Undergraduate Program

Welcome to the MCDB Major

The science of biology is diverse, ranging across the domains of molecules, cells, tissues and organs, organisms, and ecosystems. Students majoring in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology receive a thorough yet varied liberal education, develop critical thinking skills, and graduate prepared for professional careers in a diverse array of fields.

The undergraduate program in MCDB teaches students foundational scientific concepts and research and analysis skills while cultivating critical thinking. Students work independently and work collaboratively to solve research questions. Through the major’s structure—moving from foundational courses in biology to advanced independent research either in or out of the laboratory—students develop a strong sense of how to identify and explore important questions in modern biological and biomedical science.

Why Major in MCDB?

The MCDB Department curriculum provides the opportunity for students to learn the language and concepts in the biological sciences and explore major gaps in our understanding of human health and of the broader world around us.

Our faculty are highly accomplished scientists committed to undergraduate teaching and mentoring through our course offerings and research laboratories. In addition to our courses, the MCDB department provides an opportunity to learn about research from around the world in our seminar series.

As an MCDB major, you will have the option to choose from a diverse array of courses to customize a curriculum that fits your interests and future goals. Our courses span the breadth of the biological sciences from biochemistry, genetics, and cell/developmental biology to quantitative biology, biotechnology, and beyond. In your senior year, you will identify a personal area of interest to either explore through a senior essay or in depth research experiences in one of Yale’s world renowned laboratories.

TO LEARN ABOUT MOLECULES, CELLS, AND HOW THEY CREATE LIFE. The MCDB major provides an understanding of how the basic building blocks of the natural world create and sustain life. From how RNA molecules encode proteins and regulate cellular processes to how cells function to control behavior and contribute to diseases, the study of the biology provides a language to describe and understand the natural world.

TO DEVELOP ANALYTIC AND CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS. The MCDB major provides an opportunity for students to identify important biological and biomedical questions and design, and even carry out, state-of-the-art experimental methods to explore those questions. The MCDB major focuses on problem-solving from the very beginning by providing opportunities to explore primary literature in our foundational BIOL to advanced seminar courses. Students learn to analyze data and generate their data in our laboratory experiences and senior research experiences.

TO SOLVE PROBLEMS IN NATURE AND MEDICINE.  The technology to study and answer biological questions rapidly evolving and leading to new insights in major issues that are facing us, including climate change and human health. MCDB majors are able to understand and

TO BUILD COMMUNICATION SKILLS.  Science communication is an essential skill for all science and medical professionals. From giving talks, writing papers and grants, to communicating to patients and the public, scientists must educate and inform their peers and non-scientists clearly, succinctly, and convincingly. MCDB majors learn these skills through their experience in our major through laboratory reports, research presentations, and grant writing.

FOR FLEXIBILITY AND DIVERSITY IN YOUR YALE COURSES. The MCDB major is designed to be flexible by offering multiple options to allow students to explore their interests inside and outside of biology. We offer a range of lecture based, seminar style, and laboratory courses in all areas of the biological sciences related to molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.  Students with specific interests can specialize in a topically focused track or chose one of two research intensive options.

TO BE AT THE FOREFRONT OF STATE-OF-THE-ART RESEARCH DISCOVERIES.  Yale scientists in and outside of MCDB are at the forefront of their fields, identifying novel therapeutics for human disease and exploring basic biological questions about how nature is organized and functions. As an MCDB major, you will join a community of students and faculty who are using state-of-the-art technologies from biological chemistry, cryoelectron microscopy, next generation sequencing, quantitative biology, and model systems to solve unanswered questions in biology and medicine.

ABOVE ALL, TO FULFILL YOUR PASSIONS AND FUTURE GOALS.  MCDB majors use their passion for biology to drive their success in our courses and achieve their goals in their future careers in research, medicine, consulting, finance, journalism, and more. The programs in the MCDB major are designed to enhance a liberal arts education as well as offer excellent preparation for professional and graduate study in the biological sciences and in research, medicine and other fields.

Learn more here (link to handbook).

For further information, contact:

Professor Douglas Kankel
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Professor Damon Clark
Director of Undergraduate Studies for Neuroscience
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Andrea Chamba
Undergraduate Registrar
Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Peer Mentoring

If you would like to be added to the MCDB Undergraduate email list please email mcdb.undergradreg@yale.edu

MCDB is proud to announce the Class of 2022 Prize Winners! [Listed in Alphabetical order.]

William R. Belknap Prize  “for academic excellence in Biology”.   WILLIAM R. BELKNAP (1872). William R. Belknap, Ph.D. 1869. Two awards in the natural history studies of senior year: one for excellence in biological studies, one for excellence in geological studies.


Edgar J. Boell Prize  “for excellence in senior research”.  EDGAR J. BOELL PRIZE (1975). Colleagues, students and friends of Professor Boell.  Awarded annually to a senior for excellence in biology.


Congratulations to all of our MCDB Prize Winners!