The Integrative Biology Graduate Program provides training in the following broad subject areas: cellular and molecular biology, developmental biology, neuroscience, physiology, ecology, evolution, and animal behavior. There is great flexibility in our graduate program to serve the diverse scholarly interests and cultures in the Department of Integrative Biology. Each student’s course of study is tailored to his or her individual interests, career goals, and needs, and we admit students with diverse academic backgrounds. The path taken by a student results from a deliberative process that involves discussions between the student and the student’s advisor and advisory committee.

The Department of Integrative Biology faculty strongly believes that graduate education should be distinguished from undergraduate education in recognition of individuality and emphasis on responsibility in graduate students. This philosophy requires flexibility and is not well served by the imposition of many formal requirements to be met by all students. Rather, more emphasis is placed on the role of advisory committees in devising programs of breadth and depth appropriate for individual students with due regard to areas outside of biology that are important for the student's effectiveness in their chosen field.

The faculty, students, and staff in the Integrative Biology Graduate Program are committed to supporting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace. We believe that each person’s identity, background, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, beliefs, and other experiences fuel the creativity and innovation that are central to scientific discovery.

Joint Degree

Doctoral students may elect a joint degree (two programs) that combines integrative biology with another biological program. The requirements for such candidates will be determined by the certification committee (which includes members of both programs) in accordance with regulations established by the Graduate School.


Facilities and staff are available for advanced study in a wide variety of biological fields including aquatic and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, cell/molecular/developmental and neurobiology, endocrinology, ethology, genetics, evolution and systematics, comparative physiology, and physiological ecology.

In addition to a broad range of well-equipped laboratories, research facilities include advanced microscopy facilities, limnological laboratories on campus (Lake Mendota) and in northern Wisconsin (Trout Lake), the University Arboretum, the Zoological Museum, and a Molecular Systematics Laboratory.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline December 1
Spring Deadline September 1
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1241.
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Given the broad nature of the program, there are no strict prerequisites for admission. Interested applicants should identify and contact potential faculty advisors. Admission to the graduate program is contingent upon being accepted by an individual faculty advisor. Applicants should contact potential faculty advisors by email early in the application process to discuss mutual interests and to determine if the faculty member is actively recruiting graduate students. For a list of all faculty members and their research interests, please see People on the department website.

In addition to the Graduate School application, all applicants must electronically submit at least three letters of recommendation, the supplemental questions, a personal statement including areas of research interest and the names of prospective faculty advisors, a CV/resume, and unofficial transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate schools attended (official transcripts will be requested upon admission to the program). For more specific instructions regarding application requirements, please see Prospective Students on the department website. Most admission decisions will be made, and applicants will be notified, by the end of March.


Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Application fee waivers are available to qualified students through the graduate school and can often be made available by the professors in the department. Financial support is available to qualified graduate students in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships.

Graduate students who have a teaching or research assistantship of at least a 33.3% appointment (approximately 13.3 hours per week) during the fall or spring semester are eligible to receive remission of full tuition. Fellowships that are payrolled through the university and that carry stipends equivalent to at least a 33.3% research assistantship also qualify for remission of non-resident tuition. Tuition remission is conditionally awarded at the start of the semester based on the expectation that actual earnings during the semester will be at least 33.3% of the full-time rate.

All students pay segregated fees. The only exception is that fellowships paid through the Graduate School have segregated fees waived in addition to tuition. Segregated fees are used for campus overhead to help pay for the exercise facilities, student unions, student organization funding, etc.

Assistantships and fellowships also provide eligibility for an excellent health insurance program, an extremely valuable benefit that provides single or family coverage that is more comprehensive than individuals can usually purchase on their own. Additionally, assistantships and fellowships provide a stipend for living expenses.

Teaching Assistantships

The most common source of support is a teaching assistantship. To receive a teaching assistantship, candidates for admission must meet the following requirements:

  • evidence (usually from the undergraduate transcript) of an appropriate background in the relevant subject matter of the course(s) to which appointment is being considered;
  • evidence (usually from letters of recommendation or verbal communication) of the candidate’s potential as a teaching assistant;
  • an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above (on a 4.0 scale); and
  • for students whose native language is not English, evidence of competence in spoken English through the SPEAK test that is administered by UW–Madison. International applicants should note that a TA appointment is not normally possible during the first year of graduate study.

Current students who apply for their first teaching assistantship are also subject to the above criteria, as well as their performance as a graduate student. Reappointment as a teaching assistant depends upon satisfactory progress as a graduate student, satisfactory performance as a teaching assistant, and completing the Equity/Diversity TA Training.

Teaching assistants may be eligible for UW–Madison teaching awards, including the Early Excellence in Teaching Award, Exceptional Service Award, Innovation in Teaching Award, Capstone PhD Teaching Award, and the College of Letters & Science Teaching Fellow Award.

Research Assistantships

Research assistantships are made possible by grants awarded to faculty for particular research programs. Recipients are selected by the individual professor concerned, and the student’s interests and experience must match the needs of the funding project. Availability of research assistantships varies.

