Sep 27, 2020  
2011-2012 University Catalog 
2011-2012 University Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Cell Biology and Biotechnology MS; Cell and Molecular Biology PhD

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The Department of Biological Sciences offers a master of science degree in cell biology and biotechnology and the PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology. The curricula of these programs are designed to give a theoretical and practical background in biotechnological and molecular techniques and applications, the function of cells at the molecular and cellular levels, methods for studying cell systems, and the means used for understanding the genetics of cell systems. The program places a heavy emphasis on methodology, and each student is given the opportunity to learn techniques that are required in modern molecular, cellular, and biochemical laboratory settings. The programs are designed to offer opportunities for qualified individuals to pursue graduate studies in the fields of cell biology and biotechnology at the level of the master’s degree (non-thesis, thesis, and professional) and in cell and molecular biology at the doctoral level. Course offerings are designed to accommodate the needs of working individuals.

Students who complete a graduate program of study in the Department of Biological Sciences will be able to:

  • Conduct basic and applied research, and other scholarly work, for the purpose of advancing knowledge and education in the biological sciences.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in analytical and problem-solving approaches to hypothesis testing.
  • Gain experience in the use of modern laboratory techniques and equipment.
  • Disseminate the results of their research and scholarly work through publication in scientific journals and presentation to professional groups.

The MS program offers four degree options. The non-thesis option has a course requirement of 36 credit hours. The thesis option is a research-based degree in which the student conducts research on a topic of mutual interest with a faculty advisor. The course requirement is 20 credit hours of didactic work plus at least 10 credits of research. The professional option is a non-thesis degree that combines the core of the cell biology and biotechnology MS program with selected courses in management. The professional MS requires 18 credits from the pharmaceutical business program and a total of 38 credits. The non-thesis option with a certificate in biomedical writing incorporates courses in biomedical writing for students who are developing in the regulatory or documentational GxP aspects of a science career. This option includes 12 credits of biomedical writing courses and a total of 39 credits. All four options require successful completion of a core of courses fundamental to the understanding of cellular and biotechnological processes and applications. To maximize interaction among the graduate students, all students enroll in courses scheduled in the evening hours. Any of these options may be pursued on a part-time or a full-time basis.

The PhD in cell and molecular biology is a research-based degree that includes a minimum of 20 didactic course credits, including the core of the cell biology and biotechnology MS program, 20 research credits, completion of an extensive research program, and preparation of a doctoral dissertation.

The Department of Biological Sciences is well equipped with instrumentation related to the investigation of cellular, genetic, and molecular systems. The department has an automated fluorescence DNA sequence analyzer, a DNA microarray system, a phosphorimager, real-time PCR instrumentation, digital image analysis systems, 2-D LC-MS, and confocal microscope, as well as other typical electrophoresis, chromatography, centrifugation, and microscopy equipment. Students will have frequent hands-on experience with molecular biology techniques, PCR, centrifugation, epifluorescence and DIC microscopy, and electrophoresis. Cooperation among departments allows ready access to a variety of other analytical instruments. The department is particularly well supplied with computers for protein and gene database searches and bioinformatics applications.

Applicants are expected to have at minimum a baccalaureate degree in biology, biochemistry, or a related field; other disciplines may also be acceptable depending on the student’s career plans. Background in at least two of microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, or cell biology is required (with laboratory) for a MS or PhD degree option. Credit may be granted for relevant post-baccalaureate work experience and courses. Transfer of graduate credits taken while an undergraduate student or at other schools will be done in accordance with the policies of the College of Graduate Studies.

Admission Criteria

Applicants to the biological sciences graduate programs will be required to submit an application form, an application fee (as determined by the College of Graduate Studies office), a statement of academic/career goals, a current résumé, official transcripts of all previous college work, and proof of satisfactory completion of a baccalaureate degree (BA or BS) program (or its equivalent), all prior to the beginning of formal study at the graduate level. Before formal study, students must provide three letters of recommendation from faculty and professional supervisors and official GRE scores demonstrating an average 50th (MS) or 60th (PhD) percentile performance or better. International applicants are also expected to submit official TOEFL, TWE, and TSE (or TOEFL-iBT) scores and a Certificate of Finances. An exception to the requirement of GRE scores will be made under one of the following two conditions:

  1. A post-baccalaureate student who is taking our cell biology and biotechnology graduate program courses on a nonmatriculated basis, who has completed a minimum of nine credits of such courses, and who has maintained an overall GPA of 3.00 in the program (with no grade less than “B-”), will not be required to submit GRE scores.
  2. A pre-baccalaureate student who intends to participate in the integrated BS/MS program option, who has completed at least two semesters of work at USciences immediately prior to application, who has or will have completed all program prerequisites, and who has maintained an overall GPA of 3.25 (all courses with a BS prefix at the 300 level or above will have a grade of “B” or higher) will not be required to submit GRE scores.


