The comparative biomedical sciences (CBMS) graduate program emphasizes an integrated approach to contemporary biology that combines molecular and cellular techniques with the analysis of complex whole animal systems. Faculty provide exceptional graduate and undergraduate interdisciplinary research training opportunities in core areas of animal and human health including immunology, molecular and cellular biology, physiology, neuroscience, genomics, oncology, virology, medical technology, infectious diseases and toxicology and pharmacology. They also contribute extensive public services, both nationally and internationally, within related faculty disciplines.

The graduate program serves as a focal point for graduate research training in the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and is administered by the Department of Pathobiological Sciences. Trainers in CBMS have their tenure homes in all four departments of the School of Veterinary Medicine as well as in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS),  the School of Medicine and Public Health, the College of Engineering, and the  College of Letters & Science. Faculty in the CBMS program also serve in or interface with other campus training programs including bacteriology, biocore, cellular and molecular biology, endocrinology and reproductive physiology, medical microbiology and immunology, molecular and environmental toxicology, and the Primate Center.

Currently, there are approximately 85 faculty trainers in the comparative biomedical sciences program. Affiliate faculty outside the School of Veterinary Medicine have their tenure homes in the Departments of Anatomy, Animal Sciences, Biochemistry, Dermatology, Entomology, Human Oncology, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Medicine, Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Population Health Sciences, Radiology, and Surgery. The program is currently comprised of approximately 50 graduate students, most of whom are pursuing the Ph.D. degree. The program is recognized as a premier research and graduate training program for students with or without a degree in veterinary medicine.

Most graduate students receive financial support through fellowships, research assistantships through their major professor, and/or National Research Service Awards. Faculty in the program are PIs for four Training Grants (Parasitology and Vector Biology Training Program, Comparative Biomedical Sciences Research Training for Veterinarians, and Research Training for Veterinary Medical Students) for which students with the appropriate background and credentials may compete.

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.

Master’s Degrees

M.S., M.S./DVM dual degree

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least 50% of credits applied toward the graduate degree credit requirement must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students may transfer no more than 6 credits of advanced graduate coursework from other institutions. These courses may not be used toward the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Residence Credit. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students may count up to 6 credits of advanced undergraduate coursework from UW–Madison in lieu of or in combination with credits transferred from another institution. These courses must meet the Graduate School’s criteria as graduate coursework and may not be used toward the 50% graduate coursework requirement unless taken at the 700 level or above.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students may count up to 6 credits of coursework numbered 400 or above taken as a UW–Madison Special student in lieu of or in combination with credits transferred from another institution or as a UW–Madison undergraduate. 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. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

8 to 15 credits maximum for fall and spring; 2 credits required in summer if student is supported as RA, TA, or PA. International students supported by government scholarships need not register for summer.

Program-Specific Courses Required

Two semesters of Pathobiological Sciences Student Seminar (PATH-BIO 930).

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

Students must earn a B or above in all major coursework.

Probation Policy

A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in the student being placed on academic probation. If a semester GPA of 3.0 is not attained during the subsequent semester of full or part-time enrollment the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School.

Advisor / Committee

All students must have an advisor prior to final admission. A thesis committee consisting of three members, the advisor plus one program trainer and one outside member, must be chosen by the end of the first semester. The third member may be a scientist, industry expert or faculty from another institution.

Assessments and Examinations

After the committee is chosen, the student must submit certification paperwork that details the intended coursework plan, the committee members’ names and signatures, a short explanation of why they were chosen and an appended research plan. Certification plans will be reviewed and approved by the program academic committee.

Students are expected to meet with their committee at least once per year until degree completion.

Candidates are required to author a thesis based on original work, or, at the option of the major professor and with the approval of the thesis committee, the equivalent in the form of a substantial paper suitable for publication. The thesis or paper must be approved by the student's committee at least two weeks prior to the final examination.  A final public presentation, followed by an oral exam in front of their committee and official deposit of the thesis with the Graduate School is not required.

Time Constraints

Certification should be completed by the end of the first semester of enrollment.

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five 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, but that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.


Required Courses

PATH-BIO 930 Advanced Seminar
Master's students must register for two semesters of PATH-BIO 930 Advanced Seminar and present once during their second semester. They must take the course pass/fail if not presenting and must attend a minimum of 75 percent of the seminars led by students.

Ph.D. students must register for four semesters of PATH-BIO 930 Advanced Seminar and present twice after their first two semesters. PhD students will take the course pass/fail unless they are presenting. Both presentations must be completed prior to passing to dissertator status. Students must attend a minimum of 75 percent of the student-led seminars.

