Microbiology Graduate Program

A Message from the Directors

Microbes are both the cause of and the solution to many of humanity’s grand challenges in human health, sustainable agriculture, protection of natural environments, cleaning up polluted environments, and engineered systems.

In the coming decades, microbiologists will be critical to understanding the microbes in these systems, controlling them, and putting them to work for us. The Microbiology Graduate Program educates students broadly in microbiology, so that you will be equipped to address any of these grand challenges. Whether you work on nutrient cycles, human disease, or microbial process engineering, you will learn the laboratory, analytical, and bioinformatic tools needed to ask and answer questions of global importance.

When you join the Microbiology Graduate Program at UD, you will join a vibrant community of microbiologists with faculty in 14 departments across campus, including Biology, Marine Science and Policy, Geology, Plant and Soil Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering. This breadth gives students access to an extensive range of equipment, collaborators, and expertise. Regardless of the home department, our goal is to characterize the microbes in different environments – from the human body to water to soil and sediment – and understand how they work, so that we can put them to work for us.

We hope you will join us!

Dr. Julia Maresca
Dr. Julia Maresca
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Co-Director, Microbiology Graduate Program
 3028314391
Dr. Nicole Donofrio
Dr. Nicole Donofrio
Professor of Pathology
Co-Director, Microbiology Graduate Program
 3028311372

"In the coming decades, microbiologists will be critical to understanding the microbes in these systems, controlling them, and putting them to work for us. The Microbiology Graduate Program educates students broadly in microbiology, so that you will be equipped to address any of these grand challenges."

Earth is microbial: Bacteria, archaea, viruses, protists, and fungi are the largest store of biomass on the planet, and represent nearly all of its biodiversity. They store massive genetic resources that can be used to solve challenges faced by our rapidly growing human population. Microbes will be key to developing more sustainable energy generation and material synthesis, improving human health and wellness, and satisfying increased food demands of larger human populations in the face of limited environmental resources. 

The faculty of the University of Delaware (UD) Microbiology Graduate Program are already addressing these challenges in five separate colleges and thirteen departments. By bringing these faculty and resources together to train the next generation of microbiologists, with stakeholder guidance to develop an innovative educational program, the Microbiology Graduate Program will serve as a model for interdisciplinary enterprises at UD.

Our faculty already make significant contributions to the Grand Challenges in Delaware Will Shine, the blueprint for UD’s continued development as a premier learner-centered university. The program faculty and students are engaged in the Grand Challenges in Improving Health and Wellness, Innovating Energy and Environmental Solutions, and Ensuring Safety and Security.

The goals of this graduate program are to:

  • Recruit and retain a diverse pool of high-quality graduate students in Microbiology

  • Recruit and retain diverse, high-quality Microbiology faculty invested in cutting- edge student training

  • Rigorously deliver foundational concepts in genome-enabled Microbiology via a core curriculum

  • Provide rigorous electives to support broad exploration beyond the core curriculum

  • Foster professional skills in trainees, enabling them to succeed in multiple career paths

  • Facilitate cross-departmental and cross-college research collaborations

  • Identify and develop new tracks/concentrations as suggested by student/stakeholder interest

  • Proactively engage the advisory committee (see below) to assess program goals, curriculum, and to generate external support.

Doctoral Programs | Master's Program | Courses

Our interdisciplinary program capitalizes on existing strengths of University of Delaware faculty from many departments across five colleges:

As a student in the program, you may be advised by any of the faculty affiliated with the program. Upon completing the program, your degree will be granted by the college in which your adviser is housed.

The Microbiology Graduate Program offers two degree options:

  • A Ph.D. with dissertation (42 credits),

  • A Master of Science with thesis (30 credits)

Both degrees offer four areas of study:

  • Environmental Microbiology: This track includes geobiology, microbial ecology of non-host environments, biogeochemistry, and viral ecology.

  • Host-Microbe Interactions: This track includes host-associated microbiomes, microbial ecology of host-associated environments, pathogenesis, immunology, and virology.

  • Applied Microbiology: This track includes bioremediation, fermentation, food microbiology, and industrial microbiology.

  • Microbial Physiology and Genetics: This track includes systems biology, microbial biochemistry, metabolism, and gene regulation.


Master’s Program

To be accepted into our MS program, students must have a faculty member identified and agreed upon as a sponsor. 

We expect M.S. graduates to

  • Critically analyze the primary literature

  • Accurately carry out complex experimental designs based on the primary literature

  • Analyze quantitative and bioinformatic microbiology data

  • Compellingly present results of experiments in both oral and written formats

Course requirements summary:

MS students are required to take 8 credits from the core curriculum (7 course credits plus 1 seminar credit), 12 credits chosen from the electives relevant to their concentrations, 4 research credits and 6 thesis credits, for a total of 30 credits.

