Arabidopsis used as a model organism

This program explores how genetic material shapes life — from the cellular level to the population level — and prepares students to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, biomedical research, and agriculture. Genetics and genomics are at the heart of many important issues of the day, including genetic testing, genetic therapies, genome sequencing, evolution, and the genetic engineering of humans, plants, and animals.

Students who major in genetics and genomics take courses in biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and introductory genetics, and then delve into specialized genetics topics focused on humans, plants, populations, cancer, biological development, neurology, and epigenetics. They gain laboratory research experiences by taking laboratory courses and conducting independent research projects in faculty labs.

The genetics and genomics major provides a solid foundation for careers in medicine, public health, research, life sciences, agriculture, biotechnology, education, law, and science communication — in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Many students choose to pursue graduate and professional studies, including research-focused PhD programs, medical school, veterinary school, and law school. Alumni go on to be physicians, medical directors, genetic counselors, epidemiologists, research scientists, data analysts, plant breeders, veterinarians, professors, teachers, attorneys, and science writers.

Learn through hands-on, real-world experiences

All genetics and genomics majors participate in hands-on research, which equips them with real-world skills valued by graduate and professional schools and employers. In addition to laboratory coursework, students have numerous opportunities to conduct independent research in faculty labs, where they receive mentoring from faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Build community and networks

Students get to know faculty and instructors through small classes, and they can grow their networks by getting involved in student organizations or participating in undergraduate research experiences mentored by faculty. The Undergraduate Genetics Association, a club for students interested in genetics and genomics, provides professional development, volunteer, and social opportunities for members. The Pre-Genetic Counseling Organization, a club for students interested in genetic counseling, specializes in bringing counseling opportunities and information to undergraduates. Students can also participate in the Genetics and Genomics Peer Mentorship Program, which connects incoming students with those further along in their college careers.

Make a strong start

A course for first-year students introduces new majors to faculty researchers and fellow classmates, and makes campus connections. It also prepares them to work in research labs, teaches study skills needed to succeed in college, and provides peer networking opportunities.

Customize a path of study

Students have many options to pursue coursework that meets their career goals. They also may pursue Honors in Research, an option that includes conducting hands-on research in campus labs.

Gain global perspective

Majors can choose from a variety of study abroad programs including short-term field experiences, summer research opportunities and semester-long exchange programs at top universities around the world. A study abroad program in Costa Rica specifically tailored for genetics and genomics majors is typically offered each spring and is led by genetics program faculty from UW–Madison. Students can explore studying abroad as a Genetics and Genomics major by utilizing the Genetics and Genomics Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs.  

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Box for the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

Mathematics and Statistics
Complete one of the following:5-10
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry I
and Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Complete one of the following:3
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Complete one of the following:5-9
General Chemistry I
and General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Chemical Principles I
and Chemical Principles II
Complete one of the following:3-6
Elementary Organic Chemistry
Organic Chemistry I
and Organic Chemistry II 1
Complete one of the following:10
General Physics
and General Physics (recommended)
General Physics
and General Physics
General Physics
and General Physics (recommended)
Complete one of the following options:10
Option 1:
Introductory Biology
and Introductory Biology (recommended)
Option 2:
General Botany
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
Option 3:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Cellular Biology
Select two of the following labs:
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Principles of Physiology Laboratory
Core Requirements
BIOCHEM 501 Introduction to Biochemistry 23
or BIOCHEM 507 General Biochemistry I
Complete one of the following options:6
Option 1:
General Genetics 1
and General Genetics 2 (preferred)
Option 2:
Principles of Genetics (consult advisor (467 & 468 preferred))
additional 3 credit Genetics depth course (see course list below) 3
Select 2 credits from the following:2
Genetics Laboratory
Independent Study 4
Special Problems 4
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Coordinative Internship/Cooperative Education
Genetics Depth9
See course list below
Genetics Breadth6
See course list below
Select one of the following:3-9
Option 1:
Communicating Evolutionary Biology (Three-credit version only) 5
Option 2:
Developmental Genetics for Conservation and Regeneration (offered in fall semester) 5
Option 3:
Advanced Genetics (offered in spring semester)
Option 4:
Genomics and Proteomics (offered in spring semester) 5
Option 5 (must be taken concurrently):
Special Problems (offered in fall semester)
Companion Research Seminar (offered in fall semester)
Option 6 (must be taken concurrently):
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Companion Research Seminar (offered in fall semester)
Total Credits65-83

 If CHEM 343 is taken, it must be taken as a part of CHEM 343 & CHEM 345, the latter of which counts as a Genetics Breadth requirement.


 If BIOCHEM 507 is taken, it must be taken as a part of BIOCHEM 507 & BIOCHEM 508, the latter of which counts as a Genetics Breadth requirement.


