Home < Degrees < Bacteriology


Administrative Unit:Bacteriology
Admitting Plans:M.S.
Degrees Offered:M.S.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Gourse (chair), Donohue, Downs, Escalante-Semerena, Filutowicz, Forest, Goodrich-Blair, Handelsman, Jeffries, Johnson, Kaspar, Keller, Landick, Mansfield, Roberts, Wong; Associate Professors Barclay, Currie, Hammel, McMahon, Thomas, Wassarman, Weimer, Yu. In addition, many faculty members from other departments supervise training of graduate students.


Research programs in the Department of Bacteriology encompass a variety of areas including prokaryotic and lower eukaryotic genetics, gene expression and regulation, microbial physiology and diversity including microbial photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, molecular structure-function, nucleic acid synthesis, microbial ecology, plant-microbe interactions, symbiosis, natural products synthesis, biotechnology/industrial microbiology, food microbiology, immunology and mechanisms of pathogenesis.

The Department of Bacteriology offers a Ph.D. degree through the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program. The Department of Bacteriology and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and Public Health serve as lead departments for the cross-campus Microbiology Doctoral Training Program.

Incoming students have the opportunity to do laboratory rotations with any of the primary faculty, affiliate faculty, or 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 encompasses graduate courses offered by both departments. Please refer to the separate Microbiology Doctoral Training Program listing in this catalog for more detailed information, or visit the program website.

M.S. Degree 

The primary goal of the master of science (M.S.) degree program is to give students a solid understanding of the scientific process and to provide the opportunity to obtain advanced training in microbiology. The master's degree is the terminal degree in this program, and completion of this degree does not allow automatic admission to a Ph.D. program.

This program provides the opportunity to tailor a curriculum of advanced coursework and research to fit the needs of each student. Students may acquire a general overview of microbiology or may focus on a specialized subject area in microbiology such as food or environmental microbiology, biotechnology, bacterial physiology, medical microbiology or molecular/cell biology. The self-tailored program must meet the requirements of the Graduate School and of the Department of Bacteriology for the M.S. degree.

The M.S. degree program exists in two forms. One involves primarily formal coursework and has no research requirement; the other requires significant laboratory research, including formal written documentation (thesis or manuscript). Students are admitted to the M.S. program under the coursework option. Students desiring a research M.S. must identify a faculty member who agrees to serve as research advisor.

The coursework option serves students who want to acquire knowledge about current topics in microbiology primarily in a classwork setting. Examples of students who benefit from this option are those currently employed in research, clinical, or biotechnology labs seeking an advanced degree; lawyers and law students who wish to specialize in biotechnology or environmental law; and students preparing for health professions.

The research option serves students who seek to develop scientific research skills. This option is chosen by laboratory technicians who want advanced technical training; students seeking laboratory skills for employment; and students who desire laboratory experience and advanced coursework before applying to Ph.D. programs.

Full-time students can expect to complete the M.S. degree in two years. The M.S. program is also open to part-time students.


In addition to the minimum requirements for admission to the Graduate School, applicants should have completed three semesters of biology, including some genetics; four semesters of chemistry, including organic; two semesters of physics; and one math course beyond algebra and trigonometry (i.e., calculus, statistics, or computer sciences). Applications from students lacking the general requirements may be considered; however, deficiencies must be corrected before completion of the program and these credits do not apply toward graduate coursework requirements.

Students must also fulfill the program's general requirements of a one-semester course in each of the following: general microbiology, biochemistry, microbial genetics, and microbial physiology. The general requirements can be completed before entry or as part of the program. Students desiring the research option should also have prior research experience.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for admission to the M.S. program, but scores may be submitted. International students whose undergraduate instruction was not in English 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).

Financial Aid 

Ph.D. students should refer to the Microbiology Doctoral Training Program section of this catalog. Financial aid for students in the M.S. program is not available from the department. Some M.S. students in the research option are supported through their research advisor, but such support is available on a very limited basis.

For more information: Student Services Coordinator, Department of Bacteriology, 1328 Microbial Sciences Building, 1550 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-2975; fax 608-262-9865; master's programbactms@bact.wisc.edu; other inquiriesinfo@bacteriology.wisc.edu; www.bact.wisc.edu.