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Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology B.S.

Information and Policies

Introduction

The molecular, cell, and developmental (MCD) biology major is designed to prepare students for rigorous graduate programs in biomedical research, medical and other healthcare professional programs, for careers in the biotechnology industry. This major is more structured than the general biology major and requires that students pay careful attention to the prerequisites required for upper-division biology courses. With proper advance planning, a student with virtually any degree can prepare a competitive application for medical school or healthcare professional school. Check our Health Careers webpage for more information on how you can academically prepare for a career in healthcare. Additional information is available at the UC Santa Cruz Career Center.

Academic Advising for the Program

Students should take full advantage of academic advising and should keep in frequent contact with the advisers to stay informed about late announcements of courses, changes in scheduling, and opportunities for special study. Transfer students should also consult the Transfer Information and Policy Section. For additional advice and information:

MCD Advising
389 Thimann Labs
mcdadvising@ucsc.edu 

Getting Started in the Major

Prerequisites

Due to the demanding nature of the majors, students must begin their science coursework as early as possible. MATH 11A or MATH 19A; CHEM 1A, CHEM 1B, CHEM 1C, and CHEM 8A; and BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, and BIOL 20L must be completed before the sixth quarter in order for students to qualify for admission to MCD biology-sponsored majors, including the biology B.S., human biology B.S., molecular, cell and developmental biology B.S. and neuroscience B.S. majors. Students are strongly encouraged to take STAT 5 or STAT 7 & STAT 7L and begin, if not complete, other requirements including calculus. For an overview of prerequisites and getting started in the major, please visit our MCD Biology B.S. website.

An online mathematics placement examination is required to enroll in a math course. Biological science majors are expected to take this examination and are encouraged to work in the learning modules until they place into calculus. For more information see the mathematics placement website.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the MCD major will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of how biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology are used to elucidate both the function of cells and their organization into tissues;
  • Recognize that biology has a basis in chemistry, physics, and mathematics;
  • Describe how scientific method is used to explain natural phenomena;
  • Use effective oral and written language skills to communicate scientific data and ideas;
  • Understand safe laboratory practices and perform basic molecular biology techniques;
  • Generate hypotheses, evaluate data, and design experiments to investigate a scientific problem; and
  • Present advanced knowledge in the specialized fields of molecular and cell biology.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

The Department of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology has a qualification policy that applies to the biology B.S., molecular, cell and developmental biology B.S., and neuroscience B.S. majors.

To qualify for any of these majors, students must pass (with a grade of C or better) the following courses or their equivalents:

One of the following courses
MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

And all of the following courses
CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

And one of the following courses
BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102JToxic RNA Lab I

5

All qualification courses must be completed by the end of the fifth quarter. Students with two or more grades of NP, C-, D+, D, D-, or F in the policy courses are not qualified to declare. 

When assessing qualification:

  • All courses must be taken for a letter grade, see Letter Grade Policy below.
  • Students with AP credit for MATH 11A or MATH 19A, BIOL 20A, BIOE 20B, and/or CHEM 1A, need only pass the remaining qualification policy courses.
  • Every student who satisfies the major qualification requirements and who petitions to declare the major by the campus major declaration deadline (i.e., before enrolling in their third year or the equivalent) will be admitted to the major. Students who satisfy the major admission requirements, but who petition to declare the major after the campus major declaration deadline will be considered on a case-by-case basis for admission to the major; admission is not guaranteed.

Appeal Process

Students who are not eligible to declare the major may submit an appeal to the Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology faculty adviser. The department will notify the student and their college of the outcome of the appeal within 15 working days of the quarterly appeal deadline. See our appeal process for more information.

How to Declare a Major

Students may declare a major as early as they like, if they have decided which major to pursue and have satisfied the prerequisites or qualification requirements (if any) for the major.  Students who enter UC Santa Cruz as frosh are required to be formally declared in a major before enrolling in their third year (or equivalent). Upper-division transfer students must complete the major qualification courses before entering UCSC.

Each major/minor advising office has a process for declaring.  To initiate the process to declare, please complete the online declaration petition located on the Department of MCD Biology website. For assistance, please contact MCD biology advising at mcdadvising@ucsc.edu.

Transfer Information and Policy

Transfer Admission Screening Policy

MCD Biology encourages applications from transfer students in the biological sciences. The department has a major qualification policy that limits access to the program to students who have successfully completed a subset of foundational coursework. Transfer students are held to similar criteria when being assessed for admission to UC Santa Cruz as an MCD-sponsored major. See qualifying for the major as a transfer applicant for more information.

To be considered for admission as a proposed molecular, cell, and developmental biology B.S. major, transfer students must complete the following courses or their equivalents prior to transfer, by the end of the spring term for students planning to enter in the fall.

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

Plus, one of the following calculus courses:
MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

The CHEM 8A and MATH 11A or MATH 19A requirement will be enforced for transfer students entering in the fall of 2022 and thereafter. BIOL 20L is not required for students who have completed BIOL 20A and BIOE 20B from California community colleges.

