University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology (CMMB)

Bachelor of Science

(Faculty of Science)

All living organisms are either single cells or they are composed of many cells that may have different structures from each other and that may carry out specialized functions. Cellular, molecular and microbial biologists (CMMB) aim to understand the functions of single-cell micro-organisms and single-animal cells at a molecular level. For example, how are cellular processes such as movement, cell division, energy production performed by the molecules that make up cells? These are particularly fascinating problems because microorganisms can inhabit extreme environments from geothermal plumes on the ocean floor to arctic ice. Even though only a small fraction of microbial species have been identified so far, microorganisms already make up the largest group of organisms on our planet. There is obviously much to learn about their lives and their interactions with the environments that they inhabit. Although not as abundant as microorganisms, different types of animal cells function in a wide variety of specialized processes within the body of an organism. The aim of the disciplines of CMMB is to understand how the molecules within a particular cell type carry out these specialized functions.

General Admission Requirements

Dates and Deadlines

Transfer Students:

  • Transfer students must present the competitive average plus the following specified courses:

Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology

Students are required to present the following courses with a minimum grade of C- or better in each course:

  • Biology 241 and 243 (formerly 231 and 233)
  • Biology 311
  • Biology 313
  • Biology 331
  • Chemistry 201 or 211 and Chemistry 203 or 213
  • one of Mathematics 249 or 251 or 281 or AMAT 217
  • one of Mathematics 211 or 221 or 253 or 283 or AMAT 219

Why Study Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology?

As a student in CMMB you’ll get a broad perspective on diverse topics, including the function of molecules in bacteria and animal cells, the relationships between cell structure and cell function, the importance of microbes to the environment, industry and disease, and the interactions of microbes with each other and with plant and animal cells. In addition, you’ll have instruction on the molecular basis of gene regulation in microbial and animal cells, the biological features of different types of microorganisms, the molecular basis for animal development, the structure of animal cells and the functions of their internal organelles, the molecular basis for cancer and other diseases, the interaction of animal cells with microorganisms and viruses, and the application of recombinant DNA techniques to problems in basic science and biotechnology. In short, CMMB programs include the study of how bacterial cells and animal cells function, and how their functions influence our lives

Molecular biologists include scientists studying a diverse range of organisms and cellular functions in bacteria, fungi and animal cells. Despite their wide range of interests, all molecular biologists have a keen desire to understand cellular function at the molecular level. An understanding of cells at a molecular level is not only intellectually satisfying, but is a prerequisite for understanding how a cellular process can be manipulated to benefit mankind through agricultural, industrial or medical innovations. These approaches have already been applied widely by the discipline of biotechnology. For example, molecular biologists have developed methods for transferring genes from one organism into another to produce biologically important molecules that can be used in the prevention or treatment of diseases. A more complete understanding of cells at the molecular level is also necessary to understand the basis for diseases, whether they are caused by mutations inherited from one’s parents, viral or bacterial infection, or responses to environmental insults to our genetic material. Molecular biologists greatly appreciate, and are even inspired by the ingenious mechanisms that have evolved in cells to carry out specific functions, and realize that similar mechanisms are likely to have evolved as a solution to similar processes elsewhere. When warranted, molecular biologists have the ability to manipulate these processes to benefit humankind.

What do I need to get in?

You’ll need to meet the admission requirements of the Faculty of Science.

What will I study in my first two years?

All students entering programs in the Department of Biological Sciences will complete a common Biological Sciences core (20 half-courses) before selecting one of the six major programs (Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Botany, Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology, Ecology, Zoology).

The first and second years in Biological Sciences serve as the interlocked foundation for all programs offered by the Department of Biological Sciences. During these two years, you will complete the core Biology courses that are required of all Biological Science students. These courses will expose you to the diversity and unity of life and provide a foundation allowing you to appreciate the factual and conceptual context of specialized disciplines in Biological Sciences. In addition, these courses will expose you to the language of biology and a common set of tools that will allow you to analyze life from a variety of perspectives.

You will also complete supporting courses in Biochemistry, Chemistry and Mathematics during your first two years. Courses in Biochemistry and Chemistry provide you with a basis for understanding the chemical context of life. Required courses in Mathematics give you a basic understanding of calculus and/or linear algebra for application in subsequent major field courses. Throughout these two years there is a heavy emphasis on experiential learning in biology and chemistry courses.

What will I study in later years?

In your third and fourth years as a CMMB major you’ll take courses that will provide you with an understanding of the diversity of microorganisms on earth and the influence of environmental conditions on their growth and physiology. You’ll obtain experience in the culture and manipulation of microorganisms as well as begin to understand the agricultural, biological, economic and medical importance of microorganisms.

You’ll learn to to analyze scientific literature and to interpret your experimental results in the context of previous findings while developing an understanding of the experimental approaches that can be used to answer significant questions about cellular function.

Hands-on experience in the laboratory will teach you to design experiments, document data and analyze experimental results, as well as practice laboratory techniques used by cellular, molecular and microbial.

The CMMB Honours Programs extend the regular program to prepare students for additional education (M.Sc. and/or Ph.D.) leading to a research career. In addition to the courses required of all CMMB students, Honours students complete a research project under the guidance of a faculty member. Honours students are also encouraged to take 600-level seminar courses to develop an advanced understanding of topics of particular interest.

You will also have the opportunity to take courses off main campus that will enhance their undergraduate experience including exchange programs, travel study courses and field schools. You might wish to spend Fall term taking courses at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre located off the west coast of Vancouver Island, or take spring or summer courses at the Biogeoscience Institute in Kananaskis Country 80 km west of Calgary. You could also look further afield and participate in an overseas field schools offered frequently to destinations such Belize, Costa Rice, Ghana or Madagascar or embark on a term or full year exchange program to one of the U of C’s numerous partner institutions.

During your degree you are also expected to take a number of courses from outside your major field and are encouraged to take courses that will provide breadth and contribute to the interdisciplinary nature of your degree.

What can I do with my degree?

Training in Cellular, Molecular and Microbial Biology will help prepare you for employment as a medical laboratory assistant, research technician in biotechnology industries, or in cellular and molecular biology research laboratories. Depending on your choices in the final years of the program, this degree serves as an excellent preparation for professional schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and more. Many students continue their training in graduate programs.



Additional Information

Department of Biological Sciences