Table depicting the three undergraduate degree programs including major and minor options.

Major Programs of Study

There are three major options for undergraduate students to choose from, leading to a Bachelor of Science degree: Microbiology, Cell Biology and Neuroscience, or Biotechnology. Within each major, there are a number of options. 

Why Study Microbiology?

Microorganisms benefit society by cycling inorganic and organic matter into molecules needed for life and detoxifying discarded wastes. Historically, they have served as microscopic factories for the production of cheeses, alcohol and antibiotics. Microorganisms have also been engineered to produce a wide variety of products for our benefit through the emergence of biotechnology.
Microbiology is the branch of science dealing with microorganisms. It is one of the most relevant, dynamic and exciting disciplines in the biological sciences.

Microorganisms have, however, also inflicted great distress to human, animal and plant populations through disease, spoilage of crops, foods and the fouling and degradation of man-made structures. More recently, microorganisms have been used as terrorist weapons.


3D model of Pseudomonas aeruginosa alginate lyase AlgL (movie provided by Mensur Dlakic)
Microbiology is a diverse discipline and has become an umbrella term that encompasses many sub disciplines or fields of study. These include:
  • Bacteriology: the study of bacteria
  • Mycology: fungi
  • Protozoology: protozoa
  • Phycology: algae
  • Parasitology: parasites
  • Virology: viruses

An understanding of these various life forms in the environment has created other sub disciplines of: microbial ecology, microbial physiology, microbial genetics and molecular biology. Our need to control infectious diseases has brought about the fields of pathology and immunology. Bioinformatics, the in silico research, is a new area of research in microbiology which analyzes the genomes of life forms.

Microbiology Major: Microbiology Option

This option covers all areas of microbiology. Students can choose from several tracks (microbiology track, pre-vet track, Pre-Med Track, and environmental track)making this option excellent preparation for those who wish to be professional microbiologists, attend medical, dental, or veterinary school, or study environmental microbiology topics.

Microbiology Major: Medical Lab Science Option

This option is for students interested in careers that involve the performance of clinical laboratory tests. To become a medical laboratory scientist, students must train in a year-long program and become accomplished professionals in microbiology, chemistry, blood banking, and hematology. Students can receive their training through the Montana Medical Laboratory Science Training Program at MSU.

Microbiology Major: Environmental Health Option

This option is for students interested in focusing on environmental health topics, including general environmental sanitation, food and waterborne disease control, air and water quality, water and wastewater treatment, solid and hazardous waste disposal, rodent and insect control, consumer product safety, recreational and occupational safety, radiological hygiene, epidemiology, and health education.

Cell Biology and Neuroscience Major: Biomedical Sciences Option

This option provides a strong background for students who plan on a career in medicine or other health profession. This option is also for students that are interested in a biomedical sciences career in research or teaching in cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, or neuroscience. The curriculum provides the opportunity to take the courses necessary to make a competitive application to health profession school, graduate school or to obtain a technical position. Students interested in a career in a health science profession should consult the Health Professions Advising Office for information regarding admission to professional schools.

Cell Biology and Neuroscience Major: Cell Biology and Neuroscience Option

This option provides a strong background for students who are interested in a career in research or teaching in cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology or neuroscience. This option provides the opportunity to take the courses necessary to make a competitive application to graduate school or to obtain a technical position.

Biotechnology Major: Microbial Systems Option

This option is for students interested in working in emerging biotechnology industries. These industries are involved in developing products to maintain biodiversity, restore soil and water quality, develop new pharmaceuticals or vaccines to combat disease, decrease our dependence on nonrenewable resources, provide tools and skills for investigative and forensic sciences, and improve food and fiber production.

Biotechnology Major: Animal Systems Option

This option provides a challenging basic science curriculum with an emphasis on unique "hands on" learning experiences in methods courses and an internship program. Students gain knowledge of important molecular and biochemical techniques.


Minor Programs of Study

Genetics Minor

Global Health Minor

Microbiology Non-Teaching Minor

Undergraduate Research Participation

An undergraduate research program, available to students who demonstrate an interest and ability, is open to both majors and non-majors. The aim of this program is to foster increased creativity, imagination, inquisitiveness, and independence.  Please consult with a Faculty Directory within the department to inquire further about innovative research you can participate in relevant to real-world applications. 


Departmental Honors in Microbiology

When appropriate, majors should consider the opportunities afforded by the departmental honors program. This program has the following components:

  • A minimum 3.5 grade-point average (GPA) in Microbiology, 3.0 GPA overall.
  • A minimum of four credits of undergraduate research credit.
  • An acceptable, bound senior thesis, and an oral defense of the thesis.

Participation in a Microbiology seminar (BIOM 494) during the senior year is the required capstone course for graduation. As many as two BIOM 494 seminars (1 credit each) may be applied toward graduation when taken in the junior or senior years. A detailed description of the microbiology program is available from the department.