The Department of Bacteriology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and Public Health (see separate course listings) administer the interdepartmental microbiology doctoral training program (MDTP). Incoming students have the opportunity to do laboratory rotations with any of the primary faculty, affiliate faculty, and trainers from multiple departments. This group includes more than 90 faculty members in numerous departments and programs involved in microbiology research and graduate training. In addition to this breadth of opportunities in microbiology research training, the program also encompasses graduate courses offered by both departments. Please refer to the separate Microbiology listing in this catalog for more detailed information, or visit the program website.

The Ph.D. program prepares graduates for research and teaching positions in universities and colleges, for industry or government, and for clinical microbiology. Research emphasis includes, but is not limited to, prokaryotic (bacteria and archaea), viral and lower eukaryotic systems (fungi, oomycetes, and parasites); antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, bioflim formation; bioinformatics and computational biology; biotechnology and industrial microbiology, including biofuels; cell–cell signaling; cell motility and chemotaxis; DNA, including nucleic acid synthesis, DNA replication and recombination; food microbiology; fungal development, pathogensis, and metablolism; gene expression and its regulation; immunology; microbial physiology and metabolism; macrophage activation and other cell immune systems; mechanisms of microbial persistence; mechanisms of pathogenesis; microbial cell division; microbial ecology; microbial microbiota and metagenomics; nitrogen fixation; quorum sensing; RNA, including molecular structure–function relationships of transfer RNA, small RNAs, RNA polymerase, and other components of transcription and translation; secondary metabolism; structural microbiology; symbioses, including host–microbe symbioses, plant–microbial interactions, animal–microbial interactions, microbe–microbe interactions; and virology, including host–virus interactions. Dissertation research emphasizes creative and innovative problem-solving using basic knowledge acquired through scientific interactions and collaborations in addition to a thorough understanding of the scientific literature.

In order to better train MDTP students for microbiology-related professions, students need a chance to gain knowledge and experience not just in academic research, but also in other fields where their microbiology education may be put to good use.

The professional development options encompass many professional development opportunities for MDTP students beyond academic research and teaching. Opportunities for professional development can consist of course work, an internship, a summer workshop, outreach experiences, or a second teaching-practicum experience.

Double Degree

Students may complete a double Ph.D. degree in MDTP and another program on campus under the following conditions. The student must apply for admission to MDTP by the program's yearly deadline and be admitted using the same criteria applied to other applicants. The student must complete all requirements of the MDTP in addition to the requirements for the other program sponsoring the double degree. The student must pass a different preliminary examination in each program. The student's dissertation committee and preliminary examination must adhere to MDTP guidelines. The Ph.D. advisor must be a trainer in the MDTP. A significant portion of the student's dissertation research must be completed in the laboratory of the Ph.D. advisor. The student's program, including any deviations, must be approved by the steering committee.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Admission to MDTP is highly competitive. To qualify for admission to the microbiology program, an applicant should have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) that includes two semesters of biology (can include microbiology); one semester of genetics; four semesters of chemistry, including two semesters of organic chemistry with lab component; one semester of biochemistry; one semester of physics; and two semesters of calculus or one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics. Deficiencies in excess of 6 semester credits should be removed before enrollment. An online application must be accompanied by a thoughtful essay, strong letters of recommendation from three persons who are familiar with the applicant's academic ability and who can assess the applicant's potential for a research career, transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended, and an academic resume or CV. Previous research experience is strongly recommended. Students whose undergraduate degree was obtained in an institution in which English was not the primary language of instruction must provide evidence of English proficiency by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Research assistantships are available for most students from department and college-level funding sources or from competitive fellowship and traineeship awards, with continued support contingent upon adequate progress in classes and research. Applicants with outstanding records will be nominated for special fellowships or for traineeships on one of several NIH training grants awarded to UW–Madison.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.
Language Requirements Contact the program for information on any language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Required COURSES

Required Courses
MICROBIO 731 Seminar1
MICROBIO 810 Current Issues in Microbiology1
MICROBIO 811 Advanced Problems in Microbiology1
MICROBIO 901 Advanced Seminar1
Core Courses
Students usually pick two:
MICROBIO 526 Physiology of Microorganisms3
MICROBIO 607 Advanced Microbial Genetics3
MICROBIO/​BIOCHEM/​GENETICS  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology3
ONCOLOGY/​PL PATH  640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses3
PL PATH/​BOTANY/​GENETICS/​M M & I  655 Biology and Genetics of Fungi3
MICROBIO/​BMOLCHEM  668 Microbiology at Atomic Resolution3
M M & I 740 Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  790 Immunology of Infectious Disease3
MICROBIO 875 Special Topics1-4
Research Credits
M M & I 990 Research and Thesis1-12
or MICROBIO 990 Research

Professional Development is a required part of the MDTP curriculum. Students are required to perform a second semester of teaching practicum, carry out an internship for as long as one semester, take at least 2 credits of coursework from the list of approved classes or through the Delta Program, or perform other professional development activities equivalent to 2 semester hours of coursework as judged by the thesis committee. The thesis committee must give approval for the student to participate in the chosen professional development activity. Thesis committees will also determine if each student has met the requirement. Students should complete the professional development requirement by the end of the fourth year.

Options for completing Professional Development requirement:

Courses. The Graduate School has agreed to allow MDTP dissertator students to enroll in courses from a limited list of classes appropriate for professional development of MDTP students.  Students would take one or two courses in an area of interest after they become dissertators. Additional courses may be added to this list if they are appropriate for MDTP students and are approved for this purpose by the Graduate School.

