All living things on earth are comprised of cells whose behavior is governed by the activities of genes and biochemicals. The major in Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) is designed for students interested in exploring the most fundamental constituents of living things. Students learn to use experimental methods to address problems ranging from elucidation of principles and mechanisms of neurobiology and development, to applied problems in medicine, biotechnology, and forensics. The courses for the CMB major are comprised of a mixture of lectures and formal labs, but opportunities exist for participation in faculty research laboratories via independent study or senior honors thesis courses. In addition, students may elect to participate in service learning and internships as part of their academic coursework.
The research programs of the CMB Department are focused on two major areas; one in Developmental Biology and the other in Neuroscience. Developmental Biology labs investigate the mechanisms that guide the formation of organs such as limbs and fingers, teeth and palate, eye and the peripheral nervous system. Techniques used in this research include the use of viral vectors for gene transfer, transgenic and knockout mice, cDNA microarrays, and in utero surgical manipulations of mouse embryos. The Neuroscience labs study the formation and modulation of synaptic connections in several centers of the adult rodent brain. Experimental methods used in this research include retroviral gene transfer, calcium imaging, mutation analysis, single cell PCR, and electrophysiology in brain slices. Additional research programs in fungal genetics and molecular evolution are also thriving in the Department.