The Discovery Labs

There exists a critical need for research opportunities for undergraduate students in the life sciences, especially those who are considering pursuing research careers.  However, there is a general lack of available laboratories and mentors for all students to gain this experience.  In the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) at University of Colorado at Boulder, we are addressing this need by offering several research-based laboratory courses for students early in their undergraduate education.  In the Discovery Labs, the research is performed in collaboration with sponsor laboratories in MCDB.  Students screen compound libraries available through the National Cancer Institute’s Developmental Therapeutics Program for drugs with novel anti-microbial or anti-cancer activity using bacteria (MCDB 1171) or fruit flies (MCDB 2171) as model organisms.  Students develop hypotheses and test drugs of their choice at the end of the semester, based on the findings of the class. Topics covered include the basic biology of the model system, genetics, approaches to screening for new therapeutics, compound validation, and the process of pre-clinical to clinical research.

For more information about how the discovery labs fulfill the MCDB degree requirements, click here.

To help more students gain research experience early in their undergraduate years, the Biological Sciences Initiative (BSI) at CU-Boulder has helped to catalyze these Discovery Labs with support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

To learn more about BSI, including additional opportunities for undergraduates, visit