Cell & Developmental Biology

Cells are the fundamental units of life in our planet. They are the vehicles for the genetic information that defines each biological species on earth. Guided by this genetic information, the complex molecular machinery within cells orchestrates the acquisition of nutrients and information from the environment, cellular replication, and assembly into complex tissues and organisms. Our goal in studying cell and developmental biology is to understand how cells are constructed, how they accomplish their specific tasks, and how they assemble and cooperate with each other. This is an extremely exciting and important area of investigation, because it situated at the center of all current efforts to understand biology. Laboratories within this area in CBMG and affiliated departments/institutes study cell and developmental processes using single- and multi-celled model systems, including bacteria, cultured mammalian cells, fruit flies, plants, and fish. The interests of faculty in this area include membrane traffic and organelle biogenesis, mechanisms of signal transduction, cellular differentiation, cell-cell interactions and plant and animal development.


Experimental approaches include light and electron microscopy, molecular biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, and biochemistry. Resources available for cell biological study within CBMG include state-of-the-art confocal microscopy, flow cytometry, proteomics, and genomics facilities.


  • Students interested in Cell and Developmental Biology should apply to the Biological Sciences (BISI) Graduate Program and, specifically, to the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MOCB) concentration area within that program. 
  • The BISI program is designed to teach students to think critically, communicate effectively, and develop the research skills required for a successful career as an independent scientist.
  • First-year Ph.D. students in the MOCB concentration area are expected to enroll in core courses, participate in lab rotations, and attend seminars. After the first year, an advisory committee helps each student choose the advanced courses that are appropriate for the student's research plans and career objectives.
  • The Qualifying Exam, in the third year, gives students the opportunity to defend the objectives and intellectual foundations of their dissertation research and to demonstrate an understanding of contemporary cell and developmental biology. Subsequent to this exam, students focus almost entirely on their research.
  • In addition, graduate students have a good opportunity to improve their communication and interaction skills by serving as teaching assistants, as well as by presenting journal papers and their research in formal and informal settings throughout their graduate training. The vast majority of our graduates move on to successful careers in universities, research institutions, or biotechnology companies.

Graduate Courses in Cell and Developmental Biology

  • CBMG688D: Cell Biology I, Structure and Function
  • CBMG688E: Cell Biology II, Signal Transduction
  • CBMG688I: Genetics II
  • CBMG688P: Plant Development and Physiology I
  • CBMG688R: Plant Development and Physiology II
  • CBMG688W: Techniques in Microscopy
  • CBMG688J: Immunology and Host Defense
  • CBMG688L: Microbial Pathogenesis
  • Current Journal Clubs: CBMG 699Y: Plant Cell Biology; CBMG699X: Host Pathogen Interactions

 Several other departments on the campus offer advanced courses that may be relevant to the research interests of students in this specialization.


Faculty in Cell and Developmental Biology

Ibrahim Z. Ades, Affiliate Associate Professor Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, 1976. Cancer biology and angiogenesis.


Norma Andrews, Professor and Chairman Ph.D. University of Sao Paulo, Brazil 1983. Molecular strategies used by intracellular pathogens to subvert host cell function, and membrane traffic events involved in the repair of injured plasma membrane.


Kan Cao, Assistant Professor Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University, 2005. Molecular mechanisms of Hutchinson Gilford progeria syndrome and normal aging.


Caren Chang, Associate Chair and Professor Ph.D. California Institute of Technology, 1988. Signal transduction and hormonal signaling in Arabidopsis.


Marco Colombini, Affiliate Professor Ph.D., McGill University, 1974. Structure and mode of action of membrane transport systems; molecular basis for voltage control of channel-forming proteins.


Todd Cooke, Professor Ph.D. Cornell University, 1979. Plant morphogenesis; development processes in lower vascular plants; origins of biological form.


Eric O. Freed, Adjunct Associate Professor, Chief, Virus-Cell Interaction Section-NIH Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1990. Molecular biology of HIV-1 replication; retrovirus assembly and release.


Elisabeth Gantt, Emerita Professor Ph.D. Northwestern University, 1958. Cell biology of the photosynthetic apparatus and accessory pigments; physiology of algae.


William Jeffery, Affiliate Professor Ph.D. University of Iowa, 1971. Molecular and cellular mechanisms of sensory organ development; evolution of development.


Antony M Jose, Assistant Professor. Ph.D. Yale University, 2005. Movement of RNA between animal cells and across generations.


Vincent Lee, Assistant Professor Ph.D. University of California - Los Angles, 2000. Host-pathogen interactions, Molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Allosteric regulation of molecular complexes.


Zhongchi Liu, Professor Ph.D. Harvard University, 1990. Flower development in Arabidopsis.


Ian Mather, Affiliate Professor Ph.D. University College of North Wales, 1971. Expression and function of mammary glycoproteins.


David Mosser, Professor Ph.D. North Carolina State University, 1983. Cell and molecular biology of macrophages and dendritic cells; regulation of cytokine gene expression; host defense response to intracellular pathogens.


Stephen Mount, Associate Professor Ph.D. Yale University, 1983. Selection of splice sites in pre-mRNA splicing.


Leslie Pick, Affiliate Professor Ph.D. Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y., 1986. Embryonic development, evolution and axon guidance in Drosophila.


Sougata Roy, Assistant Professor. Ph.D. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India 2006. Cellular and molecular basis of cell-cell communication in development of multicellular organism


Wenxia Song, Associate Professor Ph.D. Kansas State University, 1991. Antigen transport and signal transduction functions of the B cell antigen receptor.


Daniel C. Stein, Professor Ph.D. University of Rochester, 1981. Molecular genetics; virulence mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria; Characterization of DNA Restriction and Modification Systems.


Richard Stewart, Associate Professor Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1984. Molecular biology of sensory systems and motility in bacteria.


Heven Sze, Professor Ph.D. Purdue University, 1975. Membrane structure, function, and biogenesis; regulation of solute transport; bioenergetics; proton and calcium-pumping ATPases in plants.


Wade C. Winkler, Associate Professor Ph.D. The Ohio State University, 2002. RNA-based regulation of gene expression in bacteria.