Microbiology, the study of microorganisms, helps us understand our world and solve major problems. Microorganisms, or microbes, were the first life forms on earth and influence our lives and our planet in innumerable ways. The field of microbiology is constantly expanding as we learn more about the role of microbes in infectious disease, environmental remediation, bioenergy, food safety, antibiotic resistance, biotechnology and much more. Communities of microbes (or "microbiomes") are critically important in human health, global warming, agricultural yield, criminal justice, economic development and other issues of national concern.

The microbiology major, offered by the Department of Bacteriology, is a rigorous path of study, providing a curriculum packed with deep knowledge on broad aspects of microbiology and emphasizing modern 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, food microbiology, microbial pathogenesis, immunology, virology, microbiomes and microbial biotechnology, as well as advanced topics in microbial genetics and physiology. In the instructional laboratory courses, students learn beginning through advanced laboratory techniques-- gaining the type of hands-on experiences with modern equipment that employers and graduate schools seek. Additionally, students can conduct mentored and 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 biochemistry, pathology, and molecular or cell biology.

Students who end their training with a bachelor's degree are well-prepared for a 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.

Incoming or current students in good academic standing may declare the microbiology major at any time.

Schedule an appointment with Katy France to discuss the microbiology major, appropriate coursework, how to declare, and so on.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies and Science), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Select one of the following:5-10
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Select one of the following:3-4
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Introduction to Biostatistics
General Chemistry
Select one of the following:5-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Organic Chemistry
Select ALL of the following:
CHEM 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry3
CHEM 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory2
CHEM 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry3
Biology Foundation
Select one of the following:10-13
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology 1
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
and Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
and Organismal Biology 1
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
and General Botany
Select one of the following:8-10
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics
Select one of the following:3-6
Introduction to Biochemistry
General Biochemistry I
and General Biochemistry II
Microbiology Courses
Microbiology Core (all required):
Except where noted, all Microbiology Core courses are offered every fall and spring semester.
MICROBIO 303 Biology of Microorganisms3
MICROBIO 304 Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory2
MICROBIO 305 Critical Analyses in Microbiology1
MICROBIO 450 Diversity, Ecology and Evolution of Microrrganisms2
MICROBIO 470 Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines3
MICROBIO 526 Physiology of Microorganisms3
MICROBIO 527 Advanced Laboratory Techniques in Microbiology2
Microbiology Capstone (required):
MICROBIO 551 Capstone Research Project in Microbiology2
Microbiology Electives
Select at least 6 credits; at least 3 credits must come from Set A. Note that not all elective courses are offered every semester.
Set A:
Food Microbiology Laboratory
Food Microbiology
Host-Parasite Interactions
Special Topics
Environmental Microbiology
Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Topics in Biotechnology (topics vary by semester)
Advanced Microbial Genetics
Prokaryotic Molecular Biology
Plant-Bacterial Interactions
Industrial Microbiology/Biotechnology
General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses
Biology and Genetics of Fungi
Microbiology at Atomic Resolution
Set B:
Biology of Viruses
Protein and Enzyme Structure and Function
Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects
Biophysical Chemistry
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Diseases of Wildlife
Pathogenic Bacteriology
Medical Mycology
Emerging Infectious Diseases and Bioterrorism
Clinical and Public Health Microbiology
Total Credits60-78

 BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  151/BIOLOGY/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  152 or BIOCORE 381/BIOCORE 382/BIOCORE 383 Cellular Biology/BIOCORE 384/BIOCORE 485 are recommended.

Honors in the Major

To earn Honors in the Major, students are required to take at least 20 honors credits. In addition, students must take MICROBIO 681 Senior Honors Thesis and MICROBIO 682 Senior Honors Thesis when completing their thesis project; please see the Honors in Major Checklist for more information.

