The doctoral program "Molecular Biology of Cells" unites research activities aimed at an integrated view of the molecular structure and function of cells and their regulatory networks, with leading questions being how ‘subcellular modules’ and molecules interact and function at the level of genetic information, gene expression, cellular physiology and topology as well as the regulation of cellular processes and differentiation.

Model systems range from prokaryotes (bacteria and Archaea) and eukaryotic microbes to plant and animal cells including disease models, enabling the identification of conserved principles. Furthermore, platforms are available for the analysis of genomes, transcription signatures, large scale protein identification, metabolomics, imaging, as well as large scale analysis and quantitative modelling, covered by faculty members who are experts in bioinformatics.

Research centers around two major themes. The first deals with cell properties and cell fate control, asking how cells control their proliferation and survival, their differentiation and function, and their response to external signals ranging from nutrients to stress. These interrelated phenomena are based on regulatory networks, and their understanding greatly benefits from the identification of common traits across kingdoms. The second theme deals with structure and dynamics of intracellular compartments and their roles in major cellular pathways, for example the coordination of different processes of gene expression. A major task is to identify unifying principles and individual details of how cells achieve, maintain and adjust their organization and functions.