MS in Microbiology

No. of credits

Core courses

7

Seminar

1

Elective courses

12

Research credits

4

Thesis credits

6

Total credits

30


Doctoral Programs

In addition to the skills of an M.S., we expect Ph.D. graduates to

  • Identify knowledge gaps in their track/concentration

  • Design and implement research programs that creatively address these knowledge gaps

  • Develop and demonstrate teaching skills (these include, but are not limited to, a TA-ship in a classroom or laboratory setting; designing and developing teaching aids like audiovisual packages for classroom use; designing and implementing one or more lab experiments for a course; guest lecturing)

PhD students are required to take 12 credits from the core curriculum (9 course credits plus 3 seminar credits), 15 credits chosen from the electives relevant to their concentrations, and 9 dissertation credits, for a total of 42 credits. PhD students will also be expected to do rotations through three labs within their first 6 months in the program, in order to (a) hone skills for their Ph.D. project and (b) get a more well-rounded perspective of microbiology research.

PhD in Microbiology

No. of credits

Core courses

9

Seminar

3

Elective courses

15

Research credits

6

Dissertation credits

9

Total credits

42


Course Curriculum

Core Courses

  • Microbial Physiology and Diversity (MAST625; 3 credits): Microbial growth and composition, cell architecture and structures, energy metabolism, diversity in energy and assimilatory metabolism.

  • Microbial Genetics and Genomics (MAST626; 3 credits): Central dogma, genetic techniques, gene regulation, genome structure and function, -omics, focus on archaea, bacteria and viruses.

  • Current Topics in Microbiology: Seminar (PLSC811, 1X for M.S. [1 credit] 3X for Ph.D. [3credits]): Exposure to the breadth of research including microbiology from external and internal speakers; required presentation on the student’s research project will foster oral communication and professional development.

  • Microbiology Journal Club (BISC850, 1X for M.S. [1 credit] 3X for Ph.D. [3 credits]): Develop critical literature analysis skills and discussion practices; requirement to present a paper will foster oral communication skills.

Laboratory Rotation (Ph.D. only): Acquisition of laboratory skills and selection of advisor through three laboratory rotations.

Elective Courses:

A range of electives is available based on the teaching activities of Microbiology program faculty.  To be included as an elective in the Microbiology graduate program, a course will have to be 600-level or higher and be approved after a review of the syllabus by the Program Director and Faculty Steering Committee.

Course Number

Course Title

Semester 

Professor

Environmental Microbiology

 

 

CIEG644

Microbiology of Engineered Systems

Spring (2022)

Julie Maresca

MAST645/GEOL645

Geomicrobiology

Intermittently

Clara Chan

MAST616

Methods in Molecular Biology

Spring (2022)

Julie Maresca/Jen Biddle

MAST618

Microbial Ecology

Spring

Jen Biddle

MAST634

Marine Molecular Science 

Fall

Jen Biddle

PLSC619

Soil Microbiology 

Spring

Jeff Fuhrmann

Host-microbe Interactions

 

 

ANFS655

Gut Microbiome

Spring

Ryan Arsenault/Amy Biddle

ANFS635 

Animal Virology 

Fall

Mark Parcells

ANFS671

Paradigms in Cell Signaling

Spring

Mark Parcells

MAST616

Methods in Molecular Biology

Spring (2022)

Julie Maresca/Jen Biddle

MAST634

Marine Molecular Science 

Fall

Jen Biddle

MMSC650

Medical Biochemistry

Spring

Subasis (Sam) Biswas

MMSC690

Clinical & Molecular Cell Biology 

Fall

Sam Biswas

MMSC638

Diagnostic Medical Mycology and Bacteriology

Fall 

Denene Lofland

PLSC619

Soil Microbiology 

Spring

Jeff Fuhrmann

PLSC611

Molecular Plant Pathology 

Fall - 2021

Nicole Donofrio

Applied Microbiology

 

 

ANFS649

Food Biotechnology 

Spring

Rolf Joerger

ANFS636

Immunology of Domestic Animals

Spring

Calvin Keeler and Mark Parcells

ANFS639

Food Microbiology 

Fall

Kali Kniel

CHEG420

Biochemical Engineering

Spring

Terry Papoutsakis

CHEG621

Metabolic Engineering

Spring

Aditya Kunjapur

CHEM641

Biochemistry

Fall

numerous profs

CIEG644

Microbiology of Engineered Systems

Spring - 2022

Julie Maresca

MAST616

Methods in Molecular Biology

Spring (2022)

