Cell & Developmental Biology

Cell and developmental biology lab

The Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary gateway program that coordinates admissions and the first year of Ph.D. studies for 14 department programs, including Cell & Developmental Biology.

PIBS offers you the flexibility and convenience of applying to any of our participating programs through one application. We invite you to thoroughly explore Cell & Developmental Biology and the other 13 programs before selecting your top preferences when you apply.

Program Overview

When the University of Michigan Medical School was founded in 1850, one of the five original faculty positions was the Professorship of Surgery and Anatomy. This position was later expanded to the Department of Anatomy, which in 1999 was renamed Cell & Developmental Biology to reflect the modern research interests of its faculty. Our department is housed in the new Biomedical Science Research Building (BSRB), with state of the art lab facilities and bright, open-plan research spaces.

Cell & Developmental Biology (CDB), one of the oldest departments in the medical school, is also one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing. Two-thirds of our faculty have joined CDB within the last eight years, bringing new opportunities at the forefront of molecular biology research.

Research Areas

CDB faculty work in a very broad range of research areas:

  • Aging and degeneration
  • Cancer biology
  • Cell signaling
  • Cellular biophysics
  • Computational biology and mathematical modeling
  • Developmental genetics
  • Gene expression and genomics
  • Genetic and molecular models of human disease
  • Host-pathogen interactions
  • Intracellular transport
  • Neurobiology
  • Organogenesis and pattern formation in the eye, ear, limb, gut, heart, skeleton, hematopoietic system, urogenital system, reproductive system, and nervous system
  • Stem cell biology
  • Systems biology

Our faculty and students are extremely interactive and collaborative. Many CDB students have interdisciplinary projects involving multiple laboratories.

CDB is home to several special programs and research facilities:

The Microscopy and Image Analysis Laboratory (MIL), a facility of more than 3,000 square feet housing state-of-the-art microscopy and imaging equipment, is housed within the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

The Center for Organogenesis is an interdisciplinary group of scientists working on basic mechanisms by which organs and tissues are formed and maintained, using this knowledge to create long lasting artificial organs, stem cell therapies or organ transplantation systems that will correct genetic and acquired diseases. The Center has run an NIH-supported training grant for over 15 years.

The Michigan Center for hES Cell Research was established in 2002, with funding from the Medical School and the NIH, for the study of human embryonic stem cells. The Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies is now part of the Taubman Institute and provides training and resources for students and faculty interested in ESC and iPSC stem cell research.

Explore our faculty.

Program Requirements


Course requirements are flexible; the goal is to establish a basic working knowledge of current concepts in molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, and neurobiology while allowing students to pursue more advanced coursework related to their research interests, such as developmental biology, bioinformatics, gene expression, signal transduction, etc. In your first year, you will take the PIBS curriculum, which also fulfils CDB requirements. When you choose a research laboratory in CDB, you will enroll in our Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology course, CDB 801. You will also select additional program courses and electives from the rich offerings at the University of Michigan.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary exam, which takes place in the summer following the first year of graduate school, consists of an oral examination of the specific aims of the student’s research project.

Teaching Requirement

As part of their professional training, CDB students serve as graduate student instructors (GSIs) in a graduate-level course for one semester.

Expected Length of Program

The usual time to degree is approximately 5 to 5 1/2 years.

Student Interests

In the past several years many new faculty and students have joined the CDB Department. Over the next few years, we will continue to hire more of the best and brightest faculty in the nation to join our current, internationally renowned faculty. In addition to the CDB student seminar, CDB 801, students participate fully in all department committees, help organize our annual departmental retreat, and plan/attend monthly happy hours.

In 2011, four Ph.D. students joined the CDB graduate program, and many more joined CDB laboratories as MD/PhD students or as members of other graduate programs (CMB, Neuroscience, Bioinformatics, Human Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, etc.).

Career Expectations

In addition to scientific discovery, our mission is to train future leaders in cell and developmental biology, by encouraging high-impact research and providing teaching and mentorship of the highest quality.

Our students have received University and national recognition for their scholarship, research, and teaching, and their work is frequently published in high-impact journals (including recent papers in Nature Cell Biology, Science Signaling, Neuron, PLoS Biology, Current Biology, Developmental Cell, Molecular Cell, PLoS Pathogens, J Neurosci, J Virology, PNAS, J Cell Sci, EMBO J, Cell Metabolism, MCB, JBC, Blood, J Clin Invest, Development, etc.).

CDB graduates have gone on to successful careers in academic science, medical research, scientific consulting, and biotechnology.