Microbes are essential for maintaining life on Earth. They comprise more than 50% of the life-forms on our planet, yet only around 1% have been identified and studied.
Infectious microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses, can attack our bodies and we rely on our immune system to protect us. Thus the relationship between microbes and immune cells is critical for our survival.
The University of Otago is the only university in New Zealand offering bachelors’ degrees in both Microbiology, and Infection and Immunity. The courses provide insights into the unseen world of microbes and the immune system, and an understanding of the practical applications arising from their study.
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Why study Microbiology?
Microorganisms are everywhere – in our bodies, our food, the air, soil, and water. Because they’re everywhere, they’re involved in almost every aspect of our lives.
They are used in producing foods such as cheese, wine, and beer, as well as many pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural products. They are important for soil fertility and the decomposition of materials, but can cause major diseases in humans, animals and plants.
The harmful effects of some microorganisms link Microbiology with Immunology. Immunologists investigate how we can protect humans and animals from infectious diseases by using vaccines, and the role of the immune system in non-infectious diseases such as cancer.
There are no first-year papers labelled microbiology or infection and immunity. Instead, you take papers relating to the biology of cells and human health that include significant coverage of these subjects.
You will also take a paper in biological chemistry, so it is helpful to have studied Year 13 Biology and Chemistry.
An Otago graduate of Microbiology and Immunology will be limited only by their imagination.
Recent developments in fields such as biotechnology, aquaculture, molecular biology, microbial genetics, immunology and medicine have increased the demand for graduates with a microbiology and immunology major. The range of job opportunities continues to expand.
Along with the traditional areas of teaching and research, graduates work in medical or veterinary laboratories and biotechnological and agricultural industries. Graduates are also employed as managers and advisers in government agencies.
Graduates with Microbiology and Immunology qualifications find employment in a wide variety of areas.
Microbiology is offered as a major for a three-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree.
We also offer the Infection and Immunity major for a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (BBiomedSc) degree. The BSc will train you in all aspects of microbiology, immunology and virology whereas the BBiomedSc emphasises biomedical subjects.
Both can also be taken at honours level, which is an additional one-year programme that includes a significant research project. The Department also contributes to the teaching of Genetics, Medical Laboratory Science, and Medicine degrees.
What will I learn?
In your first year, which covers general biology and chemistry subjects, you will learn about the diversity of microorganisms, microbial virulence, and diseases, and gain basic knowledge of the immune system and how it functions.
In your second year, specialist microbiology and immunology papers will introduce you to microbes in health and disease, immunology, applied and environmental microbiology, microbial plant and animal interactions, biotechnology, ecology, environmental microbiology, molecular genetics, and microbial genetics.
In your third year, the papers offered build on your knowledge from second year. Topics cover food production and safety, microbial disease and antibiotic resistance, the body’s response to diseases, microbial ecology, molecular microbiology, and virology.
How will I study?
First-year papers are taught through lectures and laboratory sessions and self-directed tutorials. Second- and third-year classes are also taught through lectures and laboratories but encourage more independent thinking and initiative. In your third year, you will collaborate with other students and improve your oral communication and research skills.
Laboratory classes are exciting and hands-on, with modern state-of-the art facilities. Assessment is by a combination of written examination and internal assessment.
Postgraduate study options
Fourth-year honours or PGDipSci students undertake an original research project and can continue on to further postgraduate study, such as an MSc or a PhD.
The Department of Microbiology and Immunology has a reputation for a collegial and constructive environment that enables students to achieve to the best of their ability.
Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages:
- Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
- Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons))
- Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad)
- Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci)
- Master of Science (MSc)
Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Microbiology
CELS 191 Cell and Molecular Biology
HUBS 191 Human Body Systems 1
MICR 221 Microbes to Medicine
MICR 222 Microbes in Action
MICR 223 Infection and Immunity
GENE 221 Molecular and Microbial Genetics
|300-level||Four of: |
MICR 331 Food Microbiology
MICR 332 Health Microbiology
MICR 334 Advanced Immunology
MICR 335 Molecular Microbiology
MICR 336 Applied and Environmental Microbiology
MICR 337 Virology
162 further points; must include 36 points at 200-level or above.
Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science
Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Microbiology
Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Microbiology
Master of Science (MSc) in Microbiology
|Papers and Thesis|
Minor subject requirements
Microbiology as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree
Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree
At least one of
Two 300-level MICR papers
Note: (i) Prerequisites for MICR 221 and MICR 222 include CELS 191, CHEM 191 or CHEM 111; for MICR222 include CELS191 and CHEM191; and for MICR 223 include HUBS 191.
|Paper code||Year||Title||Points||Teaching period|
|MICR221||2020||Microbes to Medicine||18 points||First Semester|
|MICR222||2020||Microbes in Action||18 points||Second Semester|
|MICR223||2020||Infection and Immunity||18 points||Second Semester|
|MICR331||2020||Food Microbiology||18 points||First Semester|
|MICR332||2020||Health Microbiology||18 points||Second Semester|
|MICR334||2020||Advanced Immunology||18 points||First Semester|
|MICR335||2020||Molecular Microbiology||18 points||First Semester|
|MICR336||2020||Microbial Ecology||18 points||Second Semester|
|MICR337||2020||Virology||18 points||Second Semester|
|MICR360||2020||Research Perspectives||18 points||Full Year|
|MICR461||2020||Molecular Microbiology||20 points||First Semester|
|MICR462||2020||Microbiology and Immunology Research||20 points||Full Year, 1st Non standard period|
|MICR463||2020||Trends in Microbiology||20 points||Second Semester|
|MICR464||2020||Medical Microbiology and Immunology||20 points||First Semester|
|MICR480||2020||Research Project||40 points||Full Year, 1st Non standard period|
|MICR490||2020||Dissertation||60 points||Full Year, 1st Non standard period|
|MICR495||2020||Master's Thesis Preparation||40 points||Full Year, 1st Non standard period|