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UC Santa Barbara General CatalogUniversity of California, Santa Barbara

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Division of Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences
Life Sciences & Technology Building, Rm. 3308
Telephone: (805) 893-3512
Undergraduate Information (805) 893-5191
Graduate Information (805) 893-8499
Undergraduate e-mail:
Graduate e-mail:
Department Chair:  Frederick Dahlquist


The Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) offers the bachelor of science degree in four departmental majors—biochemistry-molecular biology, cell and developmental biology, microbiology, and pharmacology. In addition, it cooperates with the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology in offering the interdepartmental biological sciences major, with both B.A. and B.S. objectives. The department offers graduate programs leading to the degrees of master of arts and doctor of philosophy, with emphasis in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. An interdepartmental graduate program is offered in biomolecular science and engineering, in cooperation with the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Materials, and Mechanical and Environmental Engineering. In addition, a wide range of courses is available to all undergraduates for elective enrollment or for the support of their preparation for degrees in other departments or programs.

Molecular, cellular, and developmental biology majors provide excellent preparation for a wide variety of biology-related careers, including careers in the health sciences, biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture, environmental health and safety, food technology, and forensic science, and for research careers in academic, industry, and government laboratories. Many MCDB students prepare for entry into graduate or professional schools. Students should become familiar with the requirements of programs of interest, and then discuss their undergraduate coursework with their advisor. In general, all of the department’s majors are suitable for students preparing for professional schools in medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or nursing, and for graduate programs in biochemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, neurobiology, pharmacology, or virology. Students with a bachelor’s degree who are interested in pursuing a California Teaching Credential should contact the credential advisor in the Graduate School of Education as soon as possible.

The department undergraduate academic advisor is available for counseling on matters such as major requirements, course substitutions, petitions, and career and graduate school information. One faculty member serves each year as graduate advisor. The graduate program assistant helps graduate students in all matters related to their graduate study. Department publications are available from the undergraduate advisor and the graduate program assistant. Additional information is available at the MCDB website at

Senior Honors Program

Students with outstanding academic records in biological sciences are encouraged to apply for the senior honors program early in the fall quarter of the senior year. The honors program centers on an independent research project carried out in one of the departmental research groups (MCDB 199) and applications are available from the undergraduate advisor.

Undergraduate Program

Students are normally expected to complete all courses required in preparation for the major by the end of their sophomore year, but physics may be delayed until the junior year if necessary. Students are urged to complete their basic preparation in general chemistry and mathematics during their freshman year. Students with weak mathematics preparation should make up this deficiency, preferably during the summer preceding enrollment at UCSB. As the requirements suggest, each major in the department is designed to emphasize a different area in biology.

Upper-division major courses offered on the P/NP-only basis may be taken for major credit to a maximum of 4 units total in any combination for pharmacology and the B.A. in biological sciences or a maximum of 8 units total for the other B.S. majors. All other courses for the major, both preparation and upper-division, must be taken for letter grades.