Additional Depth course will not count toward the 9-credit Genetics Depth requirement.


Consult with your advisor if genetics-related research will be performed in a department other than Genetics.


May count for Genetics Depth or Capstone, but not both.

Genetics Depth & Breadth Courses


GENETICS 520 Neurogenetics3
GENETICS/​BIOLOGY  522 Communicating Evolutionary Biology2-3
GENETICS 525 Epigenetics3
GENETICS 527 Developmental Genetics for Conservation and Regeneration3
GENETICS 528 Banking Animal Biodiversity: International Field Study in Costa Rica1
GENETICS 548 The Genomic Revolution3
GENETICS/HORT 550 Molecular Approaches for Potential Crop Improvement3
GENETICS 564 Genomics and Proteomics3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  565 Human Genetics3
GENETICS 566 Advanced Genetics3
GENETICS 605 Clinical Cases in Medical Genetics3
GENETICS/​BIOCHEM/​MICROBIO  612 Prokaryotic Molecular Biology3
GENETICS/​BIOCHEM/​MD GENET  620 Eukaryotic Molecular Biology3
GENETICS/​CHEM  626 Genomic Science2
GENETICS 627 Animal Developmental Genetics3
GENETICS/​BIOCHEM  631 Plant Genetics and Development3
GENETICS 633 Population Genetics3
GENETICS/​BOTANY/​M M & I/​PL PATH  655 Biology and Genetics of Fungi3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  662 Cancer Genetics3
GENETICS/​MD GENET  677 Advanced Topics in Genetics1-3


Physical Science:
BIOCHEM 508 General Biochemistry II3-4
BIOCHEM 550 Principles of Human Disease and Biotechnology2
CHEM 344 Introductory Organic Chemistry Laboratory2
CHEM 345 Organic Chemistry II3
Integrative Biology:
BIOCORE 485 Principles of Physiology3
BIOCORE 587 Biological Interactions3
BOTANY/​ANTHRO/​ZOOLOGY  410 Evolutionary Biology3
BOTANY/​PL PATH  563 Phylogenetic Analysis of Molecular Data3
MICROBIO 303 Biology of Microorganisms3
MICROBIO 304 Biology of Microorganisms Laboratory2
MICROBIO 470 Microbial Genetics & Molecular Machines3
MICROBIO/​ONCOLOGY  545 Topics in Biotechnology1
MICROBIO 632 Industrial Microbiology/Biotechnology2
M M & I 341 Immunology3
M M & I/​PATH-BIO  528 Immunology3
PL PATH 622 Plant-Bacterial Interactions2-3
PL PATH/​ONCOLOGY  640 General Virology-Multiplication of Viruses3
ZOOLOGY/​ENVIR ST/​F&W ECOL  360 Extinction of Species3
ZOOLOGY 425 Behavioral Ecology3
ZOOLOGY 470 Introduction to Animal Development3
ZOOLOGY 555 Laboratory in Developmental Biology3
ZOOLOGY 570 Cell Biology3
Agricultural Ecosystems:
AGRONOMY/​HORT  338 Plant Breeding and Biotechnology3
AGRONOMY/​BOTANY/​HORT  340 Plant Cell Culture and Genetic Engineering3
AGRONOMY/​HORT  501 Principles of Plant Breeding3
AGRONOMY/​HORT  502 Techniques of Plant Breeding1
AN SCI/​DY SCI  361 Introduction to Animal and Veterinary Genetics2
AN SCI/​DY SCI  362 Veterinary Genetics2
AN SCI/​DY SCI  363 Principles of Animal Breeding2
HORT 500 3
PL PATH/​BOTANY/​ENTOM  505 Plant-Microbe Interactions: Molecular and Ecological Aspects3
Computational Biology:
B M I/​COMP SCI  576 Introduction to Bioinformatics3

University Degree Requirements  

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Analyze the transmission of genes and chromosomes between cells during cell division and within pedigrees over generations.
  2. Demonstrate a deep understanding of how information encoded in DNA can be mutated, epigenetically modified, transcribed into RNA, and translated for protein production, enabling this information to orchestrate the activities of cells singly or collectively throughout development in multicellular organisms.
  3. Predict the impact of the forces of mutation, natural selection, chance, and genetic recombination on the amount of genetic variation in populations at the DNA and phenotypic levels using quantitative models.
  4. Formulate research questions about the genetic control of biological processes and design experiments to answer these questions using appropriate genetic tools including model organisms.
  5. Demonstrate team-work, interpersonal and problem-solving skills to address societal, ethical and scientific issues related to genetics, and communicate their findings through written, oral and multi-media reports.