In addition, the following courses are recommended prior to transfer to ensure timely graduation.
One of the following courses
MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

Plus one of the following options
Either this course

STAT 5Statistics

5

or these courses

STAT 7Statistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences

5

STAT 7LStatistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences Laboratory

2

Plus both of the following courses
CHEM 8BOrganic Chemistry

5

CHEM 8LOrganic Chemistry Laboratory

2

Please see our preparing to transfer as an MCD major for more complete information.

Prospective students are encouraged to prioritize required and recommended major preparation, and may additionally complete courses that articulate to UC Santa Cruz general education requirements as time allows.

Students who are proposed in a different major and have advanced standing when they enter UCSC require permission from the department to change into the major. Admission to the major is not guaranteed. 

Getting Started at UCSC as a Transfer Student

Transfer students who have met the major qualification requirements are encouraged to declare the major during their first quarter at UC Santa Cruz .  Transfer students should complete the required courses in genetics (BIOL 105), biochemistry (BIOL 100) and molecular biology (BIOL 101 and BIOL 101L) by the end of their first year at UCSC since they are prerequisites for the majority of other required courses.

Letter Grade Policy

All courses that are taken to satisfy any major requirement must be taken for a letter grade.

Course Substitution Policy

At least half of the upper-division courses required for the major must be taken  at UC Santa Cruz , not as transfer credits from another  institution. If a student plans to transfer to UCSC from another institution, the student is advised to contact MCD Advising at UCSC before enrolling in upper-division courses at the student’s institution or any institution other than UCSC. This advising will help students understand the limitation of transferring upper-division courses from other institutions to UCSC. For more information on transferring courses to UCSC, please consult the undergraduate website.

Once matriculated, a student must receive permission from the department to satisfy the BIOL 20A, BIOL 100, BIOL 105, BIOL 101 or BIOL 110 requirements with courses taken at other institutions. Students who wish to receive credit toward the major for these or other courses taken either at UCSC or at another institution should contact MCD Advising.

Double Majors and Major/Minor Combinations Policy

Students interested in pursuing multiple majors within the biological sciences may NOT declare the following combination of majors:

  • Biology (B.A., B.S., or minor) AND any other biological sciences major
  • Any combination of the following: Human Biology; Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology; Neuroscience; or Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Should a student choose to double major, they must qualify for and complete the disciplinary communication and comprehensive requirements for each of the majors.

Study Abroad

The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers qualified students unique opportunities to broaden their educational horizons. The MCD Biology Department encourages interested students to participate. Many programs are in English-speaking countries or use English for advanced courses. Many programs offer small classes, extensive laboratories, and/or field research experience.

Students interested in study abroad need to get an early start on their basic science requirements, including chemistry, mathematics, and introductory biology and must declare their major prior to applying to go abroad. Students interested in studying abroad should visit the EAP office as soon as possible to begin planning.  They should also seek advice about their EAP plan for major courses at UC Santa Cruz  from MCD Advising and/or a faculty adviser and receive their approval.

Honors

Honors in the majors are awarded to graduating students whose academic performance demonstrates excellence at a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or above. Highest honors are awarded to those students whose performance demonstrates the highest level of excellence and results in a GPA of 3.8 or above.

Medical and Professional School Admission

Medical and professional school admissions requirements vary; students should verify that their coursework will satisfy the admissions requirements of the programs to which they plan to apply.

Requirements and Planners

Course Requirements

Lower-Division Courses

One of the following courses
BIOL 20LExperimental Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102JToxic RNA Lab I

5

BIOL 20L is waived for junior transfer students.

All of the following courses:
BIOL 20ACell and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 20BDevelopment and Physiology

5

BIOE 20CEcology and Evolution

5

CHEM 1AGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry

5

CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory

2

CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry

5

CHEM 8LOrganic Chemistry Laboratory

2

CHEM 8BOrganic Chemistry

5

Plus one of the following options:
Either these courses

MATH 11ACalculus with Applications

5

MATH 11BCalculus with Applications

5

or these courses

MATH 19ACalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

MATH 19BCalculus for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

5

Plus one of the following options
Either this course

STAT 5Statistics

5

or these courses

STAT 7Statistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences

5

STAT 7LStatistical Methods for the Biological, Environmental, and Health Sciences Laboratory

2

Plus one of the following options
Either these courses

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

PHYS 6BIntroductory Physics II

5

or these courses

PHYS 6AIntroductory Physics I

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

PHYS 6CIntroductory Physics III

5

or these courses

PHYS 7AElementary Physics I

5

PHYS 7BElementary Physics II

5

PHYS 6LIntroductory Physics I Laboratory

1

Note: PHYS 7A/PHYS 7B and PHYS 6L may not satisfy the physics prerequisite for admission to all medical schools; be sure to check the requirements at all schools where you wish to apply.

