Skip Navigation

The MCB Graduate Program 

The MCB program offers students a unique multidisciplinary course of study leading to the Ph.D. degree. The breadth and quality of the participating laboratories at Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, or Brookhaven National Laboratory provides students an outstanding opportunity for doctoral training in any one of a variety of disciplines.

The 2010 National Research Council (NRC) survey, the most authoritative survey of graduate programs, has rated the MCB program very highly. Only 17 out of 85 universities rated had programs with higher average R ratings, and only 6 universities had better rankings in the Northeast.

Course of Study


The Molecular and Cellular Biology Program (MCB) involves students in ongoing research projects as soon as they arrive on campus. During the first academic year, students undertake four research rotations in different laboratories of MCB Program faculty. The rotations provide an opportunity to experience different experimental systems as well as an inside view of each laboratory. The selection of rotation laboratories is assisted by an MCB faculty member who serves as Rotation Advisor. Stony Brook is the recommended site for the first rotation, but subsequent rotations can be performed at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory or Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Following your first academic year, you will select an MCB Program faculty as your Ph.D. research mentor and initiate a research project for your Ph.D. thesis.

MCB faculty use a diverse array of biological systems such as Agrobacterium, C. elegans, Drosophilia, humans, mice, plants, viruses, Xenopus, yeast, and Zebrafish to explore a variety of biological topics including:

  • Cancer
  • Structural Biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Gene Expression
  • Immune Response
  • Infectious Disease
  • Cell Cycle
  • Protein Trafficking
  • Development
  • DNA Replication
  • Biological Membranes

There are three areas of specialization or “tracks” within the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program. Near the end of the first year students choose one of these tracks based on their research interests. Students in each track can be in any MCB faculty member’s lab and the required core courses, Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, Membranes, and Cell Biology, are the same for all three tracks. However, the tracks differ in their elective course requirements. The three tracks are:

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology:    Students must have taken an undergraduate course in physical chemistry (or take one at Stony Brook University) and they are required to take the Physical Biochemistry course.
  • Cellular and Developmental Biology:    Students are required to take the Developmental Biology course.
  • Cellular and Molecular Pathology:   Students are required to take the Immunology course and the Pathology course. They also enroll in a journal club each year that analyzes research papers in cellular and molecular pathology
Teaching and Seminars

In the second semester of the first year and the first semester of the second year, graduate students develop teaching skills by serving as a Teaching Assistants for one of the undergraduate biology or biochemistry courses on campus. Performance is guided by the faculty instructor for the course.

In the third and subsequent years in the MCB Program graduate students present their research progress to other students and faculty. The Graduate Student Seminars are an opportunity for you to gain communication skills and to learn about ongoing research of other students and research laboratories.

Faculty from outside the institution are invited for weekly seminars and symposia. These are opportunities to meet visiting scientists who are leaders in their fields and to learn of their latest findings.

Advancement to Candidacy

In January of the second year MCB students are given a comprehensive qualifying exam. Following successful performance, students continue their research program. In the third year students prepare a written Ph.D. Thesis Proposal in consultation with their research faculty advisor. The proposal is defended orally before a Faculty Proposal Committee selected by the student. Following successful defense of the Proposal, the student advances to candidacy and the Proposal Committee and the faculty advisor become the student's Ph.D. Thesis Committee. The Committee meets at least once a year to support the research efforts of the student with advice on short-term and long-term strategies.