Courses from other programs may be elected with permission of the program director. MS students may take up to six didactic credits from undergraduate courses at the 300 or 400 level. MS students must complete at least 3 credits at the 800 level; PhD students must complete at least 6 credits at the 800 level. Program electives include:


  1. Usually required for MS thesis or PhD options.
  2. Non-Thesis option; up to two times for credit. 

MS (Non-Thesis) with Certificate in Biomedical Writing

In addition to the program core outlined above, these students will complete the following courses in biomedical writing.

Electives from the cell biology and biotechnology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, biophysics, or biomedical writing programs will be chosen to total 39 credits.

MS (Professional)

In addition to the program core outlined above, these students will complete the following courses in the MBA program.

Elective(s) from the cell biology and biotechnology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, biophysics, or MBA programs will be chosen to total 38 credits.


Students pursuing the MS (Professional) degree option may choose PB 731 – Business Statistics to satisfy the program statistics requirement.

Certificate in Biotechnology

A certificate in biotechnology has been developed to prepare students for positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The certificate requires completion of 15 credits. Admission into the certificate program requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of organic chemistry.

  • Elective(s) Credits: 3


Students who have completed a comparable course will be required to substitute one or more electives with credits that total at least 15 total credits.


John R. Porter
BS (Pittsburgh State, Kansas); PhD (Montana)
Professor of Biology
Director, Biological Sciences Graduate Programs

Phone: 215.596.8917
Research: genetics of plant-microbe interactions; cytotoxic and antimicrobial natural plant products; plant tissue and cell culture; biosynthesis

Tilman Baumstark
MS, PhD (Heinrich-Heine University, Germany)
Associate Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.7531
Research: positive strand RNA viruses, yeast as a model host system; role of RNA structure/RNA-protein interactions; assembly of the viral replication complex

Ara DerMarderosian
BS, MS (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy);
PhD (Rhode Island)
Professor of Pharmacognosy
Research Professor of Medicinal Chemistry
Phone: 215.596.8915
Research: bioactive and immunoregulatory substances from natural sources; PCR typing of medicinal plants; nutraceuticals

James R. Johnson
BS (Auburn); PhD (Duke)
Associate Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.8521
Research: molecular mechanisms regulating gene expression and gene product function; analysis of protein factors and DNA structures that regulate gene activity in E.coli K12 and Staphylococcus aureus; microbial sulfur metabolism

Margaret R. Kasschau
BA (Rochester); MS, PhD (South Carolina)
Professor Emeritus of Biology
Associate Provost
Phone: 215.596.7558
Research: osmotic effects on cell morphology and the cytoskeleton; relationship to heat shock proteins; protein kinase C and P38

William R. Law
BA (Augustana); PhD (University of Illinois)
Professor of Biology
Vice Dean, Misher College of Arts and Sciences
Director, Forensic Science Program
Phone: 215.596.7443
Research: systemic inflammatory response syndrome; sepsis; purine nucleotide modulation of paracrine and autocrine cell signaling

Zhijun Li
BS, MS (Tsinghua, China); PhD (Vanderbilt)
Associate Professor of Bioinformatics
Phone: 215.596.7539
Research: use of computational and bioinformatics methods to generate and analyze three-dimensional structures of protein molecules and to gain insight into protein sequence, structure, and function relationships; the leveraging and combining of a broad range of computational techniques that tackle biological problems in multiple dimensions

Suzanne K. Murphy
BA (Rosemont); PhD (Hahnemann) 
Professor of Biology
Interim Dean, Misher College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 215.596.8921
Research: analysis of expression of the ras oncogene; perturbations in signal transduction pathways and expression of heat shock proteins

Vandana Ahuja Miller
BS (Hindu College); MD (Lady Hardinge, India)
Assistant Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.7591
Research: regulation of purine signaling through expression of extracellular enzymes during maturation and activation of phagocytic cells

Bela Peethambaran
BTech (St. Xavier’s, India); MS (Gujarat University, India); PhD (Mississippi State)
Assistant Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.8923

Robert A. Smith
BS, MS (Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science)
Distinguished Assistant Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.8918
Research: plant tissue culture for secondary metabolite production; plant tissue culture models of organogenesis and embryogenesis 

Affiliated Faculty

Natalia Coleman
BS, MS, PhD (St. Petersburg Agrarian University, Russia)
Visiting Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.7592

Melissa G. Marko
BS (Penn State); MS, PhD (Tufts)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.7437

Gilbert L. Zink
BS, MS, PhD (Ohio State)
Associate Professor of Biology
Phone: 215.596.8520

Adjunct Faculty

Joseph Betz, PhD
Adjunct Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Biotechnology

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