Person looking into a microscope.

Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences

Gain an interdisciplinary perspective on cancer biology, cell and developmental biology, immunology and infectious disease, molecular and evolutionary genetics, molecular medicine, molecular toxicology, and neurobiology.

The Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences (MCIBS) Graduate Program is composed of more than 120 faculty members from six colleges and 15 basic science departments across the University Park campus. The program provides rigorous and in-depth training across a wide range of fields in the biological sciences. Students and faculty members work alongside each other to understand normal and disease processes at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels.

Students entering the MCIBS program take a common set of courses during their first semester, while doing three research rotations in labs of their choice. At the end of the first semester, students choose a thesis lab and emphasis area. During the second semester, they take one more course together while also beginning to branch out into courses within their emphasis areas. Students also begin to shape their thesis projects during the second semester.

Courses help lay the foundation for subsequent research training. Students must produce a body of work in their thesis lab and demonstrate the ability to think critically and to design experiments. As students progress in their scientific training, they demonstrate these skills in two exams: the candidacy exam and comprehensive exam. The thesis and defense are the culmination of the Ph.D. training and showcase the work the student has accomplished.

  • Support is guaranteed, and additional internal and training grant awards are available
  • Over $500 million federal research dollars come to faculty at Penn State each year
  • MCIBS has over 120 faculty
  • Students have access to cutting edge tools and facilities to advance their research


Alumnus and professor named new head of biomedical engineering

When Dan Hayes graduated from the Penn State Eberly College of Science with a bachelor’s degree in science in 1997, the Department of Biomedical Engineering was still three years away from forming. Now, Hayes will lead the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His tenure as department head begins July 1.

Climate-associated genetic switches found in plants

Genetic variants that can act as switches directing structural changes in the RNA molecules that code for proteins in plants have been experimentally validated in plants for the first time. The changes to RNA structure can affect the molecule’s stability, how it interacts with other molecules, and how efficiently it can be translated into protein — all of which can impact its function and the traits of the plant.

Scientists devise method to help prevent hospital infections

On any given day, one in 31 hospital patients is diagnosed with an infection that developed as a result of care during their hospital stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medical devices such as catheters, stents, heart valves and pacemakers, whose surfaces can become covered with harmful bacterial films, account for about a quarter of such infections. To help prevent such infections, a research team led by Penn State and the University of California, Los Angeles, developed a novel surface treatment for these devices.

College of Engineering awards six Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grants

The Penn State College of Engineering recently awarded six Multidisciplinary Research Seed Grants to faculty members, including one in partnership with the College of Health and Human Development and another with the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.