Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (PhD)

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Degree Offered: PhD
Program Leadership:
Todd Nystul, PhD, Co-Director
Robert Blelloch, MD, PhD, Co-Director
Admissions Inquiries:
Demian Sainz, Program Manager

Program Description

The Developmental and Stem Cell Biology PhD program builds upon the outstanding strengths of basic and translational research at UCSF. It provides training in five overlapping and interrelated thematic areas: stem cells and cell differentiation, organogenesis and tissue regeneration, pattern formation and morphogenesis, evolutionary developmental biology and translational efforts using stem cells in disease modeling and drug screening. The DSCB Program offers an integrated and multidisciplinary educational opportunity for graduate students pursuing careers in these rapidly expanding fields.


The DSCB program includes faculty members from various clinical and basic science departments with a wide range of interests. Most DSCB faculty have ongoing laboratory projects that span multiple thematic areas.

The DSCB program coordinates its activities with a variety of cross-campus entities including the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research, the Smith Cardiovascular Research Institute, the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UCSF Diabetes Center, and the Gladstone Institutes.


  • Stem cells and cell differentiation
  • Organogenesis and tissue regeneration
  • Pattern formation and morphogenesis
  • Evolutionary developmental biology
  • Translational stem cell biology

The DSCB program is offered by the UCSF Graduate Division, administered by the UCSF Graduate Medical Education Unit (GMU), and delivered by faculty members in the UCSF schools of dentistry and medicine.

Learning Outcomes

The goal of our predoctoral program is to provide broad-based, interdisciplinary training in developmental biology. Because the field is likely to change as much in the next decade as in the past 40 years, a broad education in diverse subjects with a dynamic curriculum offers the best means to meet future challenges. Students are therefore educated in a range of core disciplines and medically relevant fields including genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, biostatistics, and, especially, developmental biology. They are provided with training in a wide range of techniques and given opportunities to address biological and biomedical questions in a variety of organisms with cutting edge technology in state-of-the-art laboratories. Particular emphasis is placed on learning to think critically, formulate hypotheses, design experiments, write and present clearly, and conduct rigorous research ethically and responsibly. By promoting their intellectual growth and experimental skills, the DSCB program teaches students how to become independent, innovative scientists who are able to recognize important questions to investigate and be equipped to contribute at the highest levels to developmental biology for decades to come.

Additional Information

Program Core Faculty

Career Outcomes