Biological & Life Sciences

Biological & Life Sciences

The animal behavior graduate group is targeted toward students who are interested in understanding the adaptive and evolutionary bases of animal behavior. Students are trained for teaching and research in a variety of disciplines, including animal science, anthropology, ecology, entomology, neurobiology, psychology, physiology, veterinary science, wildlife biology and zoology. Students and faculty in the program conduct research using many different species—and many different perspectives. Research areas include: behavioral ecology and sociobiology; animal communication; animal management and welfare; physiology and behavior; behavior and conservation; primate behavior; modeling of behavior; and behavioral development. All students take a yearlong core course sequence designed to provide a breadth of knowledge about animal behavior. The remainder of the program is then individually tailored to provide in-depth study relevant to each student’s interests.

Animal biology encompasses the discipline-based studies of domesticated and wild animals and animal management systems. Understanding of the multifaceted aspects of organismal biology is a critical context for interpretation of molecular, cellular and behavioral observations. Much of the innovative research in animal biology is at the intersection of two or more contemporary biological disciplines; this program was designed to train students for this reality. The program of study is individually tailored to meet student needs and includes a limited number of core courses to provide a foundational understanding of the animal as an integrated organism. Graduates then pursue more in-depth study in behavior, biochemistry, ecology, genetics, immunology, nutrition, physiology, reproduction and/ or toxicology. Graduates pursue careers in academia, government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations.

The anthropology program offers graduate study in two broad areas: 1. Evolutionary Anthropology—with specialties in archaeology, behavioral ecology of nonhuman primates, biological anthropology, evolution of primate and human behavior, human evolution, molecular anthropology, archaeological theory, hunter-gatherers, and North American prehistory. 2. Sociocultural Anthropology—with specialties in critical theory, experimental ethnography, politics, globalization, political economy, religion, science technology and society, urban space, environmental politics, and cultures of history, identity, sexuality, film, media and visual anthropology.

The program offers specialized advanced work in several disciplinary areas, such as nutrition, physiology, reproduction, pathology, toxicology, immunology, food science, management, ecology, genetics, incubation, environmental physiology and developmental biology. A variety of wild and domesticated birds are used as experimental animals, including psittacine, raptor, passerine, aquatic and poultry species.

The biochemistry, molecular, cellular and developmental biology graduate program is targeted toward students who are interested in understanding biology at its most fundamental level. Members of the group offer research opportunities in cell division and the cytoskeleton; chromosome dynamics and nuclear function; gene regulation and signal transduction; genomics and proteomics; metabolism and molecular physiology; molecular medicine; molecular neurobiology; morphogenesis and differentiation; organelle dynamics; plant biochemistry and molecular biology; and structural and mechanistic biochemistry, to name a few. The program incorporates the research programs of more than 153 faculty members in 40 departments in both basic and applied sciences. UC Davis is unique in the vast diversity of biological sciences found on a single campus.


The program stresses the use of engineering to efficiently produce, distribute and process biological products for energy, food, feed and fiber while conserving natural resources, preserving environmental quality, and ensuring the health and safety of people. Programs of study include: aquacultural engineering, bioprocess engineering, ecological systems engineering, energy systems engineering, environmental engineering, food engineering, forest and fiber engineering, health and safety engineering, machine systems engineering, postharvest engineering, sensor and control engineering, and soil and water engineering.

Biomedical engineering graduate students engage in a rich spectrum of advanced research at the molecular, cellular, tissue, systems and organism levels, as well as in clinical practice. They benefit from the highly ranked UC Davis life sciences research environment that incorporates the work of more than 70 faculty members in departments across campus, including biomedical engineering; mechanical engineering; radiology; neurobiology, physiology and behavior; chemical engineering and materials science; orthopaedics; bioinformatics; and mathematics. Approximately 35 percent of faculty members are within the schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. The breadth of activity represented in this highly collaborative environment allows students to find the best match between their research interests and those of the faculty. The graduate program’s culture is characterized by a personal mentoring style, small collaborative teams and multidisciplinary laboratories, all fostering a dynamic medium for research, learning and success.


Biophysics offers a graduate education program that focuses on the interface of biology, physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics, and explores the physical laws governing the properties and interaction of biomolecules and cells. The program’s faculty members have diverse research interests, which include structural biology, membrane dynamics, ion transport, electron transfer, nuclei acid, applied optics, computational biology, theory, cellular regulation and imaging.

