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Department of Biological Sciences


Ph.D. / M.S. Research Program

We offer research-based doctoral and master's Degrees.  As a research student, you'll work under the guidance and supervision of a professor with the additional guidance of a faculty supervisory committee, take courses as appropriate, and develop and execute a body of research which results in a dissertation (Ph.D.) or thesis (M.S.). 

Research Areas

Because of the extraordinary breadth of biology, the faculty are loosely organized in three general areas. However, faculty interests and activities often integrate multiple and diverse research themes. We have several main departmental research groups (IB, MCDB and Plant), as well as specific research interests of individual faculty. If you are a prospective student, please contact us with any questions you have about research opportunities.

Integrated Biology (IB: Ecology, Evolution, Organismal Biology)

Integrative biology recognizes that biological systems interrelate and interact. Our faculty focus on understanding how diverse biological systems function in the broader context of the organism and its environment, as well as how environments interact with the organisms they support.

Our research systems include animals (vertebrate and invertebrate), plants and microbes. Research disciplines include ecology, evolutionary biology, behavior, physiology and neurobiology, developmental biology and computational biology including modeling and bioinformatics. Research facilities include fully equipped laboratories and excellent field sites. The composite intellectual framework is that a biological system, whether genetic, molecular, developmental, physiological, ecological or evolutionary, can best be understood by accounting for interactions with other systems.

Students are woven into this intellectual framework through collaborations among overlapping groups of faculty. These groups share a common goal of decoding the complexity underlying biological systems.

Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology (MCDB)

The Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Group (MCDB) is a diverse yet cohesive group of internationally recognized investigators with a shared interest understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms governing animal and plant cells. We are a large group, with expertise in genetics, signal transduction and cell biology - over 70 MCDB  members attended the annual retreat this year. 

Several MCDB investigators have connections to USC’s Center for Colon Cancer Research. Other strengths include mouse genetics, gene expression and molecular evolution. Molecular neuroscience is a growing area of expertise, and several researchers in the Plant Sciences group participate in MCDB functions.

MCDB graduate students can enter the program directly or through the USC Integrated Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program. Most MCDB graduate students participate in classes that allow them to present their research to the department. They also enroll in journal club-like courses. The department has significant funding sources for students to attend international meetings and workshops. We are currently establishing an MCDB postdoctoral organization to provide support and mentorship for postdoctoral fellows in MCDB labs. 

Plant Sciences

The Plant Sciences Group at the University of South Carolina is internationally recognized for excellence in plant biology, spanning the molecular, cellular, organismal and ecosystem levels. 

Members of the group have a diversity of research interests aimed at understanding how plants develop and how they respond and adapt to their environment. Specific interest include molecular signaling in responses to pathogens and herbivores, flower development, small RNA biology, post-transcriptional gene silencing, iron transport and homeostasis, phytoplankton photosynthesis and aquatic primary production, wetland ecology, biomass production and nanotechnology, and evolutionary ecology.

We conduct controlled studies in the USC greenhouse and the numerous high quality environmental growth facilities. Members of the group carry out field studies in various sites around South Carolina, the US Rocky Mountains, and the Brazilian Pantanal. Graduate students in the plant sciences take advantage of a highly interactive group that features a monthly plant seminar series, a plant-specific curriculum, and a number of travel and research awards. We are a collaborative group of researchers who share a deep interest in advancing the field of plant biology.

Learn more about research in our department.