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College of Letters and Science


(Department of Bacteriology)

Requirements for the Major in Microbiology
Supporting Courses Required
Honors in the Major

1322 Microbial Sciences Building, 1550 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-2914; www.bact.wisc.edu

Professors Gourse (chair), Donohue, Downs, Escalante-Semerena, Filutowicz, Jeffries, Johnson, Kaspar, Keller (Medical Microbiology and Immunology), Landick, Mansfield, Roberts, Wong; Associate Professors Barclay, Currie, Forest, Goodrich-Blair, Hammel, McMahon (Civil and Environmental Engineering), Thomas, Wassarman, Weimer, Yu; Assistant Professor Suen

Contact Katy France, Student Services Coordinator, 608-262-2975, kfrance@bact.wisc.edu, for general information about the undergraduate program, declaring the microbiology major, career opportunities, and advisor assignments.

Microorganisms are the oldest life forms on earth and influence our lives and the well-being of the planet in innumerable ways. The field of microbiology has become even more prominent in recent years because of increased concerns about bioterrorism, infectious disease, and environmental manipulation. The microbiology major, offered by the Department of Bacteriology, provides training in broad aspects of microbiology with an emphasis on cutting-edge laboratory skills. The core courses focus on the diversity, genetics, biochemistry, and physiology of microorganisms. A variety of elective courses provide the opportunity to study environmental microbiology, microbial ecology, food microbiology, microbial pathogenesis, immunology, virology and microbial biotechnology. Instructional laboratory courses provide hands-on experience with modern techniques and equipment. Students have many opportunities for independent research projects in faculty laboratories.

The bachelor's degree provides a strong background in the biological sciences for students planning to enter medical, dental, veterinary or other professional schools, as well as those planning graduate studies in any branch of microbiology or other biological sciences such as molecular or cell biology.

Students who end their training with a bachelor's degree are well prepared for a wide variety of career opportunities, including laboratory positions in pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms and in university and government laboratories. They also work as specialists in industrial quality testing and control, and as regulatory workers in government agencies and public health laboratories. Exposure to the scientific process as well as training in microbiology allows microbiology graduates to enter fields as diverse as business, technical service, sales, and technical writing.

Requirements for the Major

The Department of Bacteriology offers an undergraduate major in microbiology for students in both the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) and the College of Letters and Science (L&S). Students majoring in microbiology complete a minimum of 23 credits, including the core courses—Microbio 303, 304, 305, 450, 470, 526 and 527, in addition to the Microbio 551 Capstone course. The remaining 6 credits can be taken in a variety of electives; up to 3 credits may be fulfilled by specified non-microbiology courses. Contact the department for a complete list of electives.

All students completing a Letters and Science degree must complete the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. Microbiology courses 300 level and above (excluding Microbio 303 and 304) count toward this requirement.

Supporting Courses Required

Biological Sciences

Students may choose one of two options to gain appropriate background in basic biology, genetics and biochemistry.

Option A:

Botany 130 and Zoology 101 and 102
or Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 and 152;
Biochem 501 or Biochem 507/508 or BMolChem 503

Option B:

Biocore 301 (381, effective spring 2014) and 302 (382, effective spring 2014) and 303 (383, effective spring 2014) and 304 (384, effective spring 2014) and 323 (485, effective spring 2014)
Biochem 501 or Biochem 507/508 or BMolChem 503

Math/Physical Sciences

General Chemistry 103 and 104 or Chemistry 109
Organic Chemistry 343, 344, 345
Calculus 171–217 or  211 or 221
Physics 103 and 104 or 201 and 202 or 207 and 208

Students are encouraged to complete the B.S. degree because strong math skills are required for the microbiology major. Students who plan on graduate study are advised to complete Biochem 507 and 508, calculus, and physical chemistry.

Honors in the Major

To earn L&S Honors in the Major in Microbiology, majors must complete a minimum of 15 honors credits in the department, chosen from:

Microbio 303, 304, 330, 425, 450, 470, 526, 528, 607, 612, 622, 625, 632, 640, 650, 668, and  681-682

Honors candidates must complete a Senior Honors Thesis (Microbio 681-682). A minimum grade of B is required in each honors credit course, and students must earn a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.3 in courses taken in the major and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation. Students should check with the department honors advisor at least once a year to make sure that requirements have not been modified, as well as to seek guidance about planning the best possible Honors in the Major curriculum that reflects their special interests.

This page was updated 9/27/16.