The Molecular Life Sciences degree within the College of Arts and Sciences fills the gap between traditional Biology and Chemistry with a modern curriculum that helps students understand the molecular basis for advances in the life sciences. Many of its faculty members are nationally or internationally known, and research-active faculty teach classes in their area of expertise. The participating faculty comprises a diverse, interdisciplinary cohort dedicated to fostering the scholarship and success of students in the program.
The Molecular Life Sciences degree is a cooperative effort between the Biology and the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry departments. While the Life Sciences are broadly defined as the study of living organisms, we focus on understanding the molecular basis for life in complex organisms.
The best preparation for the major is rigorous course work in science and math at the high school level, especially in Chemistry and Biology. The B.S. degree in Molecular Life Sciences is designed to train students for a wide range of careers based in the life sciences. They may pursue post-graduate training in medical or dental school, in specialized degree programs such as pharmacy or pharmacology, or in graduate school in fields such as Biology and Biochemistry. Graduates may directly enter industrial settings such as the pharmaceutical industry or companies that produce biologics. Students who earn the Molecular Life Sciences B.S. degree possess a strong foundational training to enter any field dependent on the principles of life sciences.
Your starting point for a degree in Molecular Life Sciences is to take the following courses:
- CHEM-C 117 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I
- CHEM-C 127 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I Laboratory
- MATH-M 211 Calculus I or MATH-M 119 Brief Survey of Calculus I
Students typically take BIOL-L 112 Foundations of Biology: Biological Mechanisms in their second semester. In addition, students are encouraged to take CHEM-C 341 Organic Chemistry 1 Lectures.
Tracks and concentrations
The Molecular Life Sciences major offers two degree concentrations: the Molecular and Structural Biology track and the Developmental and Cellular Biology track. On one track, students study molecular aspects of cellular function and development of complex structures. On the other track, students build a molecular and structural foundation for processes such as DNA replication and repair, signal transduction, and protein metabolism. Each track develops a modern, molecular understanding of living systems from a distinct perspective.
Our Molecular and Structural Biology concentration helps you develop a contemporary, mechanistic understanding of living systems. In this concentration, you'll build a strong foundation in cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. You will apply molecular and structural approaches to understand protein metabolism, learn about nucleic acid metabolism and epigenetic regulation, and explore bioinformatic approaches to characterizing biomolecules. Advanced course topics like signal transduction, which is concerned with how information flows in cells, will further your understanding of the field.
Our Developmental and Cellular Biology concentration is designed for students who are interested in exciting topics in cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, and molecular biology. You will be exposed to breakthrough advances that have been made using a variety of experimental systems including bacteria, yeast, nematodes, fruit flies, frogs, mice, and plants (just to name a few). Basic principles of cell and developmental biology that have been uncovered with these model systems are coupled with an understanding of how deviations in normal function lead to human disease. Molecular mechanisms of human disorders and diseases will be an important element of the Developmental and Cellular Biology concentration.
A Molecular Life Sciences minor is available; it is grounded in coursework drawn from either track.
Upper level coursework
This degree is designed for students pursuing a life sciences curriculum that is highly focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms. Advanced courses will provide an emphasis on how alterations in cellular processes may lead to disease states. The B.S. in Molecular Life Sciences is designed for students planning on continuing their education beyond a B.S. degree, in the pursuit of an advanced M.S. or Ph.D. degree in the life sciences or professional degrees in medicine, veterinary sciences, or dentistry. Students with a B.S. in Molecular Life Sciences are also highly employable in biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries.
All Molecular Life Sciences students will complete the following two courses:
- MLS-M 420 Genome Duplication and Maintenance: This course provides molecular details of DNA chromosomes with an emphasis on DNA replication machinery, mechanisms used to control the timing of DNA replication, and molecular mechanisms used by cells for DNA repair.
- MLS-M 430 Advanced Gene Regulation: This course focuses on current understandings of how cells control gene expression, with an emphasis on protein machinery that is involved in the expression of genes. The role of chromosome epigenetic modification in regulating gene expression will also be covered in detail.
Depending on their area of concentration, Molecular Life Sciences students may choose from the following electives:
- MSL-M 388 Digital Biology: Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics
- MLS-M 410 Protein Metabolism
- MLS-M 440 Membranes and Signal Transduction
- MLS-M 450 Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer
The Molecular Life Sciences B.S. requires upper-level coursework in biochemistry, biology, organic chemistry, psychology, and neuroscience. If you choose, your studies may culminate with an undergraduate research project and an honors thesis.