Julie Maresca/Jen Biddle

MMSC638

Diagnostic Medical Mycology and Bacteriology

Fall 

Denene Lofland

PLSC611

Molecular Plant Pathology

Fall- 2021

Nicole Donofrio

Microbial Physiology and Genetics

 

 

ANFS649

Food Biotechnology 

Spring

Rolf Joerger

ANFS671

Paradigms in Cell Signaling

Spring

Mark Parcells

CHEG420

Biochemical Engineering

Spring

Terry Papoutsakis

CHEG621

Metabolic Engineering

Spring

Aditya Kunjapur

CHEM641

Biochemistry 

Fall

numerous profs

CIEG644

Microbiology of Engineered Systems

Spring - 2022

Julie Maresca

MAST616

Methods in Molecular Biology

Spring (2022)

Julie Maresca/Jen Biddle

MMSC650

Medical Biochemistry

Spring

Sam Biswas

MMSC690

Clinical & Molecular Cell Biology

Fall

Sam Biswas

 

Admission to the graduate program is competitive. Those who meet stated requirements are not guaranteed admission, nor are those who fail to meet all of those requirements necessarily precluded from admission if they offer other appropriate strengths.

Applications normally are considered only for fall entrance. International applicants are considered only for fall admission. To ensure optimum consideration for fall admission, complete applications should be received at this university by January 15 with a final deadline of April 15. Evaluation of applications will begin on January 15, and applications received between January 15 and April 15 will be considered only if unfilled slots remain.

To officially apply for admission, see http://www.udel.edu/gradoffice/apply/ for detailed instructions, web-based forms, and contact information. To be admitted to the graduate program, applicants should meet the following requirements:

  • A completed University of Delaware Graduate Studies application. In the application, prospective students should indicate clearly whether they are applying for the MS or the Ph.D. program.

  • A personal statement is required in the Graduate Studies application, and should discuss the following questions:

    • What is your prior research experience (for credit, as an intern, as a job, or any other practical or industry-related experiences)?

    • What are your specific research and educational goals?

    • What are your long-term professional career objectives?

    • How do you see this program assisting you with achieving your objectives?

  • Graduate Record Examination Scores are not required for domestic applicants. Subject GRE scores are not required.

  • Official, up-to-date transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate programs. A minimum of 3.0/4.0 is required in the major.

  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals with knowledge of the applicant’s research experience, academic preparation and potential ability as a graduate student.

  • International students must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) (Minimum Score: 550 paper test, 79 on Internet-based tests) TOEFL scores more than two years old cannot be considered official.

  • Interview with one or more faculty members of the Microbiology program including but not limited to the potential major advisor. Interviews should be conducted in person for domestic applicants and via Skype or other video-base call for international applicants

Prior degree requirements

Applicants should have a BA or BS in Microbiology or a related field, and as part of their undergraduate training, should have completed the following (or the equivalent): two years of biological sciences; one year of mathematics, preferably including calculus and/or statistics; one semester of college physics; one year of general chemistry; and at least one semester of organic chemistry. Other applicants will be considered if they have strong academic backgrounds in other scientific areas. Provisional admission may be offered with the stipulation that any deficiency in undergraduate training be made up (without graduate credit) during the first year of graduate study.

Change of Classification and Transfer Students

Students that are currently matriculated in other degree programs should complete a “Change of Classification” Form to seek approval to be admitted into the Microbiology Program. The Program Committee will evaluate the change in classification and transfer requests on a case-by case basis to determine if the applicant will need to complete a full application form submitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education. All transfer students will still have to meet the requirements listed above.

Special competencies needed

Applicants should provide evidence of research experience (academic or otherwise) in their personal statement and on their curriculum vita. Applicants with prior research experience will receive priority consideration.

Annual Symposium Presentation
Opportunities for students to present at the annual MicroSymposium.
Niskin water bottles
Niskin bottles are deployed to sample water at different depths at the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series station. Photo by Barbra Ferrell
Collaboration among graduate students and faculty in our thriving research facilities.
Collaboration among graduate students and faculty in our thriving research facilities.
Samples are taken from lakes
Samples are collected from lakes in western Nebraska with collaborators from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo by Barbra Ferrell
Malique Bowen, grad student, working in a lab on our Lewes Campus.
Malique Bowen, grad student, working in a lab on our Lewes Campus.
Lab equipment aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer at the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series station.
Lab equipment aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer at the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series station.