Scientist in a white lab coat looking through a microscope accompanied by colorful screen images on computer monitors in the background.

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 (SMPH), 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 over 100 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 55 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.

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 June 1
Summer Deadline December 1
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required but may be considered if available.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

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.

Historically, most students start in the fall semester. 

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

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 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 Graduate School Requirements

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

Major Requirements


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.


Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 16 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Details can be found in the Graduate School’s Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) policy (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
This program follows the Graduate School's policy:
Other Grade Requirements Students must earn a B or above in all coursework.
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 must be submitted to the student’s committee two weeks before the final exam. A final public presentation, followed by an oral exam in front of their committee are required. Official deposit of the thesis with the Graduate School is not required.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required Courses

  • 9 didactic credits.
  • Master's students must register for two semesters of PATH-BIO 930 Advanced Seminar and present once during their second semester. MS students will take the course P/S/U (Progress/Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) if not presenting.
  • 19 (minimum) research 990 credits

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
BIOCHEM 501 Introduction to Biochemistry3
BIOCHEM/​GENETICS/​MICROBIO  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology3
BIOCHEM/​GENETICS/​MD GENET  620 Eukaryotic Molecular Biology3
ZOOLOGY 570 Cell Biology3
PATH 750 Cellular and Molecular Biology/Pathology2-3
PATH 751 Biology of Aging2
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
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  528 Immunology3
PATH-BIO/​M M & I  750 Host-Parasite Relationships in Vertebrate Viral Disease3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  720 Advanced Immunology: Critical Thinking3
COMP BIO 505 Veterinary Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology3
ZOOLOGY/​PSYCH  523 Neurobiology3
NTP/​NEURODPT  610 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience4
NTP/​NEURODPT/​PSYCH  611 Systems Neuroscience4
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/​PL PATH  640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  750 Host-Parasite Relationships in Vertebrate Viral Disease3

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 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.

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.

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.


This program follows the Graduate School's Probation policy.


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 a member of the faculty from UW-Madison or from another institution.


15 credits

Time Limits

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

This program follows the Graduate School's Time Limits policy.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

If a student feels unfairly treated or aggrieved by faculty, staff, or another student, the University offers several avenues to resolve the grievance. Students’ concerns about unfair treatment are best handled directly with the person responsible for the objectionable action. If the student is uncomfortable making direct contact with the individual(s) involved, they should contact the advisor or the person in charge of the unit where the action occurred (program or department chair, section chair, lab manager, etc.). For more information see the Graduate School Academic Policies & Procedures: Grievances & Appeals:

Procedures for proper accounting of student grievances:

  1. The student is encouraged to speak first with the person toward whom the grievance is directed to see if a situation can be resolved at this level.
  2. Should a satisfactory resolution not be achieved, the student should contact the program’s Grievance Advisor or Director of Graduate Study to discuss the grievance. The Grievance Advisor or Director of Graduate Study will facilitate problem resolution through informal channels and facilitate any complaints or issues of students. The first attempt is to help students informally address the grievance prior to any formal complaint. Students are also encouraged to talk with their faculty advisors regarding concerns or difficulties if necessary. University resources for sexual harassment, discrimination, disability accommodations, and other related concerns can be found on the UW Office of Compliance website.
  3. If the issue is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student can submit the grievance to the Grievance Advisor in writing, within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  4. On receipt of a written complaint, a faculty committee will be convened by the Grievance Advisor to manage the grievance. The program faculty committee will obtain a written response from the person toward whom the complaint is directed. This response will be shared with the person filing the grievance.
  5. The faculty committee will determine a decision regarding the grievance. The Grievance Advisor will report on the action taken by the committee in writing to both the student and the party toward whom the complaint was directed within 15 working days from the date the complaint was received. 
  6. At this point, if either party (the student or the person toward whom the grievance is directed) is unsatisfied with the decision of the faculty committee, the party may file a written appeal. Either party has 10 working days to file a written appeal to the School/College.
  7. Documentation of the grievance will be stored for at least 7 years. Significant grievances that set a precedent will be stored indefinitely. 


All students must be accepted by a major professor in the CBMS Graduate Program before they can be fully admitted to the program.

Graduate School Resources

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

  1. Articulates, critiques, or elaborates the theories, research methods, and approaches to inquiry and/or schools of practice in the field of study.
  2. Articulates sources and assembles evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in the field of study.
  3. Assesses and/or applies methodologies and practices in the field of study.
  4. 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.
  5. Appreciates the implication of the primary field of study in terms of challenges, trends, and developments in a broader scientific context.
  6. Demonstrates abilities to apply knowledge through critical thinking, inquiry, and analysis to solve problems, engage in scholarly work, and/or produce creative products.
  7. Evaluates, assesses or refines information resources or an information base within the field.
  8. Communicates clearly in styles appropriate to the field of study.
  9. Recognizes and applies ethical conduct and professional guidelines.

Faculty: See Comparative Biomedical Sciences faculty list.