Work with your academic advisor to choose upper-level elective courses that match your academic and career interests.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to combine several areas of interest with additional majors, minors, or certificates. For example, you might pursue a second degree in Neuroscience, Psychology, Biology, Mathematics, or Spanish.
Common minors for Molecular Life Sciences students include psychology, biology, medical humanities, medical sciences, biotechnology, scientific skills and research integrity, social science and medicine, and Spanish (or another language). The Explore Programs tool can help you find majors, minors, and certificate programs that fit you and your goals by allowing you to filter by interest area. Other majors, minors, and certificates can be excellent opportunities to build upon and broaden your interests. Check your bulletin for more information about these opportunities.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a degree in Molecular Life Sciences, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming first-year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
The Molecular Life Sciences program provides directed research opportunities for undergraduates in faculty research laboratories, giving you experience with cutting-edge methodologies, instrumentation, and approaches in the molecular life sciences. Indiana University is renowned for having state-of-the-art scientific research facilities. As a Molecular Life Sciences student, you will receive training from faculty and graduate students in many of our labs. Once trained, you’ll have the opportunity to assist their research or undertake your own experiments.
Molecular Life Sciences students undertaking independent research projects have access to equipment in individual faculty laboratories, as well as to numerous department-affiliated core research facilities that constitute a large investment in life sciences infrastructure on the IU Bloomington campus.
Talk with the academic advisors about your research options.
An honors program is offered to exceptional students who wish to obtain a more detailed molecular understanding of life sciences. This program is geared to students that have a clear desire to go on to graduate or professional schools.
Participants are expected to fulfill the degree requirements for the B.S. in Molecular Life Sciences and urged to enroll in special honors courses and attend seminars offered by the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and Biology Departments. Honors students are also required to participate in an undergraduate research project within a faculty research group for at least one full academic year and to write an honors research thesis. Students in this program must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.300 in the major and 3.300 overall.
High-achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The following programs and scholarships are available to incoming first-year students who are interested in research:
- Cox Research Scholarship
- Integrated Freshman Learning Experience (IFLE)
- Science, Technology, and Research Scholars (STARS)
Molecular Life Sciences students may apply for:
- College of Arts and Sciences scholarships for current students
- Hutton International Experiences Program Grant
- Hutton Research Grant
- National Science Foundation funding for undergraduates
- Office of Overseas Study scholarships
For a list of other scholarships and awards that are available, see the Office of Scholarships website.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.
Students with majors in various life sciences have found internship opportunities with the following organizations:
- American Red Cross
- Applied Behavior Center for Autism
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Beacon Health System
- Boston Scientific
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington
- Catalent Biologics
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Community Health Network
- IU Health Bloomington Hospital
- National Institutes of Health
- National Park Service
- Pathways to Science
- Proctor and Gamble
- Riley Children's Hospital
- Roche Diagnostics
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. You may also considering scheduling a 1:1 appointment with a career coach at the Walter Center to learn about internship search strategies.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Studying abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Molecular Life Sciences students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following exchange programs:
- Aix-en-Provence, France
- Canterbury, England
- Madrid, Spain
- Santiago, Dominican Republic
- St. Anne's, Oxford, England
- Wollongong, Australia
The College of Arts and Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Molecular Life Sciences faculty, with your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
Due to the sequential nature of the Molecular Life Sciences curriculum, with each course building on previous course work, leaving IU for a semester or more must be planned carefully in order to ensure that required courses are finished in a timely fashion. Summer Overseas Study programs provide a viable alternative. Your planning should be coordinated with a Molecular Life Sciences academic advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies as early as possible.
Getting involved in a student group related to the molecular life sciences will help expose you to new material and is also a great pursuit to showcase on a resume. Molecular Life Sciences students may find enrichment in one of the following organizations:
- Advocates for Science at IU
- Alpha Chi Sigma Chemistry Fraternity
- American Medical Women’s Association
- Chemistry Club
- Hoosier Health Advocates at IU (formerly Timmy Global Health)
- Journal of Undergraduate Research at Indiana University
- MEDLIFE at Indiana University
- Microbiology Club
- Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students
- Neuroscience Club
- oSTEM @ Indiana University
- Pre-Dental Society
- Pre-Optometry Club
- Pre-Physician Assistant Club
- Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science at IU
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
Residential Programs and Services at IU offers a variety of learning communities, which allow students to choose to live among peers with a common interest. Some of the following learning communities may be of interest to Molecular Life Sciences students:
For a complete list of Living-Learning Centers and Thematic Communities, visit the Residential Programs and Services website.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- CanINE Express Transport Project
- Department of Biology Community Outreach
- Department of Chemistry Community Outreach
- Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital
- IU Corps
- Monroe County Medical Reserve Corps
- Sycamore Land Trust
- WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Professional organizations are a fantastic way to start networking in the career fields that interest you. Many professional associations offer mentoring programs in addition to annual regional and national conferences with low student rates.
