The Washington State University General Catalog

School of Molecular Biosciences

The online catalog includes the most recent changes to courses and degree requirements that have been approved by the Faculty Senate, including changes that are not yet effective.

School of Molecular Biosciences
Biotechnology-Life Sciences 102

Director and Regents Professor, M. Griswold; Senior Associate Director and Professor, M. Konkel; Associate Director for Graduate Program and Associate Professor, J. MacLean; Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs and Professor, E. Offerdahl; Associate Director for Alumni Relations and Clinical Associate Professor, P. Mixter; Assistant Director for Undergraduate Laboratories and Clinical Associate Professor, C. Helmick; Regents Professor, P. Hunt; Professors, J. Alderete, W. Davis, T. Hassold, K. Hayashi, J. Oatley, J. Watts, J. Wyrick, L. Xun; Associate Professors, C. Cooper (Vancouver), L. Gloss, A. Goodman, C. Haseltine, C. Her, E. Shelden; Assistant Professors, R. Driskell, S. Duttke, H. Koehler; Clinical Professors, N. McCabe, M. Sanchez-Lanier; Clinical Assistant Professors, I. Driskell, M. Ederer, J. Hinz, S. Thomas.

Molecular biosciences can be viewed as a dynamic continuum in which approaches derived from biology, chemistry, and physics are utilized to address the fundamental mechanisms of living things. The School of Molecular Biosciences (SMB) offers undergraduate majors in biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, and microbiology. The School of Molecular Biosciences also offers undergraduate minors in biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, microbiology, molecular biology, and pre-genetic counseling. Requirements for these majors and minors are detailed below.

At the graduate level, the school offers programs leading to the degrees of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular Biosciences. The School also offers a Professional Science Master's degree in Molecular Biosciences that can be earned either on the Pullman Campus or through WSU Global Campus. In addition the school offers a combined undergraduate degree in Genetics and Cell Biology and PSM in Molecular Biosciences.

At the undergraduate level, we expect that our graduating students will possess: 1) an understanding of the major concepts in the molecular biosciences and an awareness of how these concepts are integrated from the molecular to the organismal level; 2) the necessary critical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills, and the ability to apply those skills, to identify and solve biological problems at the cellular, molecular, and structural levels; 3) the oral and written communication skills necessary to effectively communicate key scientific findings in the molecular biosciences to both non-scientific and professional audiences; 4) the scientific literacy necessary to become an informed citizen of a diverse, ever changing, global society, and to engage in a lifetime of scientific learning; and 5) the relevant ethics education and exposure necessary to encourage the highest levels of professionalism and humanism.


The majors in the School of Molecular Biosciences provide a perfect home for the student who is interested in pursuing professional education after graduating from WSU. Our degrees have been designed to prepare students to succeed in these professional programs, as well as on the latest versions of the standardized examinations for admission to professional programs. Pre-professional students majoring in SMB are advised by a faculty member or professional advisor in the School and additionally work with a professional specialist from the Health Professions Student Center.

Students from all three SMB undergraduate majors have been successfully admitted to professional programs in human medicine, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, pharmacy, and dentistry. The Biochemistry degree is a perfect match for pre-pharmacy students and highly motivated students should consider our 7-year Fast track B.S. Biochemistry-PharmD program offered in cooperation with the WSU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Pre-veterinary medicine students can elect to pursue any SMB major, and high-achieving students should consider the 7-year Honors Fast track B.S. Microbiology to DVM program.  Students interested in either of these fast track programs should contact the School for more information.


Biochemistry is an interdisciplinary science that applies the methods and theories of chemistry to understand chemical reactions in living organisms. Biochemists seek to understand life at all levels, from individual molecules inside cells to complex interactions within ecosystems.  An undergraduate major in biochemistry will prepare you for a variety of careers including biotechnology, drug design, science policy, bioinformatics, forensics, genetic counseling, health professions, science communication, and so many more!  Biochemistry majors will be able to apply the principles of biochemistry, biophysics, and molecular biology to answer questions in a wide range of research areas including protein biochemistry, molecular biology of gene regulation, enzymatic reaction mechanisms, signal transduction, DNA repair, reproductive biology, DNA-protein interactions, plant and natural product biochemistry, and structural biology including nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and x-ray crystallography.

