About the Department

The Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology (MCD) is comprised of twenty-four faculty members and three lecturers, whose work focuses on questions of how information in DNA is packaged, read, and interpreted in living cells, how those cells are built and regenerated, and how cells work together to comprise a whole organism. 

Research with Direct Application to Human Health

MCD faculty members are recognized as among the world leaders in their fields. For example, Professor Harry Noller’s research group determined the structure of the ribosome at 5.5 Å resolution using X-ray crystallography—a major achievement that has provided key insights concerning the mechanism of protein synthesis. Professor Lindsay Hinck recently discovered an unanticipated role for the neural guidance molecule, netrin-1, in mammary gland development. And Professor Manny Ares and his coworkers have developed microarrays capable of monitoring alternative RNA splicing on a genome-wide scale. In fact, according to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), MCD investigators are among the most highly cited researchers in their fields. During the last three years, we have averaged over $11 million dollars a year in research funding. As individuals, our faculty members have received numerous honors and awards—from selection to the National Academy of Sciences to prestigious recognition of new investigators. Importantly, our research is frequently collaborative in nature, and we are enthusiastic contributors to multidisciplinary organizations that cross departmental, divisional and university boundaries—including UCSC's internationally recognized Center for the Molecular Biology of RNA, the new CIRM Stem Cell Center, and the California Institute for Quantitative Biology. [more on research]

Boman Day by the Bay 2010Educational Programs and Training

MCD offers outstanding graduate and undergraduate training programs. The Department grants both masters and Ph.D. degrees, with an emphasis on the latter, in collaboration with the interdisciplinary graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences and Engineering (PBSE). Graduate training is supported by an NIH T32 training grant, the NIH Initiative for Minority Student Development, and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Graduate trainees have long played a major role in our research efforts. For example, one student, Jim Kent, was critical to the assembly of the first draft sequence of the human genome - one of the major achievements of modern biology.

We also provide a foundation for one of the largest undergraduate programs on campus, with seven undergraduate degrees averaging over 7,000 enrollments annually. Three majors are among the most popular majors on campus: Biology, Human Biology, and Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology. Importantly, we have long emphasized the importance of undergraduate research opportunities in faculty labs, and these experiences often open the door to a life-time in science. We are particularly strong advocates of programs that promote careers for underrepresented minorities, and feature some of the nation's most highly regarded programs, such as Minority Access to Research Careers/Minority Biomedical Research. [more on Academic Programs]

Photo: Departmental Chair, Dr. Barry Bowman (right), at Day by the Bay Celebration, May 2010.