Molecular Life Sciences students who wish to get involved with a professional organization may be interested in:
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Institute of Biological Sciences
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - student chapters
- American Society for Cell Biology
- Genetics Society of America
- National Science Foundation
- Society for Biological Engineering
- Society for Developmental Biology
- Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Use the Indiana University Library system to search Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, nonprofit organizations, and much more.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Molecular Life Sciences B.S. degree provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Acquire knowledge of foundational molecular life science concepts
- Apply the scientific process to address molecular and cellular problems using hypothesis-driven inquiry and experimentation
- Learn modern lab techniques
- Design experiments, collect data, and use quantitative reasoning to analyze, interpret, and present data
- Participate in collaborative interactions to analyze data and solve problems
- Find and critically evaluate information on molecular life science questions and communicate that information to diverse audiences in both written and oral form
- Situate biological studies within the greater context of prior published work and identify current gaps in knowledge
- Develop expertise in a particular area of molecular life science study
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what key skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after college.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career coach.
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events. The Career Communities most closely aligned with the interests and skills associated with the Molecular Life Sciences major are the Healthcare and Wellness, Technology, Data, and Analytics, and Science and Research communities.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Molecular Life Sciences students should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q 296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Natural and Mathematical Sciences provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
The employment outlook for students with the Molecular Life Sciences degree is very bright, due to the versatility of the degree and the multitude of options for career paths. With increased focus on job growth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, there are many job opportunities for students with analytical, critical thinking, and research skills.
Molecular Life Sciences students can take their education in many directions. The skills developed through the major, including lab techniques, designing experiments, and analyzing data, can prepare you especially well for a research-intensive career or graduate program.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors, such as careers as biomedical scientists, biotechnologists, biochemists, microbiologists, clinical research associates, and industrial pharmacists. The upper-level coursework in biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, psychology, and neuroscience required for the Molecular Life Sciences B.S. degree allows students to develop advanced skills that will prepare them for a variety of careers within the sciences. This degree will also provide a strong foundation for those who desire to pursue a professional degree or an M.S. or Ph.D. degree in the life sciences.
Want to see where your fellow students go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Vocational Biographies features over 1,000 career stories of individuals in a variety of fields. The “Career Pathway” and “Career Cluster” sections let you search through common interests for specific career stories. Each story has a summary of information on the last page with job outlook, education and training, salary range, and more. Use the following username/password to log into this site: username: IndianaUniv password: zSQhK
Talk with Molecular Life Sciences faculty, your academic advisor, your career coach, and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:
- Alliance Health Project
- Cultural Vistas
- Doctors without Borders
- National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training
- Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
- Peace Corps
- Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (University of Chicago)
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- Association of Public Health Laboratories Fellowships
- Boren Awards
- Cincinnati Children's Hospital Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
- Fulbright Program
- Institute for Citizens and Scholars
- Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Post-Bachelor Fellowship
- National Science Foundation
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you will need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
A Molecular Life Sciences B.S. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as research, medicine, healthcare, biotechnology, and chemistry. If you are interested in graduate school, start thinking about your options early. To develop the skills you need for graduate study, it is important to make connections and build relationships with faculty and advisors.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
Students who pursue graduate studies in Molecular Life Sciences have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, medicine and healthcare, business and entrepreneurship, and government organizations.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:
- College + Kelley program
- Department of Biology
- Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
- O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
- School of Dentistry
- School of Medicine
- School of Optometry
- School of Public Health
The IU College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts and Sciences alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Molecular Life Sciences program attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:
- A passion for understanding how living systems function at the molecular level
- Interest in building a medical foundation to understand the basis for disease, or for creating next-generation drugs tailored to patients based on an individual's genome or lifestyle
- Interest in the precise molecular mechanism of critical biological processes
- Desire to apply their knowledge to solving problems in health-related settings.
Here are some of the areas that typically interest Molecular Life Sciences students:
- Human health and medicine
- The relationship between DNA metabolism and cancer
- Stem cell development and function
- Bioinformatic approaches to understanding molecular function
- Applications for whole genome sequencing
- Connecting cellular architecture to disease
- Applying RNA sequencing to understanding cellular dysregulation
- Biological model systems to understand human physiology and disease
- Protein translation, folding, and degradation
- Basic research to understand complex biological processes
- Precision medicine
Contact the Molecular Life Sciences academic advisors and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address