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                                Science & Politics of Cancer

MCDB 050a                                Immunology and Microbes

MCDB 065a                                Science & Politics of HIV/AIDS

MCDB 099b                                Intro to Research Methods in Physics & Biology: Preparing for a First Research Experience

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 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

This is an interdisciplinary course learning about immunology, microbiology, and pandemics.  Fundamentals of the immune system are presented and how the system recognizes and responds to specific microbes. Microbes that cause illness such as influenza, coronaviruses, HIV, and HPV are discussed as well as how we live in harmony with microbes that compose our microbiome.  Readings include novels and historical works on pandemics, polio, AIDS and smallpox.  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 2.30-3.20

This interdisciplinary course is for students that want to learn about infectious diseases, pandemics, and the immune system. The immune system evolved to fight pathogens while maintaining homeostasis with our microbiome.   The first part of the course is on how the immune system works; this is followed by discussion of different microbes and associated pandemics. This includes flu (1918 pandemic), HIV (AIDS), human papillomavirus (link to cancer), and coronaviruses (COVID-19).  Other topics include the human microbiome, cancer immunotherapy and vaccines.  Artwork and relevant history are included with a class at the Yale Art Gallery and a class at the medical school. High school biology required.


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