Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology


The MCB Faculty teaches a variety of courses, many of which are open to students from all concentrations. Courses range from introductory classes for student desiring a strong scientific basis for their studies, to small, challenging seminars for advanced students pursuing a career in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

All courses below the 100 level are primarily for undergraduates (the Neurobiology Tutorials being an exception). 100 level courses are open to both undergraduates and graduates. 200 level courses are primarily for graduates, but advanced undergraduates may join with permission. Finally, 300 level courses are exclusively for graduate students.

(View MCB courses for the current academic year.)

  • Foundational Courses: Approximately 700 students enroll in the foundational courses taught by MCB faculty members, giving students an initial overview to the Life Sciences. These courses include Life Sciences 1a and 1b, and Life and Physical Sciences A, which both cover topics in chemistry and in molecular and cellular biology. The courses are geared towards students with many scientific backgrounds and skill levels. MCB Faculty also teach many Freshman Seminars, discussion-based courses where first year students learn in a close-knit setting with Faculty.
  • Introductory Courses: Introductory courses allow students to become more familiarized with the specific topics they will encounter in their concentration, and provide a base for continued study within Molecular and Cellular Biology. The courses include MCB 52, Molecular Biology; MCB 54, Cell Biology; and MCB 80, Neurobiology of Behavior. All three of these courses provide important prerequisites for more advanced work in the Department.
  • Supervised Reading and Research Courses: These courses provide students the opportunity to work in a laboratory environment under the direction of members of the Board of Tutors of one's respective concentration. This work can lead to an undergraduate thesis in the student's chosen field of research.
  • Intermediate Courses: Courses in MCB at the intermediate level are open to both undergraduates and graduates and provide a wide diversity of topics in which to learn, ranging from Biophysics to Genomics. The Neurobiology tutorial courses are also considered an intermediate course, due to their specific and stimulating course material. Intermediate courses are often smaller than foundational and introductory courses, allowing students to study more closely with faculty.
  • Advanced Courses: Although primarily geared towards graduate students, MCB faculty offer courses open to advanced undergraduates on topics that include molecular mechanisms of gene control, the neurobiology of perception and decision-making, and metabolism and human disease. Some advanced courses, including MCB 290hrf and above are exclusively graduate courses, developed for the MCO and EPB programs. Classes engage students in critical analysis and discussion of primary literature. Students will also develop their communication skills through oral presentations and writing assignments that include literature reviews and research proposals.
  • Graduate Reading and Research Courses: Exclusively for graduate students, these Reading and Research courses allow students to work in the laboratory of their advising professor. MCB 300, Introduction to Research, starts first year graduates in lab rotations, until choosing an advisor and corresponding 300 level courses. Students, regardless of school or department, must be an advisee of the Professor to enroll in their 300 level courses.


updated: 10/04/2012