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 Admissions office at More information on admissions is also available on the Admissions Page.

Program Areas of Research | Program of Study

Program Faculty | Program Contacts


The Advanced Concentration in Molecular Cell Biology is one of eight advanced concentrations leading to the Ph.D. degree under the auspices of the Graduate Program (BMS) in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

The Advanced Concentration in Molecular Cell Biology (MCB) prepares students for careers in biomedical research in academic or industrial settings.  This program also provides opportunities for students to learn anatomical sciences and those teaching skills necessary for careers in pre-professional education. 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.

Molecular Cell Biology provides the essential linkage between important basic fields of biomedical sciences, such as cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, 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 structure and function of cell at molecular, cellular, tissue, and organ levels in normal and pathological conditions. Therefore, Molecular Cell Biology will be at the center of the new era of biomedical research.

Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Florida is a highly interdisciplinary research area, which is undergoing rapid growth in areas such as cancer research, manipulation of stem cells, liver pathobiology, chromatin organization and structure, and the role of aberrant protein processing and trafficking in disease processes.

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

Meet Eric Vitriol, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Mat Sebastian, M.D./Ph.D. student:

Areas of Research

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The faculty of the Molecular Cell Biology (MCB) program utilizes cell, amphibian, and mammalian models to study the molecular events of cell and tissue homeostasis under normal and pathologic conditions. 

Structures and Functions of the Cell and Tissues

  • Cytoskeleton, Cell Motility and Actin Dynamics
  • Nuclear Structure and Function
  • Mitochondrial Structure and Function
  • Lysosomal Structure and Function
  • Cell Signaling Pathways
  • Cell Death Pathways
  • Regulatory Events of Mitosis
  • Regulation of Gene Expression by Non-coding RNA
  • Gene Networks and Functional Genomics

Diseases of the Cell


  • Gene Transcription and Translation
  • Stem cells
  • Metastasis
  • Chemotherapy Resistance
  • Identification of Biomarkers and Therapeutic Targets
  • Immunologic Defenses
  • Microbiota

Intracellular Pathogens

  • Host Cell Defenses
  • Pathogen Entry, Trafficking, and Persistence in Host Cells
  • Bacterial Senescence

Neurodegenerative Diseases

  • Profilin and Actin Dynamics
  • Cellular Responses to Protein Aggregates

Connective Tissue Diseases

  • Functional Genomics
  • Regulatory Non-coding Genomic Variants

Program of Study

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There exist two PhD tracks in the Biomedical Sciences program. The first track is the fast-track “Declared” student.  “Declared” MCB students can pick a mentor before they arrive or within the fall semester after one or two rotations.  The MCB fast-track students will enter the MCB program and begin MCB advanced coursework (GMS 6421, Advanced Cell Biology) during the spring semester of year 1.  The second track is the traditional “Undeclared” student.  “Undeclared” MCB students will identify a mentor and declare a program of study before the beginning of the summer semester. These MCB students have the option to begin MCB advanced coursework in spring semester of year 1 or the fall semester of year 2.  A sample schedule for an MCB student is shown below.  In addition to laboratory research, all MCB students must satisfactorily complete:  “Fundamentals of Biomedical Science” (GMS 6001, 5 credit hours), “Advanced Cell Biology” (GMS 6421, 4 credit hours), three (3) credits of advanced MCB courses, and 3 credits of electives for a total of fifteen (15) credits of course work.  In addition, all MCB students are required to register for Journal Club (GMS 6690) and Data Club (GMS 6692) courses offered in both fall and spring semesters. 

Year 1

Fall Semester (Total 9 credits)Spring Semester (Total 9 credits)Summer Semester (Total 6 credits)
GMS 6001: Fundamentals of Biomedical Sciences, 5 credits GMS 6421: Advanced Cell Biology, 4 credits GMS 7979 Advanced Research, 4-6 credits
GMS 6003: Essentials of Graduate Research & Professional Development, 1 credit GMS 7877: Responsible Conduct of Biomedical Research, 1 credit GMS 6691: Special Topics – Grant Writing, 2 credits **
GMS 6090: Lab Rotations, 2 credits GMS 6692: MCB Student Data Club, 1 credit
GMS 6895: Journal Club, 1 credit GMS 6690: MCB Journal Club, 1 credit
Advanced MCB Courses, 0-2 credits * <<<<<<<>>>>>>>
Advanced Elective Courses, 0-2 credits * <<<<<<<>>>>>>>
GMS 6090: Lab Rotations, 0-2 credit * <<<<<<<>>>>>>>
GMS 7979: Advanced Research, 1-2 credits *

