Courses for Students Majoring in Other Subjects

For students who do not intend to major in MCDB, there are a variety of courses that have no prerequisites. (*Note: All courses list the Primary instructor first)

MCDB 040b
MCDB 050a
MCDB 65a
[MCDB 103a]
MCDB 105a or b
MCDB 106b 
MCDB 109b
MCDB 175La
Science and Politics of Cancer
Immunology and Microbes
Science & Politics of HIV/AIDS
An Issues Approach to Biology
Biology of Malaria, Lyme & Other Vector-Borne Diseases
Immunity and Contagion
Exploring the Microbial World

MCDB 040b               Science and Politics of Cancer
MCDB 050a                Immunology and Microbes
MCDB 65a                   Science & Politics of HIV/AIDS
[MCDB 103a]             [Cancer]
MCDB 105a or b       An Issues Approach to Biology
MCDB 106b                Biology of Malaria, Lyme & Other Vector-Borne Diseases
MCDB 109b                Immunity and Contagion
MCDB 175La              Exploring the Microbial World

MCDB 040b, Science and Politics of Cancer. Robert Bazell
     TTh 1.00-2.15
Fundamentals of cell biology, Darwinian evolution, immunology, and genetics that underlie cancer; the history of cancer science and treatment; historical and current policy issues. Prerequisite: Completion of the Advanced Placement test in Biology or equivalent. Enrollment limited to freshmen; preregistration required.

MCDB 050a, Immunology and Microbes. Paula Kavathas
     TTh 2.30-3.45
Introduction to the immune system and its interaction with specific microbes. Attention both to microbes that cause illness, such as influenza, HIV, and HPV, and to microbes that live in harmony with humans, collectively called the microbiome. Readings include novels and historical works on diseases such as polio and AIDS. Enrollment limited to freshmen. Preregistration required; see under Freshman Seminar Program.  

MCDB 065a, Science & Politics of HIV/AIDS. Robert Bazell
     TTh 2.30-3.45
Study of the basic virology and immunology of HIV/AIDS, along with its extraordinary historical and social effects. Issues include the threat of new epidemics emerging from a changing global environment; the potential harm of conspiracy theories based on false science; and how stigmas associated with poverty, gender inequality, sexual preference, and race facilitate an ongoing epidemic. For all first-year students regardless of whether they are considering a science major. Prerequisite: AP Biology or equivalent. Enrollment limited to first-year students. Preregistration required; see under First-Year Seminar Program.

[MCDB 103b, Cancer.  Alexia Belperron]
     MW 1.00-2.15
Introduction to the biology of cancer, with a focus on leukemia, skin cancer, and cancers linked to infection. Topics include genetics, biochemistry, immunity, infection agents, and challenges for prevention and treatment. High school biology required. Preference given to freshmen and sophomores.

MCDB 105a or b, An Issues Approach to Biology.  Fall: John Carlson, Joshua Gendron, Anthony Koleske; 
Spring: Don Engelman, Scott Strobel, Shirin Bahmanyar, Yannick Jacob, Candice Paulsen
     MW 11.35-12.25
Biological concepts taught in context of current societal issues, such as emerging diseases, genetically modified organisms, green energy, stem cell research, and human reproductive technology. Emphasis on biological literacy to enable students to evaluate scientific arguments.

MCDB 106a, Biology of Malaria, Lyme, and Other Vector-Borne Diseases. Alexia Belperron
     MW 1.00-2.15
Introduction to the biology of pathogen transmission from one organism to another by insects; special focus on malaria and Lyme disease. Biology of the pathogens including modes of transmission, establishment of infection and immune responses; the challenges associated with vector control, prevention, development of vaccines, and treatments. Preference given to freshmen and sophomores. Prerequisite: High school biology.

MCDB 109b, Immunity and Contagion. Paula Kavathas
     TTh 2.30-3.45
Introduction to the basics of the immune system; strategies to fight pathogens while maintaining harmony with our microbiome. Discussion of specific microbes such as influenza, HIV, and HPV; historical analysis of the polio vaccine and the AIDS epidemic. Enrollment limited to freshmen and sophomores.

MCDB 175La, Exploring the Microbial World.  Ian Dawson
     Th 2.30-5.30
This course is designed to provide an immersive, introductory biology lab for first years and sophomores. Students conduct semester long projects to develop methods and tools to study the growth patterns of an unusual filamentous bacteria, Bacillus mycoides. Prerequisites: BIOL 101-104 is a co- or-prerequisite. Restricted to first year and sophomore students. Preference given to students with no prior research experience. Instructor permission required.

[] = courses that are bracketed (not offered) for the 2019-20 academic year

The programs in the MCDB major are designed to enhance a liberal education as well as offer excellent preparation for professional and graduate study in the biological sciences, and in medicine and other health-related fields. The following diagram provides an overview of the major; details are provided on the following pages. In addition to the standard major, MCDB offers three interdisciplinary programs of study in the biotechnology, neurobiology and quantitative biology tracks. As described below, the senior requirement differs for the BA, the BS, the BS Intensive major, and the combined BS/MS degrees.

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology

Standard Track
Biotechnology track
Neurobiology track
Quantitative Biology track

Foundational Prerequisites

BIOL 101 (Biochemistry and Biophysics)
BIOL 102 (Principles of Cell Biology)
BIOL 103 (Genetics and Development)
BIOL 104 (Principles of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology)

Alternatively, students may place out of the foundational modules by satisfying the placement exam

Core Courses

BS, BS INT, BS/MS:  Choose THREE courses from the list below
BA:  Choose TWO courses from the list below

MCDB 200b (Molecular Biology)
MCDB 202a (Genetics)
MCDB 205b (Cell Biology)
MCDB 210a (Developmental Biology)
Either MCDB 300a (Biochemistry) OR  MB&B 300a (Prin. of Biochemistry I)



BS-type: 2 from MCDB
BA: 1 from Biological Sci


General & Special


(as defined below)


2 from MCDB 250 or above


Any 1 full-credit course taken from MCDB numbered 350 or above