Molecular and Cellular Biology

The secondary field in Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) is intended for students with a strong interest in the life sciences, and is primarily concerned with the understanding of biological processes based on the study of molecules and their interactions in the context of cells and tissues. The cell is the fundamental unit of all living things and is therefore an ideal framework for integrating one's understanding of the structure and chemistry of macromolecules with their higher order organization and behavior in a living context. Students pursuing the secondary field in MCB will gain a strong foundation in molecular biology, cellular biology, and genetics through introductory life sciences courses and intermediate courses in the MCB department. To deepen their understanding of the discipline, students will then enroll in two additional MCB courses of their choosing. The choice of these courses, which should be made with the guidance of a concentration adviser, will allow students to explore specific sub-fields in MCB. For example, students with an interest in regenerative biology could choose to focus on departmental course work in animal development and stem cell biology. The secondary field is designed for students who desire a broad yet rigorous introduction to the field, and may be appropriate for students with diverse career interests, including (but certainly not limited to) economics, government, health policy, business, and journalism.

Requirements: 6 half-courses

  1. Two integrated introductory courses in the life sciences:

    1. Life Sciences 1a: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology (or Life and Physical Sciences A)

    2. Life Sciences 1b: Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution

  2. Two intermediate courses in molecular and cellular biology:

    1. MCB 52: Molecular Biology

    2. MCB 54: Cell Biology

  3. Two advanced courses in MCB: courses beyond the introductory level chosen from MCB course offerings are required for the secondary field.

  4. Notes: MCB 56 and MCB 80 count as advanced courses for the MCB secondary field; however, Life Sciences 60 does not. Students are encouraged to consider taking 100-level MCB courses to fulfill the advanced course requirement and should consult the concentration adviser for advice on 100-level course selection. MCB 100r: Experimental Molecular and Cellular Biology (no longer offered); LS 100r: Experimental Research in the Life Sciences; and MCB 91r: Introduction to Research count and are recommended for students interested in integrating a research experience into their plan of study.

Other Information

To count for credit towards the secondary field, the six half-courses must be taken for a letter grade. Freshman Seminars will not count towards the secondary field. Students working in a research laboratory as part of a study abroad program can petition to have that research experience count as an advanced course credit towards the secondary field, and some Harvard Summer School Courses can count for credit towards the secondary field. Students should contact the concentration adviser, Dr. Thomas Torello (torello@fas.harvard.edu), for more information on counting Harvard Summer School courses and research conducted as part of a study abroad program for the secondary field in MCB. Students pursuing a secondary field in MCB will not be given preferential access to limited enrollment courses; however we do not anticipate that any of the courses required for the secondary field will be over-enrolled. Given current policy with respect to counting courses for concentration and secondary fields, it is not possible for students concentrating in Chemistry, Chemical and Physical Biology, or Neurobiology to fulfill the requirements for a secondary field in MCB.

Advising Resources and Expectations

Students intending to pursue the secondary field in Molecular and Cellular Biology should notify the department using the secondary fields web tool so that their name and contact information can be forwarded to the MCB department. Upon completion of the requirements for the secondary field, students are required to meet with the concentration adviser in order to confirm that the courses they have taken count for credit towards the MCB secondary field. Prior to completion of the required courses, students are welcome to meet with the concentration adviser as needed, and are encouraged to meet with the concentration adviser upon completion of the introductory and intermediate courses in order to select appropriate advanced courses.

For additional information, students interested in pursuing a secondary field may contact the concentration adviser in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Dr. Thomas Torello (torello@fas.harvard.edu), or the head tutor in Molecular and Cellular Biology, Professor Richard Losick (mcb_conc@lsdiv.harvard.edu).