College: Arts and Sciences
Microbiologists study all aspects of the biology and activities of organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye, including viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi and algae. Microorganisms are often mistakenly feared because some do cause disease, but just as many are beneficial and even essential for the existence of all other forms of life, including ours.
Microorganisms clean the environment and, in fermentations, they are used to produce foods, drinks, antibiotics and industrial chemicals. They are also used as the basic tools of genetic engineering and therefore have important applications in many medical, agricultural and commercial biotechnologies.
The microbiology major provides students with an education in a variety of topics that together form a dynamic science. Microbiology offers many opportunities for students to pursue advanced studies in health-related fields and practical applications of microorganisms. Participation in hands-on laboratory experiments and frontier research is emphasized so that when students graduate they have the practical experience and expertise needed for careers in microbiology and related sciences.
Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in microbiology within the College of Arts and Sciences. Interested students should contact the undergraduate advisor for microbiology.
Required supportive courses include one year of general biology, Calculus I and a math elective, one year of general chemistry, one year of organic chemistry lecture, one semester of organic chemistry lab and one year of general physics. Some of the necessary supportive courses must be taken before starting the major (biology, general chemistry, also recommended for calculus), and others may be completed while also taking microbiology courses (organic chemistry and physics).
The microbiology major consists of a core of six upper-level courses in biochemistry, general microbiology, pathogenesis and immunobiology, microbial physiology and diversity, molecular microbiology lab, and microbial genetics. The major also includes a minimum of nine additional semester hours, which may be selected from advanced courses offered by the Department of Microbiology or from an approved list of advanced courses offered by other life sciences departments. Credit toward the major can also be obtained by undertaking an independent research project. These additional courses are chosen in consultation with the advisor to meet the individual needs and interests of the student. Once students decide they want to major in microbiology, they should contact the Department of Microbiology for the current major requirements.
Students pursuing the microbiology major have participated in internship opportunities with both national and local companies, including Nestle, J.M. Smucker and Foxtail Foods.
Honors students in microbiology are encouraged to meet with their faculty advisor on a regular basis and to construct an enhanced curriculum that includes Honors courses, upper-division courses to meet general requirements, rigorous sequences, Honors seminars and a strong major, including a significant research experience.
The Ohio State Scholars programs feature residential communities for students who share academic interests and career goals. Two of the Scholars programs of interest to microbiology majors are the Biological Sciences and Health Sciences Scholars programs. The Biological Sciences Scholars Program emphasizes research, with individualized advising and significant lab and field experience. The Health Sciences Scholars Program is focused on preparing students for careers in health sciences and health care.
Microbiology majors at Ohio State are strongly encouraged to do a research project with a faculty member. Ohio State offers well-equipped laboratories containing sophisticated instrumentation for microbiological research. Learn more about choosing an undergraduate research laboratory at microbiology.osu.edu.
Student organizations enhance learning opportunities and the quality of the undergraduate experience. Two clubs at Ohio State specifically for microbiology students are the American Society for Microbiology Student Chapter at The Ohio State University and Students for the Advancement of Microbiology. These clubs provide opportunities for students to interact with faculty, participate in service activities, and discuss careers and research areas with scientists from the Ohio State campus and beyond.
The microbiology major prepares students directly for employment. The diversity of required courses provides a breadth of learning and technical experiences. With this education, especially the technical training learned in the laboratories, students can readily find employment in research, quality control or hospital laboratories and work with advanced techniques and instruments. Specifically, recent graduates of the Department of Microbiology work in research and government laboratories that develop genetic engineering and biotechnology, solve health and environmental problems, and create food and industrial technologies and use microbial processes to produce new products.
The microbiology major is also an appropriate, frequently chosen undergraduate degree program for medical, dental, optometry, veterinary and pharmacy students. While a major in microbiology is not a requirement for medical school (or other professional schools in the health sciences), it has many advantages, with its exposure to the basic principles of life processes, the mode of action of many pathogens and the theoretical underpinnings of sophisticated medical procedures.
The microbiology major provides the academic preparation needed to pursue a graduate degree in almost any biology-related field. Many jobs in microbiology involve high-level research and require advanced training leading to a master's degree or PhD.
An undergraduate major in microbiology does not limit one’s options to careers in medicine or biological research. Because the microbiology major provides the academic preparation and strong science background appropriate for students who plan careers in marketing, business or management in high technology industries, some microbiology students choose to use their science background to pursue a professional degree in business or law. A few students choose to put their microbiology training to use by obtaining a master’s degree in education and becoming science teachers.
Visit https://artsandsciences.osu.edu/career-success/students for more information about careers in microbiology.
Salaries are commensurate with level of education and prior job experiences. Students who complete graduate and professional degrees can expect to earn substantially more than students with a bachelor’s degree. Salaries in general are dependent upon a variety of economic factors and change with market trends.
Upon graduation, students will be able to:
- interrelate and apply the fundamental concepts of chemistry, physics and mathematics to the functions of living cells.
- understand the chemical properties of biological molecules and how these molecules function in the molecular mechanisms underlying physiological processes in microbial cells.
- understand evolutionary processes, the diversity of microorganisms, and how microorganisms impact their environment, including their roles in human health and disease.
- design experiments to test hypotheses, perform analyses, interpret and analyze data, and present scientific information in written and oral formats.
- appraise scientific data presented in the popular press for accuracy and scientific merit and understand issues and ethical conflicts associated with applications of biotechnology.
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