Updated 09/25/05

Contact: Webmaster



MG Overview

Molecular Genetics

College of Biological Sciences


What is Molecular Genetics?

The molecular genetics major is concerned with current knowledge of the molecular nature of genes, their roles in controlling the function and development of organisms, their inheritance, and their evolution. The research and teaching interests of the faculty range over all areas of genetics as well as molecular, cellular, and developmental biology.

The common focus is on the role of genes and the use of molecular and genetic techniques in each of these areas. The goal of molecular geneticists is to get a better understanding of basic biology and to apply that knowledge to practical problems such as medicine, plant and animal breeding, and conservation. The Department of Molecular Genetics emphasizes studies on eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi, and protists), although most of the basic principles apply to prokaryotes (bacteria) as well.

Career Opportunities in Molecular Genetics

Molecular geneticists with a BS degree often work as laboratory technicians. They are in demand to work on research projects in universities. Federal and state government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, Department of Agriculture, and Environmental Protection Agency hire molecular geneticists to work on a variety of applied research problems. In the private sector, agricultural and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly hiring molecular geneticists to apply their skills to genetic engineering as well as classical breeding programs. The new and growing biotechnology industry is largely based on the expertise of molecular geneticists.

Many molecular genetics majors go to medical or other professional schools. The major program is rigorous and molecular genetics is an important area in modern medicine. Also well-qualified majors are encouraged to participate in the faculty's research programs. As a result, molecular genetics majors have been quite successful in gaining entrance to professional schools.

Many molecular genetics graduates go on to graduate school. A few of these get an MS degree, which qualifies them for higher-paying laboratory technician jobs. Most go directly to the PhD program. Molecular geneticists with a PhD are widely employed by government and industry to design and supervise research and development projects. Nearly all colleges and universities have molecular geneticists on their faculties, teaching and doing research. Molecular geneticists with a PhD plus one or more years of postdoctoral research training are eligible for faculty positions at research-oriented universities like Ohio State.

High School Preparation

The molecular genetics major has no special requirements for high school preparation beyond what is needed for admission to the university. However, students with a good science background will be especially well prepared for the major.

How to Major in Molecular Genetics at Ohio State

There are no formal requirements for declaring the molecular genetics major. However, students with a strong interest and aptitude for science, as reflected in good grades, are most likely to succeed in the major. In order to complete the major and graduate in four years without undue difficulty, students need to complete the background course requirements before the Autumn Quarter of their junior year (two quarters of introductory biology, chemistry through two quarters of organic chemistry with laboratory, and mathematics through calculus and analytic geometry). These courses are prerequisites for the core sequence (Biochemistry 511, Molecular Genetics 605, 606, 607 and 608) which must be taken in that order in the Autumn, Winter, and Spring quarters of the junior year and Autumn and Winter quarters of the senior year.

Molecular Genetics and USAS Advisors

Molecular Genetics majors, like all students in the Colleges of the Arts & Sciences, have two advisors to help with course selection and academic issues. One is an Undergraduate Student Academic Services (USAS) academic counselor. He or she is a full-time professional and generalist, who advises on the General Education Curriculum (GEC), special academic and career opportunities, graduation requirements, university policies and procedures.  USAS counselors also make referrals to campus support services.  Meeting with USAS counselors are by appointment only but a counselor is usually available for QUICK questions by telephone (614) 292-6961.

Your departmental adviser is a faculty member in the department who does advising in addition to teaching and research.  You should consult this person on issues related specifically to your major.

Molecular Genetics Requirements

Required background courses

  • Biology 113 (H115), 114 (H116)
  • Chemistry 121, 122, 123
  • Chemistry 251, 252; 245 or 254; 246 or 255
  • Mathematics 148, 150, 151, 152
  • Physics 111 (131), 112 (132), 113 (133)

Required major core courses

  • Biochemistry 511, or 613 and 614
  • Molecular Genetics 605, 606, 607, 608
  • Molecular Genetics 601 or 602

Major Electives

At least three additional hours from courses taught by the Department of Molecular Genetics. Another 15 hours of biology courses must be taken from those offered by the Department of Molecular Genetics or from a list of approved courses offered by other departments. This last option gives students the flexibility to take courses required for admission to professional schools.

More About Molecular Genetics

In 1992 the American Association for the Advancement of Science conducted an opinion poll of members, asking what scientific specialty holds the greatest promise over the next decade. “Genetics” or “molecular and cell biology,” or both, were listed most often by biologists, medical scientists, social/behavioral scientists, chemists, and physicists/astronomers--even more often than their own specialties. Genetics was ranked second in frequency from engineers and earth scientists. Only math/computer scientists failed to include one of the specialties of the molecular genetics department among their most-mentioned hot pursuits; however, they mentioned “biotechnology” second most often. A number of molecular genetics faculty work in the biotechnology area.

For More Information

Contact Dr. Gregory Booton, Coordinating Advisor, Department of Molecular Genetics, 984 Biological Sciences Building, 484 West 12th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1292; 614/292-4570, or leave a message at the department office, 614/292-8084.