CU-Boulder offers three undergraduate majors in the biological sciences: Integrative Physiology (IPHY); Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO); and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB). All three majors lead to the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree.

The undergraduate program in MCDB is directed toward understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that provide the basis for biological structure, growth, evolution, embryonic development and genetic inheritance. Undergraduate majors learn about the scientific method, experimental approaches and groundbreaking discoveries that have made modern molecular and cellular biology such an important force in medicine, agriculture, and the growing biotechnology industry. They also learn about the diverse tools of modern biology, including recombinant DNA, genomic mapping, transgenic organisms, gene targeting, analysis of mutants, biochemical purification, antibody probes, laser manipulation of living cells, light and electron microscopy, and computer modeling. In addition to academic and laboratory classes, MCDB majors have many opportunities to participate in ongoing research in the department.

Opportunities open to MCDB majors with the B.A. degree include laboratory work in research, clinical, and diagnostic laboratories, as well as both research and manufacturing positions in biotechnology. Other possibilities include sales and service representatives for pharmaceutical, medical, or laboratory products, positions in governmental agencies, technical editing and publishing, scientific illustration, and a variety of management training programs. Students who earn Colorado teacher licensure will be qualified to apply for high school teaching positions in the state.

The MCDB major provides a strong foundation for graduate and professional training. Graduate study in areas related to MCDB can lead to academic faculty appointments, or to academic, governmental or industrial research positions. Professional degree programs include clinical or veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and other health-related professions, as well as forensic science and law. Other highly specialized fields that attract MCDB graduates include genetic counseling, biomedical engineering, marine biology, biopsychology, and business.

Career Services ( helps students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU-Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation. Meet individually the staff to discuss major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.

The department is housed in two adjoining buildings containing more than 120,000 square feet of laboratory space designed specifically for its research programs. The second building, completed in 1995, doubled the department’s laboratory space and has allowed for faculty expansion into new areas, including mammalian development and problems relating to human health. Current research includes bacterial and eukaryotic molecular genetics, mechanisms controlling cellular growth, survival, and differentiation, animal and plant development, neurobiology, genomic analysis, and molecular phylogeny. Details at:

Specialized instruments and facilities in MCDB include a DNA sequencing service, advanced computer facilities, a pathogen-free transgenic mouse laboratory, freeze-etch equipment, and advanced  light and electron microscope facilities, including fluorescence deconvolution and confocal scanning light microscopes and two advanced intermediate volt electron microscopes for three-dimensional imaging. In addition, each faculty research laboratory is fully equipped for the specialized needs of the research being done there.

Dozens of undergraduates do research projects in the MCDB faculty laboratories each year. Students seeking to do research are advised to complete the required sequence of MCDB courses as early as possible in order to be better prepared academically for research, to meet more faculty, and to have enough time left later for full involvement in a research project. Undergraduate research experience greatly improves the likelihood of admission to a high quality Ph.D. program as the next step toward a career in research.

Majors with successful research projects and strong academic records are eligible to graduate with honors in MCDB. A candidate for honors must prepare a thesis based on the research project, present the work to an honors committee, and pass an oral examination on the work. It is important to identify a faculty mentor and initiate the research sufficiently early so that results suitable for an honors thesis can be achieved prior to graduation.

The university offers more than 100  programs study abroad programs around the world, and students may spend from a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program selected. Advanced MCDB courses are difficult to match with those offered in foreign universities, so MCDB students should plan to take non-major courses during study abroad. For more information call the Office of International Education at 303-492-7741 or stop by the Center for Community. You can find the home page at:

Please speak with your advisor for specific recommendations; the following is intended to be a general outline only and there may be flexibility to this plan.

Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology 4-Year Plan
Average 30 credits per year.

NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of the 4-year plan to see important information (lab, MCDB electives, pre-requisites, etc.)


First Year – Fall Semester
MCDB 1150
(3): Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Biology
MCDB 2 Credit Hour Lab (2) *
MCDB 1152 (1): Problem Solving Co-Seminar for Intro. To Molecular and Cellular Biology [strongly recommended, not required]
CHEM 1113 and 1114 (5): General Chemistry 1 **
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Lower Division Written Communication)

First Year – Spring Semester
MCDB 2150
(3): Principles of Genetics
MCDB 2152 (1): Problem Solving Co-Seminar for Genetics [strongly recommended, not required]
CHEM 1133 and 1134 (5): General Chemistry 2
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Historical Context)
Elective/MAPS (3)

* MCDB 2 credit hour labs MCDB majors are required to take a 2 credit hour research-based lab. It can be taken with either MCDB 1150 or MCDB 2150. See degree audit for course options.

** Preparatory course for General Chemistry 1: If student has not had chemistry, struggled in chemistry, or has not taken chemistry in a while, are recommended to take Intro Chemistry (CHEM 1021) before CHEM 1113 & 1114

Second Year – Fall Semester
MCDB 3135
(3): Molecular Cell Biology 1***
MCDB 3140  (2): Cell Biology Laboratory
CHEM 3311 and 3321 (5): Organic Chemistry 1 and lab
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Human Diversity)
Elective/MAPS (3)

Second Year – Spring Semester
MCDB 3145
(3): Molecular Cell Biology 2
MATH 1300 OR Statistics (3-5): Calculus 1 or Statistics ०  
OR (some students may decide to take Organic Chemistry 2 as an approved out of department, upper division MCDB elective, in that case, taking stats or calc is advised for later semesters)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: United States Context)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Lower Division Literature and the Arts)
Elective/MAPS (3) (only if taking Statistics)

*** MCDB 3140 can be taken with either MCDB 3135 or MCDB 3145

० See degree audit for options.  Note: MATH 2510 is the only stats course that will also meet the QRMS Core requirement.

Third Year – Fall Semester
MCDB Elective
(3) Upper Division 
CHEM 4611 (3): Survey of Biochemistry
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Upper Division Written Communication)
Elective (3)
Elective (3)

Third Year – Spring Semester
MCDB Elective
(3) Upper Division 
MCDB Capstone or MCDB Sci Reasoning (3)
CORE (3): Content Areas of Study (example: Contemporary Societies)
Elective (3): Upper-Division
Elective (3): Upper-Division

Fourth Year – Fall Semester
MCDB Capstone or MCDB Sci Reasoning
PHYS 2010 (5): General Physics 1
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Ideals and Values)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Upper Division Literature and the Arts)
Elective (3)

Fourth Year – Spring Semester
MCDB Elective
(3):  Upper Division 
PHYS 2020 (5): General Physics 2
Elective (3): Upper-Division
Elective (3)

Other Major Courses/Pre-requisites/Pertinent Information:

  • MCDB Electives: The remaining 8 hours can come from UD MCDB courses (including up to 6 hours of MCDB independent study/honors research/honors thesis) and up to 6 hours can come from our list of approved non-MCDB courses.
  • A C- or better is required in both Gen Chem 1 (CHEM 1113, CHEM 1400 or CHEM 1211) and Genetics (MCDB 2150 or EBIO 2070) to take MCDB 3135.
  • MCDB 3145 is Spring only and is a prerequisite for MCDB Capstone and Scientific Reasoning courses.
  • Students planning to double major with CHEM/BCHM should talk to a MCDB advisor about their chemistry courses.

Students who plan to pursue a health career or graduate school may need additional courses. We recommend students work with Pre-Health advisors and check the prerequisites of programs they plan to attend to ensure they are adequately prepared.