The program offers two curricular options leading to the Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. The biochemistry/biophysics option provides increased emphasis on chemistry, physics, mathematics, and physical biochemistry, and yields a minor in chemistry. The biochemistry/molecular biology option provides increased emphasis on molecular and cell biology.


Genetics and cell biology are interrelated sciences that are fundamental to all fields of modern biology. Undergraduates who major in genetics and cell biology will be well versed in aspects of the rapidly emerging fields of genomics, epigenetics, proteomics, bioinformatics and molecular signaling. The program affords students the opportunity to learn from and interact with scientists whose diverse research programs include the genetics of cancer and development, chromosome abnormalities, DNA repair mechanisms, stem cell biology and the biology of reproduction.  Our faculty work with a diverse group of model organisms including C. elegans, Drosophila, zebrafish, mice and rats, as well as using cell culture, plants, and microbial experimental systems.  Graduates of the degree will be prepared to work in careers that traditionally may not have required science training including: science communication, forensics, law enforcement, community outreach science organizations and science policy development.  In addition, students will be trained for positions as researchers in biotechnology companies, within healthcare and in academic institutions. This degree also prepares students for entry into graduate programs leading to Master's, Professional Science Master’s and PhD degrees in a variety of disciplines including the broad areas of molecular biology, molecular genetics and cell biology.  In addition, students will also be well prepared to enter the professions of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, genetic counseling and education.


Microbiology is both a basic and an applied science that studies microorganisms and their activities. It is concerned with their form, structure, reproduction, physiology, and identification. It includes the study of their distribution in nature, their relationship to each other and to other living things, their beneficial and detrimental effects on human beings, and the physical and chemical changes they make in their environment. Employment opportunities in industrial, government, hospital, and private laboratories and agencies are excellent for qualified graduates. Areas in which the unit is prepared to direct research include bioremediation, molecular genetics, molecular basis of cell-cell interactions and pathogen virulence, microbial differentiation, cellular immunology and the regulation of the immune response.

The Microbiology degree program offers options in either molecular biology or medical technology, leading to the Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. An additional year in an accredited school of clinical laboratory sciences is required after graduation for those interested in becoming certified clinical laboratory scientists.


A student may be admitted to a School of Molecular Biosciences major (biochemistry, genetics and cell biology, or microbiology) upon making their intention known to the department.  Please reference the schedule of studies for additional information on maintaining good standing for each major. 


A grade of C or better is required in all MBIOS courses taken to meet graduation requirements. None of these courses may be taken pass/fail.


For the Biochemistry, Genetics and Cell Biology, and Microbiology Degree Programs:  

 Before Graduating with a degree from SMB, a student will achieve these learning outcomes:


  1. Be competitive for professional and graduate studies and/or employment.


  2. Identify the modern foundational knowledge underlying Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Genetics, and Microbiology. 
  3. Recognize relevant ethical concepts related to scientific publication and research conduct.


  4. Perform basic laboratory techniques used in molecular bioscience research (e.g. light microscopy, gel electrophoresis, PCR, and protein analysis).
  5. Design, perform, and quantitatively/qualitatively evaluate the results of laboratory experiments.
  6. Locate, retrieve, and evaluate scientific information, especially primary literature, with regards to its adequacy, value, and logic.
  7. Prepare oral and written reports in standard scientific formats.


  8. Decide that studying the molecular biosciences is rewarding and relevant to everyday life experiences.
  9. Appreciate the importance of the ethical implications of scientific issues in society.


View Full Unit Information
Student Affairs Schedule of Classes Commencement Veteran's Affairs Summer Session
Office of the Registrar, PO Box 641035, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-1035, 509-335-5346,
Copyright © Board of Regents, Washington State University