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Pathways Curriculum

Students begin the program in the summer preceding their first fall term. 

Students must complete:

  • 24 Rackham credits in MCDB and related areas, including a minimum of 12 credits of coursework and 8 credits of research (MCDB 700). 
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Course (e.g., PIBS 503 or UC 415) during their first year in the program. 
  • Only graduate-level courses (400 level and above) may count towards the M.S. degree. 
  • Courses offered by departments other than MCDB  must be approved by the student's thesis advisor and the director of the Pathways Master's program before they are taken. 

All courses will be selected in consultation with the student's research advisor and the program director.

Students are required to be a Graduate Student Instructor (teaching assistant) for a minimum of one term during their program.

Students will be matched into research labs during the first summer, while they also participate in the Rackham Summer Institute. They will work in that research lab for 2 years, completing a research project that is of sufficient quality for a Master's thesis. 

Students will defend their thesis in an open seminar, followed by an oral exam by their thesis committee.

MCDB Pathways Timeline

Year 1

Year 1:  Summer

  • Rackham Summer Institute or current version of Rackham Summer Program.
  • Students will be matched with labs to find a thesis advisor and begin lab work.

Year 1:  Fall

  • 3-4 credits of a 400 level or higher course
  • 3-4 credits of research in a faculty member's lab (MCDB 700).
  • 1 credit PIBS 503 (or similar course)
  • 1 credit MCDB 800
  • Confirm thesis lab selection and continue thesis work.
  • Form a committee consisting of three faculty including the thesis advisor by October 1.

Year 1: Winter

  • GSI appointment.
  • 3–4 credits of a 400 level or higher course (may include cognate)
  • 2–3 credits MCDB 700
  • First committee meeting before April 30th. These Master’s thesis committees will have more frequent meetings than standard committees because the timeframe for finishing the thesis is substantially shorter than a Ph.D.

Year 2

Year 2: Summer

  • Independent Research.
  • Each student is expected to attend 1 professional meeting.
  • Committee meeting before October 1.

Year 2:  Fall

  • GSI appointment
  • 3-4 credits of a 400-level or higher course 
  • 2–3 credits MCDB 700
  • 1 credit MCDB 800
  • Thesis committee meeting before January 30

Year 2:  Winter

  • 3-4 credits of a 400-level or higher course 
  • 3-4 credits MCDB 700
  • 1 credit MCDB 800
  • Submit written thesis to committee one week prior to defense. Thesis defense and final thesis committee meeting at the end of winter term before May 1st. Required revisions to thesis, if any, are due within two weeks of thesis defense. 

First-year MCDB Master's Courses

Below is a partial list representing the broad range of courses that Master's students will be eligible to take during their first year and fall term of their second year.

MCDB 401—Advanced Topics in Biology
MCDB 402—Molecular Biology of Pain
MCDB 403—Molecular and Cellular Biology of the Synapse
MCDB 404—Genetics, Development, and Evolution
MCDB 405—Molecular Basis of Development
MCDB 408—Genomic Biology
MCDB 411—Protein Structure and Function
MCDB 415—Microbial Genetics
MCDB 417—Chromosome Structure and Function
MCDB 418—Endocrinology
MCDB 422—Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology; Brain Development
MCDB 423—Introduction to Research in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
MCDB 425—Biotechnology: From Concepts to Technologies
MCDB 426—Molecular Endocrinology
MCDB 427—Molecular Biology
MCDB 428—Cell Biology
MCDB 430—Molecular Biology of Plants
MCDB 432—Biochemistry and Physiology of Prokaryotes
MCDB 435—Intracellular Trafficking
MCDB 436—Introductory Immunology
MCDB 441—Cell Biology and Disease
MCDB 444—Bacterial Cell Biology
MCDB 450—Genetics and Molecular Biology of Complex Behavior
MCDB 455—Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration
MCDB 489—Microbial Genes and Genomes
MCDB 589—Mechanisms of Microbial Evolution
MCDB 610—Principles of Neuroscience 1
MCDB 611—Excitable Membranes
MCDB 614—Experimental Models in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
MCDB 680—Organogenesis of Complex Tissues
MCDB 700—Advanced Studies (Independent Study)
MCDB 800—Biology Seminars
PIBS 503—Research Responsibility and Ethics

Thesis Committee

After a student and a faculty member have agreed on a project suitable for the thesis-based Master's degree, the student will assemble a committee made up of the thesis advisor and two faculty members selected by the student in consultation with the advisor. The committee will meet with the student during the fall and winter terms to help the student and the advisor to keep research on track. The thesis committee will aim to advise and guide the student towards the degree completion. Reports of these meetings and the student's progress will be due to the Pathways Program Director and the Chair of Graduate Studies by the end of each term and will become a permanent part of the student's academic file.

Staff Support

MCDB Graduate Program Coordinator: Mary Carr.