The undergraduate major in Biotechnology is a four-year program that culminates in students receiving a Bachelor of Sciences Degree (BSc). In the first two years, students develop a strong and general background in the biological sciences with an emphasis on the basic principles of genetics, molecular biology, cell biology and recombinant DNA.  All biotechnology students take a core introductory course that examines the use of biotechnology in health care, agriculture, environmental bioremediation and energy production as well as an ethics course that examines the social and legal ramifications of biotechnical advances.

In their third and fourth year, students focus their studies into one of four general areas for more in depth studies.


The numbers of microbes alive today far exceeds the number of plants and animals that ever existed and we are becoming increasingly aware of the critical role these play in human health, plant productivity and toxin degradation.  Since the dawn of civilization bacteria have played critical roles in food, wine and beer production; more recently microbes are central to the industrial manufacture of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, detergents, and a slew of other consumer products.  The vast diversity of microbes provides novel metabolism systems that are currently being examined as a way to generate novel energy resources, and clean up the environment after their consumption.


The world population recently reached 7 billion with an additional billion expected in the next ten or fifteen years. Technological advances in agriculture will clearly be necessary to feed and clothe the increasing population; biologically based solutions that do not rely on synthetic chemical inputs are particularly needed. Plant biotechnology uses genomic technologies to rapidly advance plant breeding programs as well as transgenic technologies to develop novel desirable traits. Optimizing the growth of plants engineered for clean biofuel production is another goal of plant biotechnology.


Animals are used by humans as pets, for research and as food. Animal biotechnology provides technologies to assist in each of these areas. Genomic discoveries are uncovering fascinating details about the origins of dogs, cats and other domesticated pets. The genetics of farm animals are being optimized by advanced breeding methods together with gene transfer technologies, resulting in healthier animals and more nutritious foods.


Bioinformatics is the application of computer technology to the management of biological information. Unprecedented amounts of biological data are being accumulated in massive databases, and specialized computational skills are necessary to mine and make sense of this data deluge. Students in bioinformatics take classes in both biology and computer science and graduate with a set of skills necessary to successfully participate and lead this fast moving field.


 Students who graduate from the Biotechnology major will be critical thinkers who are able to successfully translate modern biological knowledge into useful products for the betterment of society.

  1. Graduates will understand the fundamental principles of molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, gene manipulation, gene transfer, and bioinformatics
  2. Graduates will understand how biotechnology is used to make pharmaceuticals, improve agriculture, develop novel biofuels, and clean up the environment
  3. Graduates will be able to effectively work in a laboratory setting focused on biotechnological research
  4. Graduates will be able to identify, analyze and communicate ethical and sociological issues associated with biotechnological advances

Biotechnology Honors Thesis

The honors thesis in Biotechnology can be an enriching experience during your undergrad program at UC Davis, as well as a competitive edge when applying for graduate schools, careers, and professional development trainings. Below is a listed sequence of courses for the Biotechnology honors track, which should commence during Spring quarter of Junior year. Students who are already enrolled in the University Honors Program can also follow the sequence below during their 4th year of the program.

Biotechnology Honors Thesis Course Sequence

  • BIT 188 (3 units), Spring Quarter – preferably Junior year – Undergraduate Research Proposal

    Lecture/discussion—3 hours. Prerequisite: upper division standing. Preparation and review of a scientific proposal. Problem definition, identification of objectives, literature survey, hypothesis generation, design of experiments, data analysis planning, proposal outline and preparation.

  • BIT 189L (2-5 units), FWSp Quarters – Individual Research

    Laboratory—3-12 hours; discussion—1 hour. Prerequisite: course 188 and consent of instructor. Formulating experimental approaches to current questions in biotechnology; performance of proposed experiments.

  • BIT 194H (1-2 units), FWSpSu Quarters – Honors Thesis

    Independent Study—3-6 hours. Prerequisite: senior standing in Biotechnology with 3.250 GPA or higher and completion of courses 188 and 189L. Independent study of selected topics under the direction of a member or members of the staff. Completion will involve the writing of a senior thesis.