Home < Degrees < Cellular and Molecular Biology

Cellular and Molecular Biology

Administrative Unit:Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Biology
College/School: Graduate School
Admitting Plans:Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:M.S., Ph.D.

Faculty: D. Wassarman (program chair); Focus Group Chairs: Alexander (Cancer Biology), Amann (Cell Adhesion and Cytoskeleton), Pagliarini (Cellular and Molecular Metabolism), Griep (Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine), McNeel (Immunology), Groblewski (Membrane Biology and Protein Trafficking), Landick (Molecular and Genome Biology of Microbes), Bednarek (Plant Biology), Brow (RNA), Harrison (Transcriptional Mechanisms), Ahlquist (Virology). For a list of all participating faculty, see the program website.


Graduate study in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is a research-oriented interdisciplinary program leading to the Ph.D. degree. Students are not admitted to the master's degree program. The university has one of the largest and most prestigious biology facilities in the world, well-noted for its cooperation and collaboration across department boundaries. The Cellular and Molecular Biology Program (CMB) is an important part of that interdepartmental strength, providing students with the opportunity to work with more than 180 faculty members in 40 departments.

A major strength of the program is that it provides the opportunity for groups of investigators to work together on research topics of common interest. Research topic areas, identified as focus groups, are composed of faculty and students studying common research areas. Each group is held together by participation of both students and faculty at regular research presentations and by the participation of faculty on thesis committees of many students in the group. Because of the diverse nature of most research areas and the cross-fertilization among focus groups, many faculty and students participate in the activities of multiple focus groups.

The focus groups are: cancer biology; cell adhesion and cytoskeleton; cellular and molecular metabolism;  developmental biology and regenerative medicine; immunology; membrane biology and protein trafficking; molecular and genome biology of microbes; plant biology; RNA; transcriptional mechanisms; and virology. For a complete listing of each faculty member associated with each focus group and the corresponding research, see the CMB website.

The CMB program encourages each student to develop an independent and creative approach to science. These skills can be gained through the program requirements, which include course work and research in the student's specific area of interest. All CMB students are required to obtain 11 credits in the CMB core curriculum, which consists of both cellular and molecular biology course work, in addition to a 1-credit ethics requirement. Also, students take courses and seminars, and participate in journal clubs related to their specific areas of expertise. Research experience is an integral part of the program while completing these requirements. The combination of coursework and research experience allows students to obtain a solid foundation in cellular and molecular biology that is also tailored to the professional objectives of each student. Specific core curriculum requirements can be found at the CMB website.

Financial Aid 

Initially, all students accepted into the Ph.D. degree program receive financial support from Graduate School fellowships, interdepartmental training grants, and/or research assistantships. The program strives to maintain a nationally competitive stipend. Students were guaranteed a stipend of $25,000 for 2014-15; tuition is remitted. After a student has chosen a thesis advisor, support is obtained either by the thesis advisor or by a previously named source. Graduate students are also eligible for comprehensive health insurance; individual or family coverage is available at a minimal cost. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, at the time of application to graduate school or during the first semester on campus.


Admission to the program is highly competitive. Admission is based on demonstrated ability and interest in mathematics, the physical sciences, chemistry, and biology; Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores; three letters of recommendation; and the personal statement. Previous research experience is required. Applicants are required to take the GRE general test.  The GRE subject test in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology is recommended but not required.

For more information: Student Services Coordinator, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, Bock Laboratories, 1525 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3203; cmb@bocklabs.wisc.edu; www.cmb.wisc.edu.