Students at work in Microbio 102
Reading tests in Micorbio 102
Students at work in Microbio 102
Students at work in Microbio 551
Professor Paustian consulting with a student about their work.
Testing a DNA sample's quality using the nanodrop
Material ready for class

What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is the study of microscopic organisms, or microbes. This includes:

  • Bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli)
  • Archaea, such as methane-producing microbes
  • Viruses, such as Coronavirus
  • Fungi, such as yeast
  • Algae
  • Protozoa

Microbes are critical for the well-being of our planet and all living things, including us! Microbes impact our lives on a daily basis, from disease to biofuel to food production.

Why Study Microbiology?

Microbiology is a blossoming field that has become more important in recent years as science advances. Microbes are involved in many current topics, such as biofuels, bioenergy, infectious disease, bioterrorism, biotechnology, food production, food safety, microbiomes, and environmental biology.

UW-Madison’s Microbiology program is a world-class program designed to prepare students for many different professions:

  • Modern research in microbiology
  • Public and global health
  • Medicine
  • Food production and food safety
  • Pharmaceuticals

You will learn cellular biology, genetics, ecology, evolution, and physiology of microbes. You will gain many skills, including critical thinking, analyzing scientific data, modern laboratory techniques, writing and communication skills, and teamwork skills. The microbiology program has an emphasis on laboratory experience, with three microbiology laboratories. In the final laboratory, Microbio 551, you will work with the faculty of the department on a real research problem. In past years we have explored the microbiome of gophers, tobacco worms, mosquitoes, and UW athletes.

What skills will you gain from Microbiology?

Microbiological Knowledge

  • Cellular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Metabolism
  • Ecology
  • Evolution

Critical Thinking 

  • Examine information 
  • Analyze connections 
  • Identify problems 
  • Develop solutions 

Research & Scientific Writing 

  • Modern laboratory techniques including DNA cloning, protein purification, DNA sequencing, and HPLC analysis
  • Define research questions 
  • Design and carry out experiments 
  • Writing in a publishable style 

Data Analysis 

  • Collect quantitative data 
  • Code / Analyze data using tools like Excel, R, etc. 
  • Predict outcomes 
  • Present data 

Ethical Thinking 

  • Understand scientific ethical standards 
  • Understand conflict of interest 
  • Safe / Ethical research methods 
  • Appropriate dissemination of information 


  • Collaborative work 
  • Negotiate / Manage conflict 

And more!

What can I do with a Microbiology Major?

Learning Microbiology at UW-Madison will help prepare you for many careers, including but not limited to medical/dental/pharmaceutical/veterinary careers, public health, research, education, environmental management, biotechnology, quality control, science writing, technical sales, and education.

About half of our Microbiology graduates go straight into the workforce after graduation, while the other half continue in their education. All of our graduates are highly sought after by universities and companies.