About the Major
Molecular and Cell Biology is the basic science that seeks an understanding of biological processes in terms of the properties and functions of the molecules that make up living cells. The scope of questions addressed in molecular and cell biology ranges from evolution to development to the regulation of gene expression. A career in molecular and cell biology requires a strong background in biology as well as a solid foundation in chemistry, mathematics, and physics.
The Molecular and Cell Biology major has been designed primarily for three groups of students:
- those who plan to enter a research career in molecular and cell biology or related areas such as biochemistry, genetics, oncology, microbiology, cell biology or developmental biology;
- pre-professional students who plan to enter either a research or clinical career in medicine, or allied health fields;
- students who plan to pursue careers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical science industries.
Students with other interests are also welcome, of course. Career opportunities for students with an undergraduate degree in molecular and cell biology are amazingly diverse. Graduates of the program have gone into patent law, science journalism, forensics, philosophy, nutrition, genetic counseling, veterinary medicine, anthropology, archeology, marine biology, theology, and much more.
Major requirements have been set to assure a high degree of proficiency in the various areas specified while still allowing as much flexibility as possible for students to individualize their programs. For the undergraduate interested in life sciences, this major uniquely provides access to the extraordinary scope and strength of biology courses and laboratories on the UW–Madison campus. Each student in the major is assigned a faculty advisor, and it is hoped that students will take advantage of both the staff and faculty advising service available to make a judicious choice of courses, as well as to gain scholarly experience outside the classroom that will further their academic and career goals.
Students who wish to obtain further information about the program or to declare a molecular biology major should contact the student services coordinator. Faculty advisors are assigned through the program office and are located in many related departments throughout campus. Molecular and Cell Biology faculty advisors are especially competent to provide counsel regarding the major and career opportunities in molecular biology.
Undergraduate Molecular and Cell Biology students at UW–Madison are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with some of the world's leading researchers. Many opportunities for laboratory research experience are available on campus for undergraduate students and this type of experiences is strongly encouraged. Such an experience provides students the opportunity to apply what they're learning and complement their knowledge with practical skills. Research experience is highly valued by employers, graduate programs, and professional schools. See the major website for more information on how to get involved in undergraduate research.
To declare the Molecular and Cell Biology major, students must make an appointment with the molecular and cell biology student services coordinator through Starfish.
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|| |
* 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 Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.
Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS
|Mathematics||Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT |
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
|Foreign Language||Complete the third unit of a foreign language |
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
|L&S Breadth|| |
|Liberal Arts and Science Coursework||108 credits|
|Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work||60 intermediate or advanced credits|
|Major||Declare and complete at least one (1) major|
|Total Credits||120 credits|
|UW-Madison Experience||30 credits in residence, overall |
30 credits in residence after the 86th credit
|Minimum GPAs||2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison |
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison
Non–L&S Students PURSUING AN L&S MAJOR
Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above. Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:
- Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
- Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
- Music (Bachelor of Music)
- Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)
Requirements for the Major
Mathematics, chemistry & physics
|Mathematics and Statistics||6-10|
|Complete one of the following:|
|Complete one of the following:|
|General Chemistry—complete one option:||5-10|
& CHEM 104
& CHEM 116
and (by consent of instructor only)
|Organic Chemistry -complete the sequence||8|
|Physics—complete one option:||10|
& PHYSICS 208
& PHYSICS 202
& PHYSICS 248
|Complete one option:||10-13|
|Option B: 1|
|Biochemistry -complete one of the following:|
& BIOCHEM 508
|Molecular Biology and Genetics -complete one of the following:|
& BIOCORE 383
& BIOCORE 587
& GENETICS 468
|Students must complete 6 unique credits of depth coursework. Courses may be concentrated in one area or distributed across multiple areas. 2|
|Biochemistry and Biophysics (no minimum)|
|Cellular Systems (no minimum)|
|Genetics (no minimum)|
|AN SCI 361||2|
|Microbiology and Virology (no minimum)|
|PL PATH 622||2-3|
|Quantitative Biology (no minimum)|
|B M E 556||3|
|COMP SCI 300||3|
|COMP SCI 368||1|
|COMP SCI 540||3|
|COMP SCI 567||3|
|COMP SCI 576||3|
Complete 2 credits minimum:
|M M & I 460||3|
Complete two credits minimum:
|MOL BIOL 699||1-4|
|MOL BIOL 681||3|
|MOL BIOL 682||3|
|MOL BIOL 691||3|
|MOL BIOL 692||3|
Residence and Quality of Work
2.000 GPA in all MOL BIOL and major courses
2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence1
15 credits in MOL BIOL, taken on the UW–Madison campus
1Courses accepted in the major that are intermediate or advanced are considered upper level in this major.
Honors in the Major
Students may declare Honors in the Molecular Biology and Cell Biology major in consultation with the Molecular and Cell Biology undergraduate advisor.
Honors in the Molecular AND CELL Biology Major Requirements
To earn Honors in the Major in Molecular and Cell Biology, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:
- Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
- Earn a 3.300 GPA for all courses accepted in the major
- Complete at least 15 credits of honors courses in the major while in residence at UW-Madison. This requirement can be broken down as indicated below:
- At least 9 credits from the Breadth and Depth course options in the Molecular and Cell Biology major
- Complete two semester Senior Honors Thesis, a piece of original research composition.
Course List Code Title Credits MOL BIOL 681 3 MOL BIOL 682 3
- Complete one semester of the Molecular Biology senior honors seminar course.
