Friday, March 1, 2024
University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Hawaii System
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources



The Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering (MBBE) was established in 1999 as result of a reorganization of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR).  Most faculty in MBBE came from three former CTAHR departments, Plant Molecular Physiology (PMP), Environmental Biochemistry, and Biosystems Engineering.  Among them, only PMP had a graduate program that offered both PhD and MS degrees.  The PMP Graduate Program started in 1985 and emphasized plant biology and biotechnology.

After the MBBE department was established, the PMP Graduate Program was reorganized, expanded and renamed as the Graduate Program in MBBE in 2000.  The program’s scope was widened to include molecular biology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, cell biology, biotechnology, and engineering aspects of plant science, tropical agriculture, aquaculture, environmental bioremediation, bioprocessing, and biomedical sciences.

With this programmatic expansion, faculty and scientists from other UHM departments and scientific institutes in Hawaii were welcomed into the Program as co-operating and affiliate graduate faculty.  The number of students also increased.  Guidelines and requirements were developed to maintain high academic standards.  These guidelines are reviewed regularly to ensure relevance and contemporariness of the various curricula and fields of study.  Currently, many MBBE graduate students are supervised by faculty from John A. Burns School of Medicine, Cancer Research Center, Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Queens Medical Center, Hawaii Agricultural Research Center, Sea Grant College Program, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, College of Engineering and several departments including Microbiology, Zoology, Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, and Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences.  Thus, MBBE became an interdisciplinary graduate program centered around the molecular biosciences but including tropical agriculture, biological and biomedical sciences, and engineering.


The Biological Engineering (BE) Graduate Program offers the MS degree.  This program integrates biological science and engineering for design, fabrication, or operation of systems with a significant biological component.  Some of the most notable areas where the expertise of biological engineering is needed are environmental protection, food production and security, biological sensors, development of alternative energy (i.e. bioenergy), and biological processing of natural materials for medical and other high-value applications.

The MBBE Graduate Program offers both MS and Ph.D.. degrees.  This program emphasizes research and training that seek to further our knowledge and understanding of the biochemical, nutritional and molecular-biological processes that underlie growth, development, photosynthesis, and stress, especially as related to tropical agriculture, aquaculture, plant and environmental biotechnology, and biomedical sciences.


  1. Minimum qualifications for admittance as a regular student are an undergraduate degree from an accredited U.S. college or university or equivalent degree from a recognized foreign institution of higher learning and a GPA of at least 3.0 on a scale of 4.0.
  2. All prospective students must submit scores of the GRE General Test.  In special cases, submission of scores may be delayed with permission of the Graduate Division.  Foreign students must also submit TOEFL scores (see Graduate Bulletin for exceptions).  A minimum TOEFL score of 250 in the computer-based test (or 100 in the internet-based test) is required.
  3. All applicants are expected to have completed courses or equivalents in physics, chemistry, basic biology, genetics, biochemistry, physiology and one additional upper division course in cellular or molecular biology. While not a requirement, physical chemistry is highly recommended.  Students may be accepted with deficiencies in one or more of these areas, however deficiencies must be made up during the first year as a graduate student. Such courses may not be used for graduate credit. 


Most graduate students are supported by teaching or research assistantships or fellowships. In addition, tuition is waived for all assistantships and most fellowships. It is recommended that students interested in research assistantships contact faculty working in their area of interest regarding availability. Additional fellowship support is available from the East-West Center, which offers scholarships to Asian, Pacific and American students for affiliation in one of their programs.

Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering
1955 East West Rd.
Agricultural Sciences 218
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-8384
Fax: (808) 956-3542

Department Chair
Dr. Dulal Borthakur

Graduate Chairs
Dr. Pratibha Nerurkar
Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering

Graduate Program Info
Proposal Seminar
Defense Seminar
Announcement Flyer

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