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Students will develop a fundamental understanding of the principles of microbiology and the necessary skills for a professional career in microbiology
  2. Students will apply the scientific method to questions.  They will formulate a hypothesis, gather data, and analyze that data to assess the degree to which their work supports the hypothesis.
  3. Students will demonstrate proficiency in the techniques used in microbiology and an ability to critically analyze data and integrate ideas for problem solving
  4. Students will be able to access the primary and secondary literature and, in combination with their own findings, effectively communicate their ideas both orally and in written form.
  5. Students will learn about and demonstrate personal and professional ethics.

Four-year plan

Sample MICROBIOLOGY Four-Year Plan

General Chemistry14-5Gen Chem or Electives15
First-Year Seminar1 
 14-15 14-16
CHEM 3433CHEM 3442
Math23-5CHEM 3453
Intro Biology, Semester 145Intro Biology, Semester 245
 14-16 16
General Physics, Semester 154-5General Physics, Semester 254-5
MICROBIO 3051Research61-4
Research61-4Electives (for major or other)30-4
Electives (to reach 15 crs)30-4 
 11-19 11-19
Electives (for major or other)36-9Electives (for major or other)37-10
 12-18 12-18
Total Credits 104-137

Students planning to pursue graduate studies in a biological science are encouraged to take MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1MATH 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 2, PHYSICS 201 General Physics and PHYSICS 202 General Physics or PHYSICS 207 General Physics and PHYSICS 208 General Physics, and BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I and BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II (see Note 7). Also recommended: CHEM 565 Biophysical Chemistry and MICROBIO/​BIOCHEM/​GENETICS  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology.


Choose 1 of 2 sequences: CHEM 103 General Chemistry I and CHEM 104 General Chemistry II or CHEM 109 Advanced General Chemistry. Students who take 109 and plan to attend medical or other professional schools are advised to take one additional inorganic course (CHEM 311 Chemistry Across the Periodic Table or CHEM 327 Fundamentals of Analytical Science).


Math course determined by placement scores. Microbio majors must complete math through calculus (choose from MATH 171 Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I & MATH 217 Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II or MATH 211 Calculus or MATH 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1), and statistics (choose from STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods, STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences, or STAT/​B M I  541 Introduction to Biostatistics).


Electives can be scheduled according to the student's preference. Consult your advisor and the Requirements tab.


The three choices are 1) ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  151 Introductory Biology and ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152 Introductory Biology; 2) ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101 Animal Biology, ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  102 Animal Biology Laboratory and BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130 General Botany; or 3) Biocore. Biocore is a 3 to 4 semester sequence. Students must complete the first three lectures and the first two labs. The Biocore courses are BIOCORE 381 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics, BIOCORE 382 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory, BIOCORE 383 Cellular Biology, BIOCORE 384 Cellular Biology Laboratory, BIOCORE 485 Organismal Biology, BIOCORE 587 Biological Interactions.


Physics may be taken in year 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on the student's schedule.


Undergraduate research courses include 299, 699, 681‐682 (Honors Thesis), 691‐692 (Thesis). Both semesters are required for thesis credit. Students are encouraged to take several semesters of research (internship opportunities, 399, are also encouraged).


If BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I and BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II are taken, both semesters must be completed (take 507 in fall semester of year 3 and 508 in spring semester of year 3).

Current UW–Madison students can schedule initial advising in the microbiology major with Katy France.

Prospective/future UW–Madison students should email Katy France to set up an appointment, which can be conducted in person or via phone call.

Read about and explore possible microbiology careers at the American Society for Microbiology website.

Learn more about health-related careers through the website.

Professors Charles Kaspar (chair), Jean-Michel Ané, Cameron Currie, Timothy Donohue, Marcin Filutowicz, Katrina Forest, Richard Gourse, Eric Johnson, John Mansfield, Katherine "Trina" McMahon, Michael Thomas, Karen Wassarman, and Jae-Hyuk Yu

Associate Professor Jue "Jade" Wang

Assistant Professors Daniel Amador-Noguez, Briana Burton, Federico Rey, Garret Suen, and Kalin Vetsigian