typically include teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions each semester (summer optional) for 5 years. These positions provide financial coverage through the following:

  • A standard salary stipend paid biweekly
  • Tuition remission covering enrollment in 6-18 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and 1-14 credit hours for summer semesters
  • Health insurance coverage

To discover more, check out the ASU Graduate College's funding opportunities!

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (6 credit hours)
MCB 555 Advanced Molecular and Cellular Sciences (3)
MCB 556 Advanced Molecular and Cellular Biology II (3)

Electives or Research (54 credit hours)

Other Requirements (12 credit hours)
BIO 543 Molecular Genetics and Genomics (3)
BIO 610 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences (1)
MCB 501 Seminar: Molecular and Cellular Biology Colloquium (8)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
MCB 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Students take MCB 501 eight times for one credit hour. Courses listed as other requirements may be substituted with approval of the academic unit.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in the biological sciences, biochemistry or a closely related field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

Research experience is a desired qualification.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Able to communicate the rationale and results of their research, both orally and in writing.
  • Able to execute a research plan of their own design that addresses a significant scientific question about molecular and cellular biology.
  • Able to review the literature relevant to the research question in molecular and cellular biology that they address in their dissertation.

Career Opportunities

Graduates hold positions as researchers and leaders in nongovernmental organizations, biotech and pharma, and in federal and state agencies.

Career examples include:

  • faculty in universities and colleges
  • leaders of nonprofit organizations
  • principal investigators and leaders in private, government and industrial labs

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.