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


Okafor receives 2021 National Science Foundation CAREER Award

C. Denise Okafor, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, has been honored with a Faculty Early Career Development award from the U.S. National Science Foundation. The award is the NSF’s most prestigious honor in support of early-career faculty members who have the potential to serve as academic role models.

Scientists uncover the genetic pathway that colors bumble bee stripes

While most people in the U.S. may think of bumble bees as the standard yellow and black variety, there are an estimated 260 bee species that sport about 400 different color patterns. One reason many people associate bumble bees with distinct colors is because evolution can influence multiple bee species to share similar color patterns in specific geographic regions, which scientists call mimicry.

Preparing for potential pandemics is focus of new federal grant to Penn State

Researchers at Penn State have received a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study H7N9 with a goal of developing new and fundamental knowledge of virus mutations that could indicate the potential for transmissibility in humans. 

Douglas Cavener named Huck Chair in Evolutionary Genetics

Douglas R. Cavener, Penn State professor of biology and former Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science, has been named Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Distinguished Chair in Evolutionary Genetics by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.