Approved and Recommended Courses

The following is a list of core courses taken by many students and recommended courses that are appropriate to specific research areas. These courses are suggestions only; the student and their committee ultimately decide the best coursework plan for each student's specific program, with final approval from the program's academic committee. Students are responsible for determining that the coursework chosen meets the Graduate School's criteria for graduate work.

Recommended Course
SURG SCI 812 Research Ethics and Career Development2
Any other science-based ethics course
Core Courses
These courses are chosen by many students to fulfill their major coursework plan
GENETICS 466 Principles of Genetics3
PATH-BIO/​HORT  500 Molecular Biology Techniques3
PATH-BIO/​M M & I  773 Eukaryotic Microbial Pathogenesis3
BIOCHEM 501 Introduction to Biochemistry3
BIOCHEM/​GENETICS/​MICROBIO  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology3
BIOCHEM/​GENETICS/​MD GENET  620 Eukaryotic Molecular Biology3
BIOCHEM/​PHMCOL-M/​ZOOLOGY  630 Cellular Signal Transduction Mechanisms3
ZOOLOGY 570 Cell Biology3
PATH 750 Cellular and Molecular Biology/Pathology2-3
PATH 751 Cell and Molecular Biology of Aging3
Statistical Methods for Bioscience I
and Statistical Methods for Bioscience II
Courses from which Students Build Disciplinary Strength
PATH-BIO 512 Introduction to Veterinary Epidemiology2
POP HLTH/​SOC  797 Introduction to Epidemiology3
POP HLTH 802 Advanced Epidemiology: Etiology and Prevention3
AN SCI/​DY SCI  434 Reproductive Physiology3
COMP BIO 551 Veterinary Physiology A (fall)4
COMP BIO 506 Veterinary Physiology B (spring)4
ZOOLOGY 611 Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology3
ZOOLOGY/​AN SCI/​OBS&GYN  954 Seminar in Endocrinology-Reproductive Physiology1
Infectious Disease and Immunology
PATH-BIO 510 Veterinary Immunology3
PATH-BIO 514 Veterinary Parasitology3
PATH-BIO 517 Veterinary Bacteriology and Mycology4
PATH-BIO 513 Veterinary Virology2
PATH-BIO/​M M & I/​MICROBIO  528 Immunology3
PATH-BIO/​M M & I  750 Host-Parasite Relationships in Vertebrate Viral Disease3
M M & I 701 Infection and Immunity I4
PATH-BIO/​M M & I  773 Eukaryotic Microbial Pathogenesis3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  720 Advanced Immunology: Critical Thinking3
M M & I/​MICROBIO/​PATH-BIO  790 Immunology of Infectious Disease3
COMP BIO 505 Veterinary Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology3
ZOOLOGY/​PSYCH  523 Neurobiology3
NTP/​PHMCOL-M/​PHYSIOL  610 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience4
NTP/​ANATOMY/​PHMCOL-M/​PHYSIOL/​PSYCH  611 Systems Neuroscience4
NTP/​NEUROL  735 Neurobiology of Disease2
Toxiocology and Pharmacology
COMP BIO 555 Veterinary Toxicology2
ONCOLOGY 675 Advanced or Special Topics in Cancer Research1-3
ONCOLOGY 703 Carcinogenesis and Tumor Cell Biology3
PATH-BIO 513 Veterinary Virology2
BIOCHEM/​M M & I  575 Biology of Viruses2
ONCOLOGY/​MICROBIO/​PL PATH  640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  750 Host-Parasite Relationships in Vertebrate Viral Disease3

Admission is competitive. Applicants must hold a B.S., DVM., M.S., M.A. or M.D. from an approved institution and have a strong background in biology and chemistry. Applications are judged on the basis of previous academic record, graduate record exam (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, and the personal statement. Before admission, most students must be accepted by an eligible program faculty member who agrees to serve as the major professor. A limited number of students may be offered rotations.

Knowledge and Skills


  • Articulates, critiques, or elaborates the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry and/or schools of practice in the field of study.
  • Articulates sources and assembles evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  • Assesses and/or applies methodologies and practices in the field of study.
  • Articulates challenges involved in practicing the field of study, elucidates its leading edges, and delineates its current limits with respect to theory, knowledge, and/or practice.
  • Appreciates the implication of the primary field of study in terms of challenges, trends, and developments in a social or global context.


  • Demonstrates abilities to apply knowledge through critical thinking, inquiry, and analysis to solve problems, engage in scholarly work, and/or produce creative products.
  • Evaluates, assesses or refines information resources or an information base within the field.
  • Communicates clearly in styles appropriate to the field of study.

Professional Conduct

  • Recognizes and applies ethical conduct and professional guidelines.

Faculty: See Comparative Biomedical Sciences faculty list.