Year 2

Fall Semester (Total 9 credits)Spring Semester (Total 9 credits)Summer Semester (Total 6 credits)
GMS 7979: Advanced Research, 1-7 credits *GMS 7979: Advanced Research, 1-7 credits ***GMS 7979 Advanced Research, 4-6 credits ***
GMS 6692: MCB Student Data Club, 1 credit GMS 7980: Doctoral Research, 1-7 credits ***GMS 7980 Doctoral Research, 6 credits ***
GMS 6690: MCB Journal Club, 1 credit GMS 6692: MCB Student Data Club, 1 credit GMS 6691: Special Topics – Grant Writing, 2 credits **
Advanced MCB Courses, 1-3 credits *GMS 6690: MCB Journal Club, 1 credit
Advanced Elective Courses, 1-3 credits * *************AND*************
Advanced MCB Courses, 0-3 credits * <<<<<<<>>>>>>>
Advanced Elective Courses, 0-3 credits *

* These courses and credits will be customized to the student needs and interests.
** Those students taking their qualifying exam in the fall of year 2 will register for GMS 6691
Special Topics: Grant Writing in the summer of year 1.
Those students taking their qualifying exam in the fall of year 3 will register for GMS 6691
Special Topics: Grant Writing in the summer of year 2.
*** Those students who have passed their qualifying exam in the fall of year 2 will register for GMS 7980.
Those students who will take their qualifying exam in the fall of year 3 will register for GMS 7979.

Supervisory Committees

All students must form their supervisory committee within three months upon identifying their mentor and filing the signed paperwork. The committee must have a chair who is MCB faculty and be composed of 4-6 members including at least one additional MCB faculty and one external member (outside the MCB concentration).  At least one committee member must be a Full Professor. Excluding the committee chair, the committee must have no more than one additional  Assistant Professor. Students are required to consult with the MCB director (Dr. Daaka) or coordinators (Drs. Dunn or Ishov) and receive approval prior to finalizing the committee.

Supervisory Committee Meetings

Supervisory committee meetings will begin within six months after finalizing the student’s committee. MCB students are required to schedule supervisory committee meetings every six months, preferably in the fall and spring semesters. Following committee meetings, the following administrative tasks must be completed and submitted to the MCB graduate administrator: 1) a completed and signed “Committee Meeting Form”, and 2) a summary of the meeting and student progress to be completed by the mentor.  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 coordinator, 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

The PhD qualifying examination consists of written and oral components. The written component requires the student to write an NIH style F31 grant.  The oral component includes a student presentation of the grant application and oral defense of the proposal.  Both written and oral components of the PhD qualifying examination must be completed by the end of the fall term of the third year.  As stated in the BMS Handbook, the qualifying exam will be given by an examination committee consisting of the supervisory committee plus an MCB coordinator. The examination will be directed by a chair selected from the examination committee. The chair cannot be the primary mentor or MCB coordinator. 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 administrator within one day of the examination. A MCB coordinator is required to attend the Qualifying Exam.  Students are responsible for coordinating with MCB coordinators when scheduling the exam.

The following guidelines pertain to outcomes of the Qualifying Exam:

  • Pass: The student passes both written and oral components of the exam without further remediation recommendations by the committee.
  • Pass with remediation: The student fails either the written or oral component and with assistance from his/her mentor prepares a remediation plan that must be approved by the examination committee (committee members and an MCB coordinator). 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 coordinator must attend this meeting to confirm completion of the remediation plan.
  • Fail with option for re-examination: The student that fails both written and oral components of the exam must, with assistance from his/her mentor, schedule a second qualifying examination. The second qualifying exam must be held before the end of the spring term of the third year of graduate studies.

Graduation Requirements

All PhD students are required to write a PhD Dissertation and subsequently defend it at a forum that includes at least the Supervisory Committee and an MCB coordinator. The student must acquire signed approval by the Supervisory Committee prior to writing the dissertation.  A final draft of the dissertation must be presented 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 oral 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.  Students are responsible for coordinating with their Committee and MCB coordinators when scheduling their final PhD seminar and defense.  By the time of the final defense, MCB students are expected to present a poster or oral presentation at one or more national or international conferences and to have at least one first author paper published, in press, or accepted for publication. Upon completion of the Dissertation Defense, the final Dissertation must be acceptable to the Supervisory Committee as well as the Graduate Office of the University of Florida.

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 Graduate Research Awards in the Medical Guild Competition.  MCB can nominate 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.

The Faculty and their Research

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Our faculty have diverse interests in the structure and function of cells, tissues, and organ systems and can be found in the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, and Engineering.  For a list of faculty members in the Molecular Cell Biology advanced concentration, please click here.

Concentration Contacts

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