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Undergraduate Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) MCB Course Information

MCB Course Information

Description of the Gateway Course

MCB 60. Cellular Biology and Molecular Medicine
Vlad Denic and Alex Schier (fall course)

This course provides an introduction to the principles of molecular and cellular biology and their connections to biomedicine. We explore how medical syndromes provide insights into biological processes and how biological mechanisms underlie human disease and physiology. Topics range from DNA repair, protein folding and vesicle transport to metabolism, cell migration and cancer. Lectures focus on the experimental evidence for key concepts, and the weekly sections combine a discovery-based laboratory research project with discussions that emphasize problem solving and primary literature.

Description of Intermediate Courses

The courses below will fulfill the intermediate course requirement, with all students taking MCB 60 and at least one other course within this selection. Two courses focus on biochemistry (MCB 63 and MCB 65) while the other two courses tackle cell biology (MCB 64 and MCB 68). Furthermore, two courses have a perspective closely linked to human health (MCB 63 and MCB 64), while the other two are more singly focused on fundamental science concepts (MCB 65 and MCB 68). This distribution is illustrated in the table below. Note that spring courses MCB 64, MCB 65 and MCB 68 do not require MCB 60, allowing students to start an intermediate course sequence in the spring.

MCB 63. Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
Alain Viel and Rachelle Gaudet (fall course)

The course integrates an introduction to the structure of macromolecules and a biochemical approach to cellular function. Topics addressing protein function will include enzyme kinetics, the characterization of major metabolic pathways and their interconnection into tightly regulated networks, and the manipulation of enzymes and pathways with mutations or drugs. An exploration of simple cells (red blood cells) to more complex tissues (muscle and liver) is used as a framework to discuss the progression in metabolic complexity. Students will also develop problem solving and analytical skills that are more generally applicable to the life sciences.

MCB 65. (Formerly MCB 56) Physical Biochemistry: Understanding Macromolecular Machines

Rachelle Gaudet and Andres Leschziner (spring course)

The course aims to develop fundamental concepts of biochemistry as they apply to macromolecules, including protein and nucleic acid structure, thermodynamics and kinetics, ligand interactions and chemical equilibria. The course will also emphasize how these concepts are used in studies of the structure and function of biological molecules, including examples from metabolism. In the weekly section, students will undertake a discovery-based laboratory research project in which they will apply these concepts toward understanding the structure and function of the ATPase domain from the ABC transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP).

MCB 64. The Cell Biology of Human Life in the World
Robert Lue (spring course)

This course teaches fundamental concepts in cell biology in the context of individual life histories drawn from different parts of the world. Each life case focuses on key aspects of human development, growth, aging and disease while providing a nuanced view of the interplay between the life sciences, geography and culture. For example, a comparative discussion of aging in the United States and Japan is used to explore diet, cellular metabolism and its relationship to protein damage and turnover, while the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS in South Asia is used to explore mucosal immunity and the basis for estimating relative infection risk. Each case delves into the cell biology of major biological events across the life history of the human organism.

MCB 68. Cell Biology Through the Microscope
Ethan Garner and Jeff Lichtman (spring course)

MCB 68 explores three fundamental fields of eukaryotic cell biology: chromosome segregation, cell motility, and neuroscience. Each topic is approached from a historic and technical perspective. Students will discover these systems as the scientific field did, learning how each successive advance in microscopy revealed new biological details. Students will come away with a theoretical and hands-on understanding of microscopy as well as a grasp of the biological findings each technology revealed.