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Administrative Unit:Microbiology
College/School: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health
Admitting Plans:Ph.D.
Degrees Offered:Ph.D.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

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


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.

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 prokaryotic and lower eukaryotic genetics; gene expression and its regulation; microbial physiology and diversity including microbial photosynthesis; nitrogen fixation; molecular structure-function relationships of transfer RNA, RNA polymerase, and other components of transcription and translation systems; nucleic acid synthesis; gene regulation; characterization of microbial virulence determinants and other components; mechanisms of microbial persistence, microbial genomics, macrophage activation and other cell immune systems; immunology; mechanisms of pathogenesis; symbiosis; biotechnology/industrial microbiology; food microbiology; microbial ecology; and plant-microbial 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 program 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.

Financial Aid

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.


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; two semesters of physics; and two semesters of calculus or one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics. Deficiencies in excess of six semester credits should be removed before enrollment. An on-line 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. All applicants must provide scores from the general Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the subject test in a related disciple is not required; 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.

For more information: Graduate Program Coordinator, Microbiology Doctoral Training Program, 1326 Microbial Sciences, 1550 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-265-0689; fax 608-262-8418.; micro@bact.wisc.edu; www.microbiology.wisc.edu.


Microbiology Courses
Medical Microbiology and Immunology Courses