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Cellular and Molecular

Cellular and molecular biologists study the structure, function, and interactions of the molecules within living cells. Encompassing fields such as biochemistry, genetics, developmental biology, histology, microbiology, pathology, and physiology, this specialization underpins all biological sciences.  Cellular and molecular biology addresses questions such as: how do cells replicate themselves and grow?  How do cells acquire their specialized function?  When these processes go awry, what abnormalities or diseases result?  Focusing on cellular and molecular biology prepares students for careers in biotechnology, human medicine, regulation (whether food, drug, or environmental), veterinary medicine, and more. 

Biology Specializations - Cellular and Molecular (PDF)

Cellular and Molecular Recommended Courses

Students interested in this specialization should prioritize completing genetics (BIOL 313 & lab), and molecular cell biology (BIOL 314) within the biology core curriculum. 

When planning advanced coursework, we recommend taking at least 9 credits from the list below (lab courses are denoted by • ): 

Course # Course Name Credits
AN S 345 Growth and Development of Domestic Animals 3
AN S 352 • Genetic Improvement of Domestic Animals 3
BBMB 405 Biochemistry II 3
BBMB 411 • Techniques in Biochemical Research 4
BBMB 420 Mammalian Biochemistry 3
B M S 335 Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease 1
BIOL 322 Introduction to Bioinformatics and Computational Biology 3
BIOL 328 Molecular and Cellular Biology of Human Disease 3
BIOL 349 • The Genome Perspective in Biology 3
BIOL 352 • Vertebrate Histology 4
BIOL 402 Introduction to Pathology 3
BIOL 420X Plant Molecular Cell Biology 3
BIOL 423 & L • Developmental Biology and Lab 4
BIOL 428 Topics in Cell Biology 3
BIOL 434 Endocrinology 3
BIOL 436 Neurobiology 3
BIOL 444 Bioinformatic Analysis 3
GDCB 510 Transmission Genetics 3
GDCB 511 Advanced Molecular Genetics 3
GDCB 528 Advances in Molecular Cell Biology 3
GDCB 533 Advances in Developmental Biology 3
GDCB 542 • Introduction to Molecular Biology Techniques 1
GDCB 545 Plant Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology 3
GDCB 556 Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Neuroscience 3
GDCB 557 Advanced Neuroscience Techniques 3
GEN 340 Human Genetics 3
GEN 409 Molecular Genetics 3
GEN 410 Analytical Genetics 3
MICRO 302 & L • Biology of Microorganisms and Lab 4
MICRO 310 & L • Medical Microbiology and Lab 4
MICRO 320 Molecular and Cellular Bacteriology 4
MICRO 402 Microbial Genetics 3
MICRO 408 Virology 3
MICRO 475 Immunology 3

Participating in experiential learning, such as an independent study course, related internship experience, and especially lab/field research is also advised.  Many students specializing in this area pursue further education with a Masters or Ph.D.

Suggested Supporting Science Courses 

Having a more comprehensive understanding of chemistry is important for specializing in cellular and molecular biology, so students should plan to take a full year of general chemistry, a full year of organic chemistry, and strongly consider taking more advanced biochemistry courses. Calculus is also used more frequently in this specialization, so students are encouraged to take at least one semester of calculus. Similarly, a full-year of physics is suggested. 

Student Spotlight

Gabby Dubansky

Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa
Major: Biology
Next Steps:  Iowa State Graduate Program in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Opportunities at ISU

Biological Sciences Club (BSC)

The departmental club for Biology majors and anyone else interested in life science, the Biological Sciences Club features regular faculty speakers on a diverse range of life science topics.  

Undergraduate Research Experience

Students in the Biology Program can engage in life science research and earn academic credit for the experience.  Students will learn how to seek out these opportunities during orientation and they are also welcome to discuss this with their academic advisor.  

Amphibian and Reptile Club

Students interested in herpetology can participate in the Amphibian and Reptile Club to meet, talk, and become involved in herpetology related activities.

Birding Club

A student organization for casual enjoyment of birds, the Birding Club makes a handful of field trips each year to observe birds in their habitats around the state.

Zoo, Exotics, and Wildlife Club

The Zoo, Exotics, and Wildlife (ZEW) Club is dedicated to providing students with an opportunity to learn about the care of zoo animals, exotic pets, and wildlife.