The Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology Major 2013-14

UCSC researchers use X-ray crystallography to study ribosome structure and function.

The molecular, cell, and developmental (MCD) biology major is designed for students interested in medical or other professional programs in the health sciences, graduate school, and careers in biotechnology industries. This major is more structured than the general biology major and requires that students pay careful attention to the prerequisites required for upper-division biology courses.

The Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology Department offers three bachelor of science degrees: Human Biology; Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology; and Neuroscience

To qualify for a Molecular, Cell, & Developmental B.S., Neuroscience B.S., Human Biology B.S., or Biology B.S. major, students must complete the following four qualification courses, or their equivalents, with a grade of C or better and a cumulative GPA of 2.30 or greater. These courses must be completed prior to submitting a declaration petition.

  • CHEM 1B, General Chemistry
  • CHEM 1C, General Chemistry
  • BIOL 20A, Cell & Molecular Biology
  • BIOE 20B, Development and Physiology

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.S., M.A., Ph.D.
  • Extensive interaction with faculty in MCD Biology and other biology-related programs at UC Santa Cruz, including computational biology and bioinformatics, biomedical engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, and microbiology and environmental toxicology

High School Preparation

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students who intend to major in biology should take high school courses in biology, chemistry, advanced mathematics (precalculus and/or calculus), and physics.

Transfer Preparation

Junior transfer students who plan to major in molecular, cell, and developmental biology must complete the introductory requirements prior to transfer, in particular a complete year of calculus, general chemistry, and introductory biology. Additionally, students who complete a year of organic chemistry, statistics, and calculus-based physics will transfer prepared to begin their advanced degree requirements and allow time in their senior year for doing research. California community college students should follow the prescribed course work in the UCSC transfer agreements available at Students at other institutions should compare courses at their school with the degree requirements at and the UCSC General Catalog course descriptions to ensure courses will qualify for transfer. 

It is imperative that all transfer students complete the following UC-transferable course work prior to transfer:

  • 1 year of single-variable calculus
  • 1 year of general chemistry
  • 1 year of introductory biology

Students who plan to take the above courses at a California community college should reference to determine which courses are transferable to UCSC. The Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) will not provide transfer students with enough math and science courses to allow them to complete the MCD biology program in two years.

Prospective transfer students should visit the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs web site for further information (see the More Information section).


  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology research
  • Cell biology
  • Environmental toxicology
  • Industrial ecology
  • Medical research
  • Medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Pharmaceutical research
  • Physiology
  • Veterinary medicine

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.

Education Abroad Opportunities

The UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) offers qualified students unique opportunities to broaden their educational horizons. MCD Biology encourages interested students to participate. Many programs are in English-speaking countries or use English for advanced courses. Many programs offer small classes and extensive laboratory and/or field research experience.

There are excellent programs for biological science students in Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany, among others.

Students interested in study abroad need to get an early start on their basic science requirements, including general and organic chemistry, math, and introductory biology. Visit the EAP office as soon as possible to begin planning, and seek advice about your academic plan from the Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs adviser and/or faculty adviser.

Academic Advising

Academic advising is available from Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs. The Undergraduate Affairs web site at, contains detailed information about the degree programs, sample schedules, transferring credit, placement exams, faculty research, and opportunities in the Physical and Biological Sciences majors.

More Information

Physical and Biological Sciences Undergraduate Affairs
142 Jack Baskin Engineering Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-4143

See Also