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Indiana University Bloomington

Department of Biology

Undergraduate Studies

Microbiology Majors

The diversity of plants and animals that marvel our eyes is a mere twig on the tree of life. The vast majority of life is too small to see with the naked eye. And yet, the unseen microbial world accounts for most of the Earth’s biomass. Most of the cells in and on our own bodies are not our own—they are microbes. Microbes are crucial players in global cycles, removing as much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere as all plant life on Earth.

Then consider that cellular microbes—bacteria, archaea, and fungi—are greatly outnumbered by viruses. The viruses in the oceans alone are estimated to weigh as much as 75-million blue whales and, if strung together, could crisscross our galaxy 100 times (Suttle. 2005. Nature.).

What are all of these microbes and what are they doing? The Microbiology program provides students with fundamental knowledge and skills to approach and address these questions. Core lectures and hands-on laboratory experiences introduce students to the form, function, genetics, and evolution of diverse microorganisms with an emphasis on bacteria and viruses. Students learn how diverse microbes positively and negatively impact our health, society, and the environment. Students also use the scientific process to interpret, evaluate, and communicate biological information as well as to identify and address open questions in microbiology. Students are encouraged to pursue independent research projects under the mentorship of research faculty in the department.

Courses are offered in microbial ecology, microbial genetics, medical microbiology, cellular biology, virology, and molecular biology. In addition, general coursework includes inorganic and organic chemistry and calculus, as well as courses in the humanities, social science, English composition and foreign language. Students may supplement their degrees with minors or certificates in areas such as business, environmental science, animal behavior, and psychology. Outstanding students are encouraged to fulfill the requirements for an honors degree.

Graduates of the Microbiology program are well situated for a wide range of careers in health-related professions, biological and medical research, and biotechnology fields—including pharmaceutical and biofuel development, laboratory quality control and diagnostics, public and global health, environmental and science policy, law and intellectual property, business, education, and science writing. Many of our graduates are admitted to medical school, dental school, and graduate programs. Two-thirds of the department's graduates are available for entry-level positions. In recent years, the average GPA for Department of Biology graduates has been 3.22, while the average GPA for Microbiology B.S. majors has been 3.28. Each year at least 50 departmental graduates are elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Microbiology Major (B.A.)

(from 2015-16 College of Arts & Sciences Bulletin)
For a detailed description of the Microbiology B.A. major, please review the Microbiology B.A. Major Guide.


The B.A. degree is designed to provide training in microbiology for those students who do not intend to obtain an advanced degree in microbiology or attend medical, dental, or optometry school. The degree is suitable for students who are double majors as well as those individuals whose career goals include being a laboratory technician or working in an outside field, such as business or environmental studies.

Required Courses

Students must complete the following courses with a minimum grade of C– in each course:

  • L112 Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms (3 cr.) and L113 Biology Laboratory (3 cr.)
  • L211 Molecular Biology (3 cr.).
  • M250 Microbiology (3 cr.) and M255 Microbiology Lab (or M315 Microbiology Lab) (2 cr.).
  • M440 Medical Microbiology: Lecture (3 cr.) or M460 Microbial Evolution (3 cr.).
  • M480 Microbial and Molecular Genetics (3 cr.).
  • either M350 Microbial Physiology and Biochemistry (3 cr.) or L312 Cell Biology (3 cr.).
  • two additional courses from the following: B351, L312, L321, L472, M375, M416, M430, M440, M460, or BIOT T310. A course selected in section 4 or section 6 cannot be selected for credit in section 7.
  • one additional laboratory from the following: M360, M435, M445, M465, M485, or BIOT T315.
Additional Requirements

Students must also complete the following with a minimum grade of C– in each course:

  • CHEM C117-C127 and C341 or R340. Students planning to attend professional school should check to see what additional chemistry courses they will need.
  • PHYS P201-P202 or P221-P222.
  • MATH M119 or V119 or M211, or an approved mathematics course, or one of the following statistics courses: MATH K310, PSY K300 or K310, LAMP L316, STAT S300 or S303, or SPEA K300. (Note that although SPEA K300 fulfills the statistics requirement, it does not count toward College of Arts and Sciences credit hours.)

Students must also meet the degree requirements for the B.A. degree in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Please use the Undergraduate Academic Bulletin that was in effect when you matriculated into Indiana University Bloomington as a degree-seeking student. The requirements outlined in the Bulletin in effect at the time of your matriculation will remain constant throughout your time in the Biology Department, assuming you graduate within eight years. Degree requirements may change significantly from year to year, so it’s very important that you refer to the correct Bulletin. If you are uncertain which Bulletin governs your undergraduate career, please consult a Biology advisor by emailing, calling (812) 855-3810, or making an advising appointment with any Biology advisor. 

See also Microbiology Major (B.S.) »

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