Teaching practicum. A second semester of teaching practicum may be the most appropriate training for students that seek a career in academic research and teaching. If students do not arrange for other professional development activities, the default professional development training would be a second semester of teaching in a teaching practicum.

The Delta Program. MDTP students interested in teaching as a career can participate in the Delta Program, allowing students to take classes and gain experience in teaching. Successful students are granted a certificate from the Delta Program, and this achievement and experience likely make the students more attractive for teaching positions.

Summer courses or workshops. For students most interested in continuing in academic research, one or more summer courses or workshops may be the most appropriate training. Examples of such courses are those that cover research areas or methods or scientific writing or grant preparation.

Internship. As an alternative to class work or a second semester of teaching practicum, MDTP students could participate in an internship with a business or other organization. Students doing internships would have to arrange to be paid through the organization, and they would not be paid by their advisors while away from their research.

Teaching Practicum Requirement:

All MDTP students are required to complete a Teaching Practicum.  This Teaching Practicum is usually completed during the second year.  Students choose from a list of courses and work with faculty delivering instruction in a lecture or lab setting.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, up to 9 credits of coursework may be accepted from other graduate institutions. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

For well-prepared advanced students, the program may decide to accept up to 6 credits numbered 300 or above completed at UW–Madison toward fulfillment of minimum degree and minor credit requirements. This work would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

The program may decide to accept up to 9 University Special student credits as fulfillment of the minimum graduate residence, graduate degree, or minor credit requirements on occasion as an exception (on a case-by-case basis). UW–Madison coursework taken as a University Special student would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis. A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences: Grievance Policy

In the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), any student who feels unfairly treated by a member of the CALS faculty or staff has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing. Some complaints may arise from misunderstandings or communication breakdowns and be easily resolved; others may require formal action. Complaints may concern any matter of perceived unfairness.

To ensure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect the rights of both the person complaining and the person at whom the complaint is directed, the following procedures are used in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies.

  1. The student should first talk with the person at whom the complaint is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. Others may be resolved by established departmental procedures.
  2. If the student is unsatisfied, and the complaint involves any unit outside CALS, the student should seek the advice of the dean or director of that unit to determine how to proceed.
    1. If the complaint involves an academic department in CALS the student should proceed in accordance with item 3 below.
    2. If the grievance involves a unit in CALS that is not an academic department, the student should proceed in accordance with item 4 below.
  3. The student should contact the department’s grievance advisor within 120 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment. The departmental administrator can provide this person’s name. The grievance advisor will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint, in discussions with the student and the person at whom the complaint is directed.
    1. If informal mediation fails, the student can submit the grievance in writing to the grievance advisor within 10 working days of the date the student is informed of the failure of the mediation attempt by the grievance advisor. The grievance advisor will provide a copy to the person at whom the grievance is directed.
    2. The grievance advisor will refer the complaint to a department committee that will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, providing a copy to the student. Either party may request a hearing before the committee. The grievance advisor will provide both parties a written decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of the written complaint.
    3. If the grievance involves the department chairperson, the grievance advisor or a member of the grievance committee, these persons may not participate in the review.
    4. If not satisfied with departmental action, either party has 10 working days from the date of notification of the departmental committee action to file a written appeal to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. A subcommittee of this committee will make a preliminary judgement as to whether the case merits further investigation and review. If the subcommittee unanimously determines that the case does not merit further investigation and review, its decision is final. If one or more members of the subcommittee determine that the case does merit further investigation and review, the subcommittee will investigate and seek to resolve the dispute through mediation. If this mediation attempt fails, the subcommittee will bring the case to the full committee. The committee may seek additional information from the parties or hold a hearing. The committee will present a written recommendation to the dean who will provide a final decision within 20 working days of receipt of the committee recommendation.
  4. If the alleged unfair treatment occurs in a CALS unit that is not an academic department, the student should, within 120 calendar days of the alleged incident, take his/her grievance directly to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. The dean will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint. If this mediation attempt does not succeed the student may file a written complaint with the dean who will refer it to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. The committee will seek a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, subsequently following other steps delineated in item 3d above.


We offer funding to all students in the program through fellowships, trainees and research assistantships.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

In order to better train MDTP students for microbiology-related professions, students need a chance to gain knowledge and experience not just in academic research, but also in other fields where their microbiology education may be put to good use. Opportunities for professional development can consist of coursework, an internship, a summer workshop, outreach experiences, or a second teaching practicum experience. Professional Development plans must be approved by a student’s thesis committee. Please see requirements for more information.

  1. Gain a broad understanding of the microbiology principles that underlie all biological processes.
  2. Articulate, discuss and define limits to the theory and knowledge in microbiology.
  3. Think critically to address research challenges using a broad range of the theories, research methods, and approaches to scientific inquiry.
  4. Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable matter.
  5. Collaborate with investigators within the program, university, and beyond to advance the science of microbiology.
  6. Foster professional and ethical conduct in the sciences.
  7. Ethical design of experimental protocols.
  8. Reproducibility of experimental results.
  9. Professional behavior in industrial, government and academic settings.
  10. Develop communication skills that enable the articulation of research to fellow scientists and non-scientists.
  11. Develop teaching and mentoring skills in both lecture and laboratory settings.
  12. Explore career development opportunities in industry, government, academia and private industry to realize professional goals.

Faculty: Professors JD Sauer (program director, Medical Microbiology and Immunology), and Jaehyuk Yu (vice-director, Bacteriology) lead the current MDTP Steering Committee. For a list of more than 90 participating faculty, see the program website or contact the program office.