Undergraduate student Chloe Kirk works at a whiteboard during a chemistry class discussion section taught by John Moore, the W.T. Lippincott Professor of Chemistry, in Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Feb. 3, 2016. Moore is one of twelve 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award recipients. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Major Declaration and Requirements

How to Declare

Make an appointment through Starfish with Ginny Jackson, the Molecular and Cell Biology student services coordinator.  Students exploring the Molecular and Cell Biology major are welcome to meet with Ginny before you declare.  Questions can also be emailed to vjackson4@wisc.edu.

Major Requirements

The Molecular and Cell Biology major recently updated its curriculum.  For students who have not yet declared the MCB major, moved to the updated requirements, or declared Fall 2020 or later to see major requirements visit the The Guide, linked below.

Molecular and Cell Biology major requirements, B.S. option

Molecular and Cell Biology major requirements, B.A. option

Honors in the Major requirements


MCB Summer 2022 Class Options UPDATED REQUIREMENTS


Major Requirements

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PREVIOUS MAJOR REQUIREMENTS -Molecular & Cell Biology Student who declared Summer 2019 or earlier

Students who declared the Molecular Biology major during Summer 2019 or earlier see below panels for MCB major requirements -“Core Courses: Math, Chemistry Physics, Biology,” “Advanced Courses,” and “Lab/Research Requirement.”

MolBio Summer 2022 Class Options PREVIOUS REQUIREMENTS

Core Courses: Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology


Math 221 Calculus and Analytic Geometry

AND Math 222 Calculus and Analytic Geometry or Math 213 Calculus and Introduction to Differential Equations or Stats 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods or Stat 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences


a. General and Analytic Chemistry
Choose one of three options:
Chemistry 109 General Analytical Chemistry AND one semester of Analytical Chemistry: Chemistry 327 or Chemistry 329
Chemistry 115 and 116 Chemical Principles (enrollment in Chemistry 115 is by consent of instructor only)
Chemistry 103 and 104: General Chemistry AND one semester of Analytical Chemistry: Chemistry 327 OR Chemistry 329

b. Organic Chemistry
Chemistry 343 Introductory Organic Chemistry
AND  Chemistry 344 Intermediate Organic Chemistry
AND Chemistry 345 Intermediate Organic Chemistry


Physics 201 and 202 General Physics
OR Physics 207 and 208 General Physics


a. General and Genetics
Choose from one of two options. 
 is highly selective and is based upon applications due in mid-March. Students should consult their advisor and the Biocore office in 345 Noland Hall. Students may find an application online or call 608-262-5979 for more information.
Biocore/Biology 381 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
Biocore/Biology 382 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Biocore/Biology 383 Cellular Biology
Biocore/Biology 384 Cellular Biology Laboratory
Biocore/Biology 485 Organismal Biology
Biology/Botany/Zoology 151 Introductory Biology
Biology/Botany/Zoology 152 Introductory Biology
Genetics 466 General Genetics

b. Biochemistry
Choose one of the three options below. If students take Biochem 507 and 508, 3 credits count toward meeting the biochemistry requirement under Biology and the remaining 3 count toward meeting the Advanced Courses requirement in area E.
Biochem 501 Introduction to Biochemistry
BMolChem 503 Human Biochemistry
Biochem 507 and 508 General Biochemistry I & II

c. Molecular Biology
Minimum 3 credits. Choose from the list of approved courses below.
Agronomy/Hort 339 Plant Biotechnology Principles and Techniques I
Agronomy/Hort 340 Plant Biotechnology Principles and Techniques II
Biochem/Genetics/Microbio 612 Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics*
Biochem/Genetics 620 Eukaryotic Molecular Biology*
Genetics 545 Genetics Laboratory (2 credits)
Hort 550 Molecular Approaches for Crop Improvement*

Advanced Courses


Two to three courses (minimum 6 credits total) from at least two different categories required. Courses that include a lab or research experience in these categories fulfill the laboratory/research requirement (see Lab/Research Requirement drop-down below).

a. Development
Botany 500 Plant Physiology*
Zoology 470 Introduction to Animal Development*
Zoology 555 Laboratory in Developmental Biology
Zoology 625 Development of the Nervous System (2 credits)

b. Microbiology
Botany/Entom/Pl Path 505 Plant–Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects*
Microbio 303 Biology or Microorganisms
Microbio 304 Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory (2 credits)
Microbio 330 Host–Parasite Interactions
Microbio 425 Environmental Microbiology
Microbio/Pl Path 622 Plant Bacterial Interactions*
Oncology/Pl Path 640: General Virology—Multiplication of Viruses*
MM&I 575 Biology of Viruses (2 credits)

c. Genetics
Agronomy/Hort 338 Plant Breeding and Biotechnology
Genetics/Botany/Hort 561 Introductory Cytogenetics*
Genetics/Med Genet 565 Human Genetics*
Genetics 566 Advanced Genetics
Microbio 470 Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines
Microbio/Genetics 607 Advanced Microbial Genetics*

d. Cell Biology (Endocrinology, Neurobiology, Immunology)
Biochem/Phmacol-M/Zool 630 Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms*
Biocore 587 Biological Interactions
MM&I/Path-Bio 528 Immunology
MM&I 341 Immunology
Zool 523 Neurobiology*
Oncology 401 Introduction to Experimental Oncology (2 credits)
Oncology 640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses
Zoology 570 Cell Biology*

e. Biochemistry and Physical Chemistry
Biochem 508 General Biochemistry II
Biochem/Nutr Sci 510 Biochemical Principles of Human and Animal Nutrition
Biochem 550 Topics in Medical Biochemistry* (2 credits)
Biochem 551 Biochemical Methods*
Biochem/Botany 621 Plant Biochemistry*
Chem 561 Physical Chemistry*
Chem 565 Biophysical Chemistry*
Physiol 533 Molecular Physiology (2 credits)

f. Quantitative and Computational Sciences
Biochem 570, Computatinoal Modeling of Biological Systems
BMI/Comp Sci 576 Introduction to Bioinformatics*
Botany 563: Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data
Comp Sci/I Sy E/Math 425 Introduction to Combinatorial Optimization*
F&W Ecol/Hort/Stat 571 Statistical Methods for Bioscience I*
F&W Ecol/Hort/Stat 572 Statistical Methods for Bioscience II*
Stat 333 Applied Regression Analysis

*Courses so designated may be used to satisfy the requirements for Honors in Molecular Biology.

Lab/Research Requirement


Students must complete a minimum of 2 credits in a laboratory or research experience or course.

There are several ways to complete the requirement for a laboratory or independent research experience in molecular biology:

  • You may select an approved lab/research course from the Molecular Biology 4c requirement
    • Select from: Hort/Path-Bio 500, Genetics 545
  • OR you may select an approved lab/research course from the Advanced Courses categories
    • Select from: Bmolchem 504, Microbio 304, Biochem 551, Zoology 555
  • OR you may complete an independent project or research thesis. Although research experience is not required for the non-honors major, all students are encouraged the take advantage of the opportunities UW-Madison’s research community has to offer. Students can select from MolBio 681/682 (Senior Honors Thesis), MolBio 691/692 (Non-Honors Thesis), or MolBio 699: Directed Studies.

*If a Senior Thesis or Directed Studies project is not a laboratory-based research experience, you must meet this requirement by completing a laboratory course (i.e. Hort/Path-Bio 500, Bmolchem 504, Microbio 304, or Biochem 551).

**For information on finding an independent lab or research experience and scholarships, check out the Undergraduate Research page.