Biostatistics applies quantitative methods to study problems related to life sciences that arise in a broad array of fields. Biostatistics provides stochastic models and methods, algorithms and graphical tools for the analysis of data from genetics, bioinformatics, and the medical, biological, agricultural and environmental sciences. Faculty interests include survival analysis; statistical methods for genetics, bioinformatics, epidemiology and environmental research; longitudinal data analysis; analysis of biological shapes and trajectories; generalized linear models, estimating equations, model selection and bioassay; and design for biological and medical studies.

The clinical research graduate program provides a solid foundation in clinical/ translational, patient-oriented research for junior faculty, clinical and pre-clinical fellows, and postdoctoral scholars. Scholars admitted to one of the seven mentored research and training programs administered by the Clinical and Translational Science Center are eligible to apply. The program centers around three core elements: didactic instruction, mentored research and special experiences.

The graduate group in ecology is an interdisciplinary graduate program that offers students a combination of both basic and applied ecology within nine organized areas of emphasis, as well as a joint Ph.D. program working with faculty in the biology department at San Diego State University. With more than 100 faculty members, the GGE offers unparalleled diversity and depth in coursework and research opportunities in terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems. The GGE achieves excellence in graduate education. In the field of ecology/evolutionary biology, UC Davis has received the nation’s top ranking from U.S. News and World Report for research productivity, and a top five ranking from The National Research Council. The more than 1,000 GGE alumni include leaders in their fields in state and federal natural resource managing agencies, private conservation organizations, environmental consulting firms and biotech companies. In addition, GGE alumni are represented on the faculty of more than 85 universities worldwide.

The program emphasizes the integration of basic and applied aspects of entomology in solving problems in biology, agriculture, and the environment. Students can specialize in a diversity of areas such as biological control, economic entomology, pollination biology, insect chemical ecology, insect olfaction, insect demography, insect physiology, insect toxicology, integrated pest management, ecology and evolution, forensic entomology, medical entomology (human and animal health), and systematics.


Epidemiology combines concepts and methods in biology, economics, mathematics and statistics with the goals of understanding the distribution and determinants of disease, injury and impaired productivity BIOLOGICAL AND LIFE SCIENCES in populations, and recommending actions for prevention or control. UC Davis offers a unique blend of research facilities in the schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, the California Regional Primate Research Center, the Center for Health and the Environment, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Faculty research interests include: chronic and infectious disease; zoonoses and food-borne disease; nutritional, occupational, reproductive and wildlife epidemiology; and development of new epidemiologic and biostatistical methods.


Students study the application of biological, chemical, physical and behavioral sciences to the processing, preservation, quality evaluation, public health aspects, and utilization of foods. For the M.S., there are four areas of specialization: chemistry-biochemistry, microbiology, processing and sensory sciences. Individually designed programs are also accepted. For the Ph.D., there are three areas of emphasis: biochemistry/chemistry, microbiology/ fermentation and sensory sciences.


This comprehensive program incorporates a unique curriculum that balances breadth and depth of study. Through scholarly coursework and high-quality research, the program provides a strong foundation in science, together with an understanding of the logic and workings of the legal system. In-depth coursework covers the theoretical underpinnings of the biological and physical sciences as used in the collection, analysis and interpretation of evidence.


The explosion of medical and biological information has made it clear that innovative advances in storing, retrieving, and interpreting information are essential for health professionals and scientists. Health Informatics is the multidisciplinary area of study that integrates medical, computational and social sciences for this purpose. Areas of focused training include electronic health record systems, decision support systems, terminology, coding, and messaging standards in medicine, data modeling and database design, data acquisition, and scientific data management. Program faculty are members of UC Davis’ highly regarded School of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering and state-of-theart Genome Center, creating a rich environment that parallels the diversity found within this exciting field of study.


The graduate group in immunology offers an interdisciplinary, flexible program in an exciting field of biomedical science that sits at a crossroad for many disciplines. Cutting-edge technologies, including genomics, mouse genetics and molecular biology, provide unprecedented opportunities to advance knowledge of fundamental immunology in disease pathogenesis and therapy. Faculty members are highly collaborative and have research interests in many areas of immunology. One focus of the program is infection and immunity, including host immune responses to bacteria, viruses and parasites, vaccine development and immune regulation. Other areas include nutrition and immunity, allergy, autoimmunity, cancer therapy, and the use of immune mediators for diagnosis and treatment. This diversity of research, together with a strong integrated curriculum, offers students the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge for research careers in many areas of contemporary immunology.