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships (AOF) are granted to the UW–Madison Graduate School by the State of Wisconsin and are combined with other graduate education funds to support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified underrepresented students in UW–Madison graduate programs. Fellowships are competitive and merit-based. AOF funding is intended to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population, as well as to support economically disadvantaged and first-generation college students. AOF fellowships are paid through the Graduate School by the College of Letters & Science’s Community of Graduate Research Scholars (CGRS) program.

External Fellowships

Fellowships from professional societies and outside agencies provide another important source of aid for which students may apply either before or after commencing graduate work at UW–Madison. If necessary, external fellowships can often be supplemented with university funds up to prevailing university fellowship rates.

All qualified students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents are urged to apply to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Students apply directly to NSF; the closing date is usually in early November. Please check the NSF website for the application instructions and deadline.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 26 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required. Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203.
Other Grade Requirements An average record of B or better in all work taken as a graduate student is required by the Department of Integrative Biology (grades of P and S are for this purpose considered to be satisfactory at the B level; grades of Incomplete are considered for this purpose to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the following semester of residence).
Assessments and Examinations In the second semester of the first year, students must complete the Certification of Candidate for a PhD degree.

By the end of the fourth semester, students must complete the qualifying examination and return the signed qualifying examination form to the department.

The preliminary examination (defense of research project) should be completed and the prelim warrant submitted by the end of the sixth semester. Note that in addition to passing the prelim exam, students must have completed 32 credits, clear all Incomplete or Progress grades in nonresearch courses, complete all minor requirements and earn at least a cumulative 3.000 GPA in order to be granted dissertator status. The preliminary defense warrant must be requested from the department.

Defense of the PhD usually occurs after the tenth semester. A final defense warrant must be requested from the department.
Language Requirements To be determined by the advisory committee.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement All doctoral students are required to complete a doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate. Refer to the Graduate School: Breadth Requirement in Doctoral Training policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1200.

Required Courses

Students must take courses and seminars to fulfill required research credits. Specific Zoology (ZOOLOGY) courses are approved by the student's advisor or advisory committee and depend on the student's research area, interests, and goals. In keeping with the diverse areas of research and training for students in Integrative Biology, students may additionally take any courses outside of Zoology that have been identified as graduate-level ("Grad 50%" attribute) to meet this requirement.

Teaching Assistant Requirement

All students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of one semester. All students must hold a departmental seminar in which they present their graduate research.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions

With program approval, students may be allowed to transfer up to 19 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

No undergraduate coursework is allowed to transfer.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison

With program approval, 15 credits taken as a UW–Madison University Special Student are allowed toward minimum coursework requirements. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

Every graduate student is required to have an advisor and a committee. To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, every student is required to meet with the advisor and committee annually to review progress. If a progress report has not been filed by April 1, a hold will be placed on student course registration.

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

It is expected that a PhD student will defend the dissertation by the end of the fifth academic year. If this is not accomplished by the end of the summer following the sixth academic year, the student’s mentor must present a written statement to the Director of Graduate Studies that explains why the PhD has not been completed and describes plans that the student and the student’s advisory committee have agreed upon to ensure completion, including specific expectations, dates for completion, and consequences should expectations not be met. Continuation in the program beyond eight years will be at the discretion of the mentor and advisory committee. Ten years is the outside limit by which a student must complete the PhD degree.

It is up to the student’s committee to determine whether or not a student who has been absent for five or more consecutive years will lose the credit earned before the absence; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


There is great flexibility in our graduate program to serve the diverse scholarly interests and cultures in the Department of Integrative Biology. The path taken by a student results from a deliberative process that involves discussions between the student and the student's advisor and advisory committee. The department's policy is to only accept students that can be financially supported by teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and/or fellowships.

Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Department Resources

A goal for our graduate program is to provide students in Integrative Biology with diverse training that will prepare them for a range of flexible and sustainable careers (e.g., academia, industry, government, science policy and administration, science commerce, science writing, law, and science education and outreach at all levels). In consultation with their advisor and advisory committee, students can engage in professional development, teaching training (e.g., through the Delta program), internships in industry, science writing, and/or policy, and some earn master’s degrees in areas that complement their studies in Integrative Biology (e.g., biostatistics, biotechnology).

Learning Outcomes

  1. Knowledge: Demonstrate academic mastery in at least one of the broad subject areas represented in the Department of Integrative Biology.
  2. Research: Students will develop and complete original research that advances a specific field of study within one of the broad subject areas represented in the Department of Integrative Biology.
  3. Communication: Effectively communicate to diverse audiences in writing, through oral presentations, and discussions.
  4. Teaching: Effectively teach topics or research methods in Cellular and Molecular Biology; Developmental Biology; Neuroscience; Physiology; Ecology; Evolution; or Animal Behavior.
  5. Ethical Conduct: Students will have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  6. Career Preparation: Students will be provided with diverse training that will prepare them for a range of flexible and sustainable careers (e.g., academia, industry, government, science policy and administration, science commerce, science writing, law, and science education and outreach at all levels).


Please visit the Faculty and Affiliate Faculty pages on the Integrative Biology website for information about our faculty and their research areas.