Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB)

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 35.9 k / Year(s) Deadline: Dec 9, 2024
133 place StudyQA ranking:4773 Duration:

Students in MCDB graduate program do research in a wide array of inter-related disciplines, including Genomics, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology, Microbiology, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Computational Biology, Structural Biology and Virology. 


Do big science. More than 2 dozen faculty mentors run active laboratories and bring in ~$7 million in grants annually, giving students the freedom and opportunity to pursue and answer important questions.


Students do three 10-week research rotations during their first year, exploring a range of approaches, perspectives and lab environments.  


Our community size of ~50 MCDB students is large enough to catalyze exchange of innovative ideas, but small enough so that each student gets close attention from their faculty mentor. 


Being a scientist is more than doing experiments. Our courses give knowledge and critical-thinking skills. Our workshops develop skills in writing, grantsmanship and presentation. Our ethics courses give framework and guidance. Our seminars teach you to think on your feet. Our students get grants, give seminars at national meetings and publish high-impact, first-author papers.


Our graduates use their training to get the jobs they want, moving on to post-docs at prestigious universities, faculty positions at teaching colleges, jobs in government or industry, or additional education in law school or medical school.


  • Three 10-week research rotations
  • Begin coursework, typically taking two of the four formal courses you need to complete
  • Participate in at least one semester of a literature review course
  • Attend weekly research seminars given by graduate students
  • Attend weekly Departmental seminars and associated journal club
  • Participate in one or two Communications workshops
  • Participate in the research ethics workshop
  • Choose a mentor in April, at the end of the third rotation


  • Begin dissertation research
  • Complete your remaining formal coursework
  • Complete the two semesters of literature review, if needed
  • Take your comprehensive exam at the end of the spring semester
  • Attend weekly research seminars given by graduate students
  • Present a seminar in the graduate student seminar series
  • Attend weekly Departmental seminars
  • Participate in annual mentoring and advising meetings
  • Possibly serve as a teaching assistant for one semester


  • Finish dissertation research, ideally in year 5
  • Participate in annual mentoring and advising meetings
  • Participate in seminar series
  • Complete teaching requirement (if needed)
  • Finish teaching minor (if chosen)
  • Write thesis and defend it


  • Complete the online application (there is no cost, at the end of the application select "Payment by Check" but do not send a check)
  • Choose Biological Sciences as the Department and either EE or MCDB as the Program
  • A brief statement of your long-term professional goals. Describe your qualifications, scientific interests, your research experiences, and potential faculty advisors
  • Three letters of recommendation (submitted online by the recommender after you initiate the application, or by mail at the address below)
  • Copies of transcripts for all college-level institutions attended with degree conferred must be uploaded as well. These may be unofficial transcripts. Certified (official) transcripts and translations of all undergraduate and graduate study will be required at the time of matriculation (upon enrollment). 
  • General Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required and Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology or Biology subject tests are encouraged, but not required
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores; the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences requires a minimum TOEFL score of 90, with a minimum score of 22 in each section. The minimal IELTS score in 7.0.
  • Application fee - $50.00 US Dollars

Financial Support


We are interested in students eager to obtain a high-quality graduate education, not financial investors. Moreover, we believe our graduate students should be concentrating on their research, not on trying to pay the rent. Therefore, our comprehensive package support students throughout their graduate careers. Features of our package include the following:

A competitive stipend. As of Fall 2016, the normal level of support is $27,761/year; the stipend amount typically increases by about 3-5% each year. Given Pittsburgh's low cost of living, this is a very comfortable income. For the first two semesters, this support is provided by the Department, independent of any teaching or research commitment. After the first two semesters, the student is usually supported by their faculty research advisor. Compensation is also provided during two semesters of training as a teaching assistant.

Health insurance. You're covered. The University of Pittsburgh provides excellent health insurance options, providing every student with complete medical coverage free of charge; supplementary dental and vision plans are also available. Rather than being limited to physicians at a student health service, every students is free to choose her/his own primary care physician. Moreover, spouses and children can be included in our medical plans at very reasonable costs.

Tuition waivers. Graduate tuition can be expensive. In our program, you will pay no fees; your tuition is paid in full each and every semester. Depending on your course load and residency status, this benefit can amount to more than $11,200 per semester.

Transportation waivers. With much thought to the future, the University of Pittsburgh has arranged for free transportation throughout Allegheny county via the PAT bus system. Any bus - any time, any where - is free, including those to downtown or to the airport. This benefit saves students the cost of monthly bus passes of parking permits.

Fellowship opportunities. There are many fellowship opportunities that provide for financial compensation, as well as provide excellent additions to a glowing CV (that's science talk for resumé). In addition, several research support awards are available to assist students in conducting research at the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology.


Rent. Graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences pay between $200 and $600 per month for 2-4 bedroom apartments located within walking distance of the Department.

Transportation Recall that travel on all buses is free. If you need to drive your own car, parking in the Oakland area is relatively inexpensive for urban areas, and monthly parking passes cost about $55, or less than $2 a day.

Cost of living. Pittsburgh is consistently rated one of America's most livable cities due, in part, to its very low cost of living. A 1997 Money Magazine survey shows that Pittsburgh has one of the lowest costs of living for a city of this size. More recently, a 2004 survey of cities around the world showed Pittsburgh as the least expensive metropolitan area (in the US) in which to live. And the Economist ranked Pittsburgh as its most livable city (in the contonental US) in  2004, 2009 and 2014.

Taken together, our graduate students don't have financial worries while continuing their education and training, and have a great place to live!


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