Course List Code Title Credits MOL BIOL 686 1
BIOCORE is a competitive honors program and certificate.
Students are encouraged to see their advisor for assistance in choosing depth coursework.
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.|
- Integrate the energetic and thermodynamic bases of life, with an emphasis on the molecular mechanisms underlying them
- Integrate the nature of genetic material and its roles in inheritance, evolution, and cellular function
- Summarize the fundamental relationship between the structure and function of biological macromolecules
- Summarize the principles of cell structure, function, and biological dynamics
- Appraise the molecular mechanisms and quantitative principles in biochemistry/physical chemistry, cellular systems, genetics, and microbiology.
- Develop skills to communicate scientific information in oral and written form
- Develop the ability to formulate hypotheses and plan, design, and carry out scientific experiments to test them
- Developing quantitative reasoning skills and the ability to use quantitative approaches to understand basic principles of life.
Sample Four-Year Plan
This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.
|Communication A||3||MATH 221||5|
|Quantitative Reasoning A||3-5||Ethnic Studies||3|
|CHEM 103||4||CHEM 104||5|
|Foreign Language (if needed)||3-4||Humanities Breadth||2|
|ZOOLOGY 151||5||ZOOLOGY 152||5|
|CHEM 343||3||CHEM 344||2|
|Social Science Breadth||3||CHEM 345||3|
|Humanities Breadth||3||STAT 371||3|
|PHYSICS 207||5||PHYSICS 208||5|
|GENETICS 466||3||BIOCHEM 501||3|
|ZOOLOGY 570||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|Social Science Breadth||3||MOL BIOL 699 or Elective||3|
|MOL BIOL 699||1-4|
|Depth Coursework||3||Depth Coursework||3|
|Laboratory Course||2-4||MOL BIOL 699 or Elective||3|
|MOL BIOL 699 or Elective||3||Literature Breadth||3|
|Social Science Breadth||3||Social Science Breadth||3|
|Total Credits 120|
INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative is an option, but not required for students pursuing the Molecular and Cell Biology major.
Students in the major are assigned to a team of advisors composed of a faculty advisor and the major's student services coordinator. See the major's advising page for a list of advisors and for the student services coordinator information. The faculty advisor provides guidance specific to the molecular and cell biology discipline through discussions about undergraduate experiences (i.e., research, coursework, internships) that will help prepare students for graduate work or a career after graduation. The student services coordinator provides guidance specific to the discipline, and also helps students with major declarations, course selection, registration, DARS, L&S degree and major requirements, and tracking progress toward graduation, as well as connecting students with important resources on campus.
L&S career resources
SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.
SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career.
Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.
- Set up a career advising appointment
- INTER-LS 210 L&S Career Development: Taking Initiative (1 credit, targeted to first- and second-year students)—for more information, see Inter-LS 210: Career Development, Taking Initiative
- INTER-LS 215 Communicating About Careers (3 credits, fulfills Com B General Education Requirement)
- Learn how we’re transforming career preparation: L&S Career Initiative
Committee of Advisors: Ahmad (Dermatology), Amann (Integrative Biology), Fabry (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine), Filutowicz (Bacteriology), Grinblat (Neuroscience), Martin (Biochemistry), McMahon (Civil Engineering and Environmental Engineering), Newmark (Integrative Biology), Otegui (Botany), Raman (Biochemistry), Schuler (Comparative Biosciences)
HILLDALE UNDERGRADUATE/FACULTY RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP
The Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowships support undergraduate research done in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. Approximately 97–100 Hilldale awards are available each year. The student researcher receives $3,000, and faculty/staff research advisor receives $1,000 to help offset research costs (e.g., supplies, faculty or student travel related to the project).
Holstrom Environmental Research Fellowship
The Holstrom Environmental Research Fellowship supports undergraduate research done in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. Research proposals must have an environmental focus, and applicants must have at least a junior standing at time of application.
SOPHOMORE RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP
Funded by grants from the Brittingham Fund and the Kemper K. Knapp Bequest, the Sophomore Research Fellowships support undergraduate research done in collaboration with UW–Madison faculty or research/instructional academic staff. Approximately 15 awards are available.
Undergraduate Research Scholars
The Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program is dedicated to enhancing the academic experience of UW–Madison students by providing first- and second-year undergraduates with opportunities to earn credit for participating in research and creative work with UW–Madison faculty and staff. The program has been designed to include partnerships between students and mentors, seminars on research-relevant issues, and practice in research/artistic presentations. The many benefits of the program are found in the fluid interaction between these activities.
The annual Undergraduate Symposium showcases undergraduate creativity, achievement, research, service-learning, and community-based research from all areas of study at UW–Madison including the humanities, fine arts, biological sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences. This past year nearly 700 students presented, displayed, or performed their work for members of the university, the surrounding community, family, and friends.
UNIVERSITY BOOK STORE AWARD
Supported by a generous grant from the University Book Store, this award recognizes undergraduate students who have completed an outstanding independent project, such as a senior thesis, at UW–Madison. Projects in all academic fields are eligible.
Wisconsin Idea Fellowships
Wisconsin Idea Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduate student projects working toward solving a challenge identified along with local or global community partners. Fellowships are awarded to semester-long or year-long projects designed by an undergraduate student (or group of students) in collaboration with a community organization and a UW–Madison faculty or academic staff member.