MCB 127: Organelle Biology and Cellular Function

Instructors: Jeeyun Chung and Daniel Needleman

Time and location: Tuesday 12:00 PM - 01:15 PM; Thursday 12:00 PM - 01:15 PM

Course objectives: This course is built upon and extends concepts introduced in LS1a and LS1b, exploring in depth the mechanisms by which cells compartmentalize specific functions into organelles and how their crosstalk shapes cellular metabolism in physiology. Additionally, the course will cover how dysregulation of organelle functions leads to the pathogenesis of various disorders and explore therapeutic strategies for modulating organelle regulation. It is designed to broadly attract students interested in careers in research and medical science.

Course structure: This course is structured by weekly in-depth lectures (Tuesdays) and discussions (Thursdays) on primary literature to promote an active learning experience.


  • 40%: Weekly short reports (News & Views style for Thu discussion papers)                                       
  • 20%: Class participation (discussions)
  • 40%: Term paper/Presentation (Final presentation and Paper)

*** Final grades will be based on standardized cutoffs. (i.e. 80-83 = B-, 83-87 = B, 87-90 = B+, 90-93 = A-, 93 and up = A)


- The primary textbook for this course will be “Cell Biology 4th edition” by Tom Pollard (Elsevier). Students may additionally read “The Song of the Cell” by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

- Additionally, students are expected to have read articles for discussion sessions prior to the class period during which they will be discussed.

Weekly Structure and Assignments:

- In-depth lecture Sessions: Engage in in-depth lectures that explore historical discoveries of individual subcellular organelles and modern methodologies in their regulation.

Week 1: Definition of Organelles

Week 2: Nucleus

Week 3: ER

Week 4: (TBD) Stress granules or membrane trafficking pathway

Week 5: Cytoskeleton

Week 6: Mitochondria

Week 7: Lipid Droplet

Week 8: Lysosome

Week 9: Peroxisome

Week 10: Mitosis and spindle formation

Week 11: Organelle crosstalk

Week 12: Final presentation

-  Primary Literature Discussion Sessions: Students will be assigned to read 1-3 primary literature articles that have made key contributions to the discovery, functional annotation, and regulation of organelles. The goal of sessions is to foster critical thinking through in-class discussions that encourage students to dissect complex scientific concepts, share insights, and debate hypotheses.

- Final Project: To consolidate their learning and showcase their creative and critical thinking, students undertake a final project. In this project, they will choose their own open questions in organelle biology—either focusing on individual organelles or their crosstalk—describe the question's impact on the field and design experiments to address it. The project will be submitted as both a final written proposal and a short, in-class presentation.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due