Molecular & Cellular Pathology

Pathology 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 Molecular & Cellular Pathology.

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

Program Overview

The Molecular and Cellular Pathology Graduate Program is situated in the Department of Pathology and takes advantage of its unique position in a department that bridges basic and clinical sciences to encourage interdisciplinary projects and interdepartmental cooperation. A variety of educational experiences are offered with the objective that persons destined for research careers have a better understanding of disease-related clinical problems.

The primary goal of the doctoral program is to train individuals for careers as independent scientific investigators in academic or biotechnology sectors, with a focus on the study of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease processes. The graduate program has grown to include 18 students and nearly 30 faculty members. Many faculty members also hold joint appointments with other biomedical science departments and graduate programs at the University of Michigan, offering students an interdisciplinary approach to their training.

Research Areas

The graduate program in Molecular & Cellular Pathology focuses on the comprehensive study of the pathogenesis of human diseases and its application to the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Students will be trained under the supervision of an exceptional group of basic, clinical and translational researchers and will be immersed in a research environment that highlights internationally known faculty supported by a departmental structure that encourages investigative interactions.

Areas of interest in the MCP Program include:

  • Molecular and cellular mechanisms of cancer
  • Inflammation and immunology
  • Cell death and regulation
  • Stem cell and developmental biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Epigenetics and Gene regulation
  • Bioinformatics, proteomics, and systems biology
  • Aging
  • Translational Research
  • Biomarkers (diagnostic and prognostic)
  • Drug discovery and experimental therapeutics

The Translational Research Division allows integration of the strong clinical research effort in the Department with basic research programs, and gives our trainees an important prospective on “bench to bedside” approaches. In 2016, the Department of Pathology received funding for the Training Program in Translational Research from the National Institute of Health. Along with additional coursework in translational research, T32 trainees participate in a mentored clinical rotation in an area relevant to the student's thesis research, complementing their experimental work with exposure to relevant problems in the clinic. 

Explore our faculty.

Program Requirements


The required core courses provide students with a background in basic areas of biochemistry, cell biology, immunology, and human genetics, providing a rigorous intellectual foundation in preparation for in-depth study of the cellular and molecular pathogenesis of disease. Our diverse research faculty investigate a broad range of disease topics and integrates their knowledge into the course curriculum. A course in Translational Pathology was recently designed and added to the MCP curriculum to help meet the growing need for scientists and medical professionals who can bridge the gap between basic science and clinical practice. This multi-disciplinary course trains both graduate students and clinical residents/fellows in the methods and principles involved in translating basic science findings into clinically useful interventions to improve human disease outcomes. Students also have the flexibility to select electives reflecting their own interest from a wide array of specialized courses offered at the Medical School and throughout the University. Graduate students also get broad exposure to basic and applied research with a weekly departmental seminar series that integrates visiting speakers, local research faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows, providing them with a stimulating learning environment. 

Preliminary Examination

A standing committee of MCP program faculty gives the Preliminary exam to students in the fall term of their second year. Students are required to prepare a written research proposal for approval by the committee, followed by an oral defense of the proposal. The student should choose a topic in an area outside his/her dissertation research. The research topic will ideally be complementary to the student's thesis research, not directly related, but relevant enough that increased knowledge in the area will add value to their thesis research. 

Teaching Requirement

The MCP graduate program has no formal teaching requirement, but will provide access and training to individuals that want a teaching experience.

Expected Length of Program

Program is designed for students to graduate in five years of training.

Student Interests

MCP students have been recognized for their successes through institutional and national awards including Rackham Research and Travel Grants, Rackham Distinguished Dissertation Awards, and Rackham Predoctoral Fellowships. They have also earned training positions on competitive NIH training grants, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Science Awards as well as awards from professional societies. The MCP graduate students produce high quality research that has resulted in publications in top tier journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Medicine, Cell, Cancer Cell, Molecular Cell, NEJM, and PNAS and presentations at multiple venues at the U-M and other national and international venues.

Students are heavily involved in program activities including organization of our highly successful Annual Pathology Research Symposium, which highlights research within the department and has hosted internationally known external keynote speakers including Dr. Ralph Steinman, the 2011 Nobel Laureate. During the symposium that MCP program announces the Outstanding Research Award recipient, which recognizes the talent and exceptional students who have exhibited excellence in their research, academics, and other scientific accomplishments.

The MCP program has an active Student Council which hosts monthly meetings and coordinates multiple social events throughout the year including student/faculty mixers, camping trips, ice cream socials, and community outreach projects. 

Career Expectations

Our Molecular & Cellular Pathology program prepares students for careers in academia, biotech, pharmaceutical industry, education, publishing, and public policy. Many of our Ph.D. graduates pursue careers in industry and government, in addition to academic teaching and research. The training students receive in disease models and processes has made them invaluable in assessing drug efficacy and toxicity; consequently, a significant number of these individuals take positions in biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Governmental research and regulatory agencies also benefit from this expertise, partly for the same reasons as the drug companies, and also for their basic and applied research skills.