Molecular and Cellular Biology, PhD

The molecular and cellular biology PhD program is focused on understanding the fundamental molecular events at the core of all life. In this interdisciplinary program, students will use state-of-the-art research approaches to address critical problems in modern biology.

One of our program’s unique strengths is the expanse of affiliated faculty, departments and institutions. As a student in our program you can choose to participate in a wide breadth of research projects. And, you’ll have the flexibility to tailor the program to meet your specific professional goals.

The program includes more than 100 faculty members who represent eight ASU schools and their affiliated research centers. Our community partners include Mayo Clinic, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

We foster a strong student community, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations through a weekly colloquium, annual student retreat and other student and faculty interactions.

We are committed to your scientific training. As you develop critical thinking and communications skills, we’ll teach you how to become ethical, innovative researchers with the necessary skills for success in a rapidly changing research environment. 

Graduates of this program may find careers in biomedical academic research, government, education and biotechnology. Many of our graduates are leaders in their chosen area.

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.

5 years to degree
4 partner institutions
100+ faculty

Degree Overview

Core courses, electives, participation in colloquium, and research and dissertations hours are required. 84 credits are required, along with a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation.

You'll develop a plan of study with your supervisory committee, choosing electives that suit your research area. Courses may be chosen from biology, evolution, microbiology, biochemistry and engineering. 

How to apply

The molecular and cellular biology PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August. Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

Follow the Apply Now link.
You will be asked to:

  • review university standards, degree program timelines and application requirements

  • complete graduate admission application

  • send official transcripts

  • send language tests (international students only)

  • complete the academic record form

  • submit a non-refundable application fee

Application deadline
Applications are accepted Sept. 1 - Dec. 15, with a preference date of Dec. 1. 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. We will notify you of your admissions status by April 15. 

Desired qualifications:

  • research experience 
  • undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)
  • international students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

We guarantee 5 years of academic-year funding as a teaching or research assistant. This includes stipend, insurance and tuition support to cover the required 84 hours for the degree.

The MCB program has given me the opportunity to pursue the research topics I am most passionate about and provided me with a committee that encourages me to collaborate and connect with the scientific community around me.

—Heather Geissel, current student


This program requires 84 credits. At least 54 credits must be completed after admission to the program.

Credits earned from a previously awarded doctorate may not be applied to your current ASU doctoral program. Up to nine credits earned toward an ASU master's degree may be applied to your doctoral program.

Written and oral comprehensive examinations are required before advancing to doctoral candidacy. A written dissertation based on an original body of research that demonstrates proficiency in your specialization is required.

Your final defense consists of a public seminar immediately followed by a private discussion with your dissertation committee. 


 Credit Hours

Core course


Additional requirements


Elective courses






Total hours required


Courses and electives

A total of 84 credits are required to complete this PhD program. Working with your supervisory committee, you'll develop an individualized plan of study and choose the electives that suit your specific research area. Required courses include MCB 555 and 556, along with your participation in a colloquium, research, and the development and defense of your dissertation. Many programs offer electives including biochemistry, biology, evolution, microbiology, biomedical engineering, and molecular and cellular biology.

  • MCB 555 (6) Required semester 1
  • MCB 556 (3) Required semester 2
  • MCB 701 (1) Required every semester (10 total)
  • BIO 530 (2) Required semester 1
  • BIO 543 (3) or equivalent required semester 2
  • BIO 610 (1) Required year 1 or 2

Seminars or classes at the 500, 600 or 700 level may be taken for your elective requirements. A minimum of 6 credit hours of elective coursework is required.

Sample courses include:

  • ASM 543 Primatology (3)
  • BCH 564 Bionanotechnology
  • BCH 568 Molecular Mechanisms/Photosynthesis
  • BIO 503 Bioimaging Lab (2)
  • BIO 504 Bioimaging (2)
  • BIO 598 Computing for Research
  • BIO 614 Biometry (4)
  • BME 556 Human Systems Neuroscience
  • BME 598 Principles of Immunoengineering
  • MAT 591 Topic: Math Biology (3)
  • MCB 591
  • MCB 598 Advanced Developmental Biology
  • MIC 598 Advanced Immunology
  • MIC 791 Molecular Virology
  • NEU 591 Neuromuscular Development and Degeneration Seminar
  • PSY 515 Quantitative Research Methodology and Statistics 1 (3)
  • PSY 526 Neuroanatomy (4)
  • PSY 530 Intermediate Statistics (3)
  • PSY 532 Analysis of Multivariate Data (3)
  • STP 530 Applied Regression (3)
  • STP 531 Applied Analysis of Variance (3)
  • STP 532 Applied Nonparametric Statistics (3)





Interdisciplinary participants
Participating faculty members and researchers come from many departments, colleges, centers and institutes across the university, including:

In addition to Arizona State University, some faculty members are based at partner institutions in greater Phoenix, including: