Prospective Microbiology Graduate Students

The Department of Microbiology offers graduate work leading to a doctor of philosophy degree. This prepares students for positions in industrial laboratories, research institutes, and government agencies, as well as for teaching, research, and administration in colleges and universities. gradstudentGraduate degrees are earned through a combination of graded courses, oral and written examinations, and independent research. In consultation with faculty advisors and based on your academic background, individual programs of study are fashioned for you. The department provides a comprehensive training program in microbiology and molecular biology.

Ph.D. Program

During your first semester, you will take two core courses designed to provide a strong background in cell physiology, biochemistry (MCB 501), and genetics (MCB 502). Subsequent course work is selected to complement the your interests and area of research.

First-year students rotate through three research labs to become acquainted with several labs and to learn new experimental techniques. Each rotation is five weeks long. You can choose rotation laboratories from any department in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB). Near the end of the fall semester, you will choose a research advisor, and together propose a research project that forms the basis of a dissertation.

In the spring semester you will write a short NIH-style grant proposal on the proposed project, and describe it to a faculty committee. The committee makes suggestions regarding project strategy and may recommend areas of basic knowledge that should be explored in greater depth to enhance your success on the project and in the preliminary exam.

At the end of the second year, you will take on oral preliminary exam to test your scientific knowledge and ability to solve research problems. After passing the preliminary exam, you will concentrate on research. It takes approximately five years to complete the Ph.D. program. Details about the requirements for the Ph.D. degree are given in our departmental handbook.

Application Process

The Department of Microbiology is part of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) at the University of Illinois. For graduate studies in microbiology apply directly to the MCB Graduate Program and select "Microbiology" for the field of specialization in the application.

To be considered for admission, you must:

  • have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with course work in biological sciences, chemistry, and physics;
  • submit three letters of recommendation, including at least two from a science professor (if research has been performed, letters of recommendation should include one from the research supervisor);
  • submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general scores (MCAT scores are acceptable for students applying to the Medical Scholars Program); GRE subject scores are not required

Financial Support

All students admitted to the Ph.D. program receive financial support throughout their graduate training. Incoming graduate students are supported by the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Support for graduate students includes a tuition waiver and a stipend. After the first semester, graduate students are supported by research assistantships, training grants, or teaching assistantships. Graduate students are required to pay the university health fee to cover insurance and health benefits.


The microbiology department is located in the state-of-the-art Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratories (CLSL). Central to main campus, the CLSL houses all of the major equipment and expertise necessary for research in microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Both the School of MCB and campus house a wide array of research facilities and support services.

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