The UW–Madison Department of Animal Sciences consistently ranks among the best Animal Sciences departments in the country and was recently ranked #1 by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Degrees include master of science (research or academic track) in animal sciences and doctor of philosophy with a major in animal sciences or in an interdisciplinary program.

The department emphasizes in vivo and in vitro studies that probe relationships at a fundamental mechanistic level as well as addressing current practical issues in animal agriculture. Studies may often employ the use of livestock or laboratory animals, or both, as subjects. Development of an individual course of study is flexible in order to meet the needs of students with varied interests. Graduates find employment in academic teaching and research, in professional veterinary or medical degree programs, in industrial research in the food and feed industries, in laboratory research programs with governmental and international agencies, private corporations, and in industrial or institutional management positions requiring a high level of scientific training.

The department is based in the Animal Sciences Building, which contains facilities for teaching and research, including a Computing and Biometry Laboratory and the Biological and Biomaterials Preparation Imaging and Characterization Facility. Nearby are the Livestock Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility, and the Muscle Biology Laboratory. Teaching, research, and project assistantships are available to qualified students. Fellowships, scholarships, and traineeship awards are available from federal training programs, research grants, gifts and trusts, and special program funds.

Research Focus Areas

Students may choose to focus on the areas of: nutrition, rumen microbiology, aquaculture, reproductive physiology–endocrinology, genetics, animal breeding, muscle biology, meat science, cell biology, animal health, immunity and toxicology, or international agriculture. Considerable opportunity for study exists in joint programs with bacteriology, toxicology, biochemistry, the interdepartmental graduate program in nutritional sciences, genetics, endocrinology, reproductive physiology training program, food science, physiology, agricultural and applied economics, biometry, cellular and molecular biology, pharmaceutical sciences, chemical and biological engineering, bio engineering, comparative biosciences and anatomy.

The area of nutrition involves a joint degree with the Department of Animal Sciences and either the Department of Nutritional Sciences or the Department of Biochemistry. Usually, students work with professors from both departments so fundamental concepts complement practical applications. Ruminant nutrition candidates often minor or have a joint major in the Department of Bacteriology. Nutritional research ranges from field studies to laboratory biochemical studies.

The endocrinology–reproductive physiology area ranges from hormonal studies with livestock, primates, and laboratory animals to biochemical studies at the cellular level including stem cell biology. These studies include mechanism of gene action, physiological genetics, in vitro maturation, fertilization, embryo development, cloning and gene transfer, neuroendocrinology, and the environmental and genetic control of puberty and postpartum anestrus.

The genetics–animal breeding focus includes a variety of areas from immunogenetics and molecular genetics to quantitative and population genetics. The animal breeding program seeks to develop, evaluate, and apply classical, quantitative, biochemical, and physiological genetics toward improving animal breeding techniques. Studies range from theoretical considerations of quantitative genetics to laboratory experimentation on genetic controls of growth and reproduction, gene transfer and cloning to field experimentation on producer herds and flocks. Candidates may minor in several areas including genetics, statistics, physiology, or biochemistry.

Meat science and muscle biology studies probe the relationship of muscle structure, composition, and metabolism to growth, the contractile function, and meat quality. Similar studies related to adipose tissue are included. This fundamental research is applied to muscle efficiency and improved retail meat quality and composition.

The area of cellular biology, animal health, immunity, and toxicology includes basic research which seeks to develop an understanding of cellular/subcellular structure and function, cell regulation, and cell–cell interactions. Cell function, as it relates to mechanisms of immunity and the effects of natural and synthetic compounds, forms the basis for investigations using in vitro and in vivo, whole animal, model systems. Results of fundamental studies are directly applicable and coordinated with ongoing applied research programs in animal and human health.

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Courswork attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide. Courses must be agreed upon by student's graduate committee members and approved by department certification committee.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

For well-prepared advanced students, the program may accept prior graduate coursework from other institutions towards the minimum graduate degree credit and minimum graduate coursework (50%) requirement. The minimum graduate residence credit requirement can be satisfied only with courses taken as a graduate student at UW–Madison.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

For well-prepared advanced students, the program may decide to accept up to 7 credits numbered 300 or above completed at UW–Madison towards fulfillment of minimum degree and minor credit requirements. This work would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

The program may decide to accept up to 15 University Special student credits as fulfillment of the minimum graduate residence, graduate degree, or minor credit requirements on occasion as an exception (on a case-by-case basis).

UW–Madison coursework taken as a University Special student would not be allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless taken at the 700 level or above.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Contact the program for information on any additional required courses.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

Doctoral students must complete a doctoral minor.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement


Other Grade Requirements

The Graduate School requires an average grade of B or better in all coursework (300 or above, not including research credits) taken as a graduate student unless conditions for probationary status require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.


Every graduate student is required to have an advisor. An advisor is a faculty member, or sometimes a committee, from the major department responsible for providing advice regarding graduate studies. An advisor generally serves as the thesis advisor. In many cases, an advisor is assigned to incoming students. Students can be suspended from the Graduate School if they do not have an advisor.

To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

A committee often accomplishes advising for the students in the early stages of their studies.

Assessment and Examinations

Doctoral students are required to take a comprehensive preliminary/oral examination after they have cleared their record of all Incomplete and Progress grades (other than research and thesis). Deposit of the doctoral dissertation in the Graduate School is required.

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by require to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Language Requirements

Contact the program for information on any language requirements.

Students with satisfactory undergraduate training in any biological science including emphasis on basic science courses will have suitable backgrounds for graduate studies in animal science. Typically students admitted to the program have GPAs of 3.2 or higher; candidates with a lower GPA may be considered for admission under special circumstances. Admission decisions are based on academic record, GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS), if applicable.

Students are admitted to the department if a faculty member agrees to accept the candidate into his or her research group and to provide laboratory/desk space and research support, and upon the approval of the Animal Sciences Graduate Admissions Committee and the Graduate School. The faculty member also makes the decision of whether or not to offer a research assistantship to the candidate. International candidates in the master of science program rarely receive financial support.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  • Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  • Creates research, scholarship, or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  • Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  • Advances contributions of the field of study to society.
  • Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.

Professional Conduct

  • Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

Faculty: Professors Schaefer (chair), Aberle, Albrecht, Claus, Cook, Crenshaw, Gianola, Khatib, Kirkpatrick, Parrish, Reed, Richards, Rosa, Thomas; Associate Professor Sindelar; Assistant Professors Berres, Fadl