Upper-Division Courses

Choose one of the following options:
Either these courses

BIOL 100Biochemistry

5

BIOL 101Molecular Biology

5

or these courses

BIOC 100ABiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOC 100BBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOC 100CBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

Students who complete the BIOC 100A/BIOC 100B/BIOC 100C sequence can use BIOC 100C to satisfy an upper-division elective.

Plus one of the following courses:
BIOL 101LMolecular Biology Laboratory

2

BIOL 102LToxic RNA Lab II

5

Plus all of the following courses:
BIOL 105Genetics

5

BIOL 110Cell Biology

5

Electives

At least three elective courses from the following list (only one of which may be a 3-credit course: BIOL 112 or BIOL 116):

Note: Lecture/lab combinations count as one course.

BIOL 111AImmunology I

5

BIOL 111BImmunology II

5

BIOL 112Virology

3

BIOL 114Cancer Cell Biology

5

BIOL 115Eukaryotic Molecular Biology

5

BIOL 116Advanced Topics in Cell Biology

3

BIOL 117Global Health and Neglected Diseases

5

BIOL 118Principles of Human Genetics

5

BIOL 120Developmental Biology

5

BIOL 125Introduction to Neuroscience

5

BIOL 126Advanced Molecular Neuroscience

5

BIOL 127Mechanisms of Neurodegenerative Disease

5

BIOL 128Developmental Neurobiology

5

BIOL 130Human Physiology

5

BIOL 140The RNA World

5

BIOC 100CBiochemistry and Molecular Biology

5

BIOE 109Evolution

5

BIOE 135Plant Physiology

5

BIOE 135LPlant Physiology Laboratory

2

BME 110Computational Biology Tools

5

BME 130Genomes

5

BME 160Research Programming in the Life Sciences

6

BME 178Stem Cell Biology

5

METX 119Microbiology

5

PHYS 180Biophysics

5

One of the following laboratory courses:
BIOL 100LBiochemistry Laboratory

5

BIOL 103LToxic RNA Lab III

5

BIOL 105LEukaryotic Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 106LEukaryotic Genetic Engineering

5

BIOL 109LYeast Molecular Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 115LEukaryotic Molecular Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 120LDevelopment Laboratory

5

BIOL 121LEnvironmental Phage Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 186LUndergraduate Research in MCD Biology

5

METX 119LMicrobiology Laboratory

5

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement in molecular, cell, and developmental biology is satisfied by completing one of the following courses:

BIOL 100LBiochemistry Laboratory

5

BIOL 103LToxic RNA Lab III

5

BIOL 105LEukaryotic Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 106LEukaryotic Genetic Engineering

5

BIOL 109LYeast Molecular Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 115LEukaryotic Molecular Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 120LDevelopment Laboratory

5

BIOL 121LEnvironmental Phage Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 186LUndergraduate Research in MCD Biology

5

METX 119LMicrobiology Laboratory

5

Comprehensive Requirement

All majors have a comprehensive requirement. For the MCD Biology B.S., this requirement can be satisfied by receiving a passing grade in an independent research laboratory:

Choose one of the following courses:

BIOL 100LBiochemistry Laboratory

5

BIOL 103LToxic RNA Lab III

5

BIOL 105LEukaryotic Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 106LEukaryotic Genetic Engineering

5

BIOL 109LYeast Molecular Genetics Laboratory

5

BIOL 115LEukaryotic Molecular Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 120LDevelopment Laboratory

5

BIOL 121LEnvironmental Phage Biology Laboratory

5

BIOL 186LUndergraduate Research in MCD Biology

5

METX 119LMicrobiology Laboratory

5

Planners

Sample Frosh Four-Year Planner

Additional frosh sample planners

 

Fall Winter Spring
1st (frosh) CHEM 1A CHEM 1B CHEM 1C & CHEM 1N
MATH 11A MATH 11B BIOL 20A
     
2nd (soph) BIOE 20B BIOL 100 BIOL 101
BIOL 20L CHEM 8B BIOL 101L
CHEM 8A & CHEM 8L   BIOL 105
3rd (jr) BIOL 110 Upper-division elective Upper-division elective
STAT 5 or;
STAT 7 & STAT 7L
PHYS 6A & PHYS 6L PHYS 6B or
PHYS 6C
     
4th (sr) Upper-division elective Lab  
BIOE 20C    
     

The following general education requirements will be fulfilled by the major requirements listed in the above planner: MR, SI, and SR. In addition to the general education requirements satisfied by the above courses, a student will also need to complete courses satisfying the CC, ER, IM, TA, PE, and PR general education requirements.

Sample Transfer Two-Year Planner

Additional transfer student sample planners

  Fall Winter Spring
3rd (jr) BIOL 105 BIOL 100 BIOL 101
PHYS 6A & PHYS 6L PHYS 6B or PHYS 6C BIOL 101L
     
4th (sr) BIOL 110 Upper-division elective Upper-division elective
Upper-division elective Lab  
     

This planner assumes that a student has completed all UC Transfer Pathway courses