Students in the integrative genetics and genomics graduate program have the opportunity to apply genomic, molecular, and classical genetic approaches to study model organisms, a broad range of native and agricultural species, humans, and companion animals. The group integrates genetic research across campus and unites over 100 faculty members from more than 25 departments spanning the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Letters and Science, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the School of Medicine, and the School of Veterinary Medicine. Students experience an unsurpassed breadth of research and instructional opportunities from the most fundamental to the most applied aspects of integrative genetics and genomics.


The graduate group in integrative pathobiology offers the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees for graduate study in disciplines concerned with disease processes. The group’s focus is the study of the causes and nature of disease processes in animals and humans, with major emphasis on the mechanisms responsible for the development of diseases at the level of organ systems, the cell, or subcellular mechanisms. The group brings a wide array of scientific knowledge to this study to accommodate students with divergent interests through programs designed for individual needs. Beyond core courses selected from disciplines such as anatomy, bacteriology, genetics, immunology, parasitology, pathology, physiology and virology, course programs are intentionally flexible


Using state-of-the-art methods in epidemiology, the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine program prepares veterinarians to investigate and evaluate disease and production problems in animal populations and to design, evaluate and implement disease control or other veterinary services programs. Faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine and other collaborating faculty carry out research on a wide variety of animal diseases, on microbial and parasitic zoonoses, veterinary public health, food and water-borne infections in humans, wildlife diseases and wildlife management, animal health economics, animal production, biostatistics, veterinary medical data management and computer applications in veterinary medicine. The one-year program involves course work, a research project and a series of electives, which permit the student to select one of the areas of emphasis (population health, food safety, public health and zoonoses, wildlife disease and ecology, ecosysytem health, international health, and independent study).

During the last decade, the need for nutrition specialists in public health and maternal and child health programs has increased, along with the recognition that low birth weight, diabetes, and childhood overweight and obesity are important national health concerns. There is also an increasing demand for lactation specialists, as greater numbers of women choose to breast-feed their infants. In response, private and public health agencies have focused on improving the nutrition of mothers and children. The UC Davis Master of Advanced Study in Maternal and Child Nutrition Program is designed to provide a strong scientific background in these topics, and to train professionals to design, implement, and evaluate nutrition intervention programs for mothers and children from a wide variety of cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds.

The microbiology graduate group offers interdisciplinary, interdepartmental training leading to the Ph.D. The program combines academic and experimental training in modern molecular approaches to microbiological problems. The group is composed of more than 60 faculty members from 24 departments. Areas of research span fundamental, applied, and pathogenic microbiology, including bacterial and viral pathogenesis, eukaryotic microbiology, microbial genomics and genetics, microbial physiology and development, microbial ecology and environmental microbiology, cancer biology, and bioengineering and bioremediation. During the first year, they complete core courses and a series of laboratory rotations, and then begin their dissertation research. Additional elective courses and seminars are part of the second year curriculum. All students receive financial support.


offered only under special circumstances. The neuroscience graduate program is an exciting and highly interactive program that provides outstanding training in the neurosciences by a dedicated and internationally recognized faculty. Areas of research include: the cellular and molecular structure of neurons, mechanisms of synaptic plasticity, development of the nervous system, organization of brain systems for motor control and processing of visual and auditory information, structure and function of memory and attention systems, and the pathobiology of neurological disorders. Students complete core courses in neuroscience and carry out research rotations in several laboratories during their first year before beginning their doctoral dissertation research. All students receive financial support.

Pending approval The public health sciences programs include instruction in epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental and occupational health, health services and administration, and social and behavioral science, and they prepare students for an expanding range of professional opportunities and roles in public health and medicine. The Master of Public Health program is designed for people interested in disease prevention and community health. The program’s mission is to develop the public health leaders of the future by providing a high-quality master’s degree curriculum in partnership with the public health community. The Ph.D. in public health sciences is designed to create graduates who will be experts in generating and disseminating new knowledge about health and disease prevention and effective programs in public health. The doctoral students in this program will be educated in research design, implementation and analysis as well as public health practice. These programs promote a practical public health focus through a historically strong partnership with federal, state and local public health communities, including the California Department of Public Health.

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