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Master's Curriculum

MCDB’s Master of Science Program is a flexible pathway that can be customized for the next stage of a student’s career—medical school, a Ph.D. program, classroom teaching, a research position, or other biology related vocation. Students have access to a diverse and challenging array of courses, seminars, and laboratory research opportunities to prepare for a career in the biological or medical sciences.


The Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) of MCDB is responsible for the development and administration of the Master of Science Program.  It is important that you seek advice from the committee during all phases of your Master’s career. All members of the committee are available for advising, but students are asked to first contact Mary Carr or the committee chair for master’s program advising. Students are responsible for scheduling an advising appointment once per semester.

For questions concerning the program, advice on the curriculum, or any concerns you may have please contact: 

Program Requirements

Students must complete 24 credit hours of approved coursework, with a minimum of 16 credit hours coming from MCDB courses. For courses to count toward your required 24 hours, they must be at the 400 level or higher. Up to eight credit hours of the required 24 can take the form of independent research (MCDB 700).

Master’s students who lack required prerequisite courses below the 400 level may take these courses during their first two terms of enrollment, but credit from these classes will not count toward the required 24 credit hours. Students who lack prerequisites or are aware of curricular deficiencies are encouraged to address these issues as early as possible.

Students in the MCDB Master of Science Program must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.00, a “B” average.

The Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies ultimately governs the requirements for the attainment of a master’s degree at the University of Michigan. This includes policies concerning the transfer of credit from other institutions. Though the graduate studies committee will do its utmost to advise you on these policies, it is your responsibility to be familiar with the current Rackham requirements. See the Rackham’s website for Rackham Master’s requirements

Please consult Rackham’s website frequently to ensure that you are aware of current policies.


The University of Michigan offers a variety of graduate-level courses taught by faculty who are leaders in their academic fields. We encourage you to explore the large number of course choices available on the Ann Arbor campus and to choose those that will best prepare you for your future plans in the biological or medical sciences. See the comprehensive online guide to Rackham-approved programs. Follow those links for approved courses.

Courses offered by the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts (LSA), including MCDB courses, can be found on LSA’s online course guide   Departments of the University of Michigan School of Medicine offer many relevant graduate level courses. Descriptions of these classes are available in the Program in Biomedical Science’s (PIBS) curriculum

  • MCDB 800 (MCDB Departmental Seminar) is a popular 1 credit MCDB course that can be taken every term. This course consists of a weekly research seminar that features visiting biologists discussing a wide range of biological questions.
  • PIBS 503 (Research Responsibility and Ethics) is a popular 1 credit course for master’s students.

The School of Public Health offers courses in Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Health Behavior, and Health Education that can fulfill credit requirements. See the School of Public Health

Research and Thesis Option

Though the MCDB’s master's program is not thesis-based, students who plan to conduct research in the future or are otherwise interested in conducting laboratory research are encouraged to seek research opportunities in the laboratories of MCDB faculty. Up to eight credit hours of the required 24 can take the form of independent research (MCDB 700). If you are interested in conducting research in an MCDB lab, please contact research faculty directly

If a student wishes to pursue the thesis option, the requirements are:

  • assemble a committee of three faculty including their advisor (two MCDB faculty and one faculty member from another department also accepted)
  • complete the thesis
  • give a public seminar and a closed defense

Standards of Conduct

Master’s students are responsible for understanding and adhering to the academic and ethical standards of The University of Michigan. University policies pertaining to graduate student conduct are discussed in detail in Rackham’s academic policies available online.

Financial Support

Though the MCDB master’s program does not guarantee financial support, master’s students are eligible for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) positions. Please note that students from MCDB’s Ph.D. program are given first priority for these positions, and such positions may not be available to master’s students. To inquire about GSI positions please contact Kimberly Pavuk ( in the Program in Biology Advising Office. GSRA positions must be arranged directly with MCDB research faculty.

School loans and work-study programs are available through the University of Michigan’s Office of Financial Aid

Part-time positions are sometimes available at University of Michigan, though they vary in type and availability. Students interested in such positions should contact the student employment office

Departmental Retreat

The Department of MCDB gathers yearly for a retreat. This is an excellent opportunity to meet faculty and fellow students and to learn about the research being conducted in the department. Master’s students are encouraged to attend this yearly event.