Molecular Cell Biology Concentration

NOTE: This page is for detailed information about the Molecular Cell Biology Advanced Concentration only. All inquiries concerning admission to the BMS must be directed to the BMS Admissions office at More information on admissions is also available on the Admissions Page.

The Advanced Concentration in Molecular Cell Biology (MCB) prepares investigators for careers in biomedical research in academic or industrial settings. This multidisciplinary program has nearly 60 participating faculty members and offers an extraordinary range of opportunities for advanced study of life at the molecular and cellular levels.

The diverse faculty shares common interests in the molecular interactions that account for the functionally integrated subcellular, cellular, and tissue organization found in living organisms. The model systems in use range from yeast and cellular slime molds through Drosophila to birds and mammals. These systems are manipulated and analyzed employing a wide range of powerful molecular, genetic, protein chemical, immunological, pharmacological, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and microscopic imaging strategies. In the first year, students are admitted into the College of Medicine interdisciplinary program in which they participate in a series of theoretical and practical courses as well as laboratory rotations that expose them to the fundamentals of biomedical inquiry. Students who select the MCB program take advanced coursework and initiate independent research during the second year. This arrangement ensures maximum flexibility for students to custom-design a training program best suited to their own needs. This program provides a broad-based vision early in the program coupled with the appropriate degree of specialization later on.

Molecular Cell Biology provides the essential linkage between important basic fields of biomedical sciences, such as genetics, developmental biology, immunology, neurobiology and cancer biology. Cell biology has indeed matured from a descriptive discipline into one that is focusing on the elucidation of function at cellular and molecular levels. As we will soon have identified all the gene products that are potentially synthesized by an organism, it will be essential to connect sequence information to physiological function with the context of the cell. Cell biology at the University of Florida is a highly interdisciplinary research area which is undergoing rapid growth in areas such as cell regulation and cancer, manipulation of stem cells, liver pathobiology, and the role of aberrant protein processing and trafficking in disease processes. Therefore, Molecular Cell Biology will be at the center of the new era of biomedical research.

Program of Study:

In addition to the policies below, MCB students should refer to the BMS Student Handbook for additional BMS requirements and deadlines. Students should contact MCB directors with any questions regarding MCB policies.

Course Requirements

MCB students must take the Advanced Cell Biology course (GMS 6421, 4 credit hours). After completion of the first year, MCB students must satisfactorily complete at least 6 credits of advanced elective graduate courses, including at least 3 credits of advanced MCB courses. GMS 6421 does not count towards advanced MCB credits, even if taken in the second year. An outside course can be used for an advanced MCB credit at an MCB concentration director’s advisement. Beginning in the 2nd year, MCB students must register for the Journal Club (GMS 6690) and Data Club (GMS 6692) courses each fall and spring semester. These courses do not count towards the requirement of 3 credit hours of MCB advanced courses. Students are exempt from Journal club during the semester of their dissertation defense.

Supervisory Committees

The committee should be selected between 2-3 months after the student’s choice of mentor or by the end of the first summer term. The requirements for MCB supervisory committees are:

  • Four to six members (including chair)
  • At least one member from MCB concentration (primary or secondary) in addition to chair
  • One member must be external (outside MCB concentration)
  • At least one member must be a Full Professor
  • No more than two members may be Assistant Professors

Each student is required to consult with an MCB concentration director and receive their approval prior to finalizing their dissertation committee.

Supervisory Committee Meetings

Beginning in the 2nd year, MCB students must schedule supervisory committee meetings every six months, preferably in the fall and spring semesters. Following committee meetings, two administrative
tasks must be completed. These two tasks must be completed within one week of the committee meeting.

  • The student must deliver a completed and signed committee meeting form to the MCB graduate secretary.
  • The mentor must send a meeting summary and student progress report to the supervisory committee and the MCB graduate secretary. This summary and progress report should clearly state the committee’s assessment of the student’s academic and research progress.

One annual supervisory committee meeting may be virtual, if approved by the mentor and committee. For virtual committee meetings, students must provide supporting documents (e.g., PowerPoint presentation, manuscripts, etc.) to committee members at least one day in advance of the virtual meeting. Per BMS policy, a committee member, concentration director, or associate dean, has the authority to require, for any reason, that a committee meeting be held in person rather than virtually. The time between face‐to‐face meetings cannot exceed one calendar year.

Qualifying Examination

As stated in the BMS Handbook, the qualifying exam will be given by an examination committee consisting of the supervisory committee plus an MCB director. The examination will be directed by a chair selected from the examination committee. The chair cannot be the primary mentor or MCB director. The chair will take notes, collect input from the examination committee, complete the BMS Qualifying Exam Form, and supervise completion of the UF Qualifying Exam Form. Both forms should be delivered to the MCB secretary within one day of the examination. An MCB Director is required to attend the Qualifying Exam. Students are responsible for coordinating with an MCB director when scheduling the exam.

The following guidelines pertain to outcomes that are neither Pass nor Fail:

Pass with remediation  The student, with assistance from the mentor, prepares a remediation plan that must be approved by the examination committee (committee members and an MCB director). The plan will be written and circulated to the committee within one week after the qualifying exam. Completion of remediation will be assessed at the first committee meeting after the exam. An MCB director must attend this meeting to confirm completion of the remediation plan.

Fail with option for re-examination  The student, with assistance from the mentor, must schedule a second qualifying examination. The second qualifying exam must be held before the end of the fall term of the third year of graduate studies.

Medical Guild Competition

The Medical Guild of the College of Medicine holds a yearly competition to honor graduate students who excel in biomedical research. MCB students are strongly encouraged to apply for either the Advancement to Candidacy or Graduate Research Awards in the Medical Guild Competition when they become eligible. MCB can nominate three candidates for the Advancement to Candidacy Award and one candidate for the Graduate Research Award. In the event that there are more applicants than available nominations, an internal competition will be held to determine who represents the MCB concentration at the Medical Guild Competition.

Final Defense

An MCB director is required to attend the Dissertation Defense. Students are responsible for coordinating with an MCB director when scheduling their final defense. Students will present a final draft of their dissertation to the committee no later than four weeks before the defense date. The committee then has two weeks to request major changes to the document. This will give the student two weeks to complete the requested revisions to their dissertation before their defense. Committee members who do not provide feedback within the two week window waive their right to request major changes to the dissertation on the day of the defense.

Graduation Requirements

By the time of the final defense, MCB students must have at least one first author paper published or in press (accepted for publication). This first author publication may not be a review article.

By the time of graduation, MCB students must present a poster or give an oral presentation for at least one national/international conference.

The Faculty and their Research

Correspondence and Information

  • Alexander Ishov, Ph.D.
    Co-Director, Molecular Cell Biology Advanced Concentration
    Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology
    Office: CGRC 358
    Phone: (352) 273-8202
  • Eric A. Vitriol, Ph.D
    Co-Director, Molecular Cell Biology Advanced Concentration
    Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology
    Office: B1-007
    Phone: (352) 273-9214
  • Tom Franklin
    Graduate Coordinator
    Office: B1-003
    Phone: 273-8473