Four-year plan

Sample Genetics and Genomics Four Year Plan

First Year
CHEM 103 or 1094-5CHEM 1045
MATH 221 (or math placement)5Elective3
GENETICS 155 (CALS First Year Seminar)1COMM A Course (if needed)3
Humanities3Ethnic Studies3
 13-14 14
Second Year
CHEM 343 or 3413CHEM 345 (if CHEM 343 completed)3
STAT 371 or 3013GENETICS 299 (Independent Research)1-3
Social Sciences3Electives5
 14 14-16
Third Year
PHYSICS 103, 207, or 20124-5PHYSICS 104, 208, or 20224-5
BIOCHEM 501 or 5073BIOCHEM 508 (or elective)3-4
CALS International Studies3Genetics Depth/Breadth6
 13-14 16-18
Fourth Year
Genetics Depth/Breadth6Genetics Depth/Breadth3
Elective (research or thesis recommended)32-3Elective (research or thesis recommended)32-3
Humanities3Genetics Capstone3
 17-18 14-15
Total Credits 115-123

Students must complete at least 120 total credits to be eligible for graduation. 


Instead of ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  151 and ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY/​BOTANY  152, students can take either BOTANY/​BIOLOGY  130ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101 & ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  102, or BIOCORE 381, BIOCORE 383 & two labs (BIOCORE 382, BIOCORE 384, or BIOCORE 486). 


Physics could be taken in Second Year (consult your advisor). 


If in CALS Honors in Research. 


  • First-year students are recommended to take GENETICS 155 to fulfill the CALS first year seminar requirement. 
  • Study Abroad is an enriching experience. Check with your advisor on how you can fulfill your curriculum and study abroad. 


Each student is assigned a professional academic advisor who works to understand student goals and helps to craft a path that best suits their needs. Additionally, students receive professional and scientific mentorship through interactions with faculty, staff, and graduate students.

Career opportunities

Alumni go on to a wide variety of careers in medicine, public health, research, life sciences, biotechnology, education, law, and science communication — in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. They hold professional positions as physicians, medical directors, genetic counselors, epidemiologists, research scientists, data analysts, plant breeders, veterinarians, professors, teachers, attorneys, and science writers.


Pelegri, Francisco (chair); Brunkard, Jake; Chang, Qiang; Drummond-Barbosa, Daniela; Gasch, Audrey; Hittinger, Chris; Ikeda, Aki; Masson, Patrick; Payseur, Bret; Perna, Nicole; Pool, John; Prolla, Tom; Richardson, Claire; Schroedi, Steven; Schwartz, David; Sharp, Nathaniel; Skop, Ahna; Wassarman, David; Werling, Donna; Yin, Jerry; Zhong, Xuehua


Loewen, Carin; Tilmann, Kit; Vermillion Kalmon, Katie; Zumwalde, Nicholas


Loewen, Carin; Minor, Claire; Tilmann, Kit; Vermillion Kalmon, Katie; Zumwalde, Nicholas


Reck, Martha

Research experience

Many genetics and genomics majors conduct research in a faculty-led research lab where they receive direct mentorship from faculty, staff, and graduate students. With hundreds of faculty members on campus using genetic strategies in their labs, students have many research options.

Student organizations

The Undergraduate Genetics Association, a club for all students interested in genetics and genomics, brings in guest speakers to discuss their research and career paths; provides guidance on finding campus research and internship opportunities; holds informational sessions on jobs and careers; and hosts networking, volunteer, and social events. The Pre-Genetic Counseling Organization, for students interested in genetic counseling, hosts talks by genetic counselors, clinicians, and ethicists; informs students of advocacy opportunities; provides training in practical counseling skills; and offers networking, volunteer, outreach, and social events.

Global engagement

Genetics and genomics majors participate in study abroad programs in countries around the world, including in China, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, and Uganda. Students can find more information on the CALS study abroad advising page.

Community engagement and volunteering

Students have opportunities to engage in volunteer activities through the Undergraduate Genetics Association, including participating in campus’ annual Darwin Day science outreach event. The Pre-Genetic Counseling Organization also offers outreach opportunities.


Majors are encouraged to participate in internships. With a large biotech industry presence in the Madison area, there are many opportunities for students to participate in genetically-relevant internship experiences. Students can use these internship opportunities to complete the research requirement for the genetics and genomics major.

A rich history or genetics

Established in 1910, the UW–Madison Department of Genetics is among the oldest genetics departments in the nation and is highly regarded for its research contributions in diverse areas of the field. Many of the greatest discoveries in genetics and genomics took place at UW–Madison, including cracking the genetic code, sequencing one of the first bacterial genomes, synthesizing the first gene, and developing targeted gene knockout methods in mice.


Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about college scholarships.

The genetics department offers a Genetics and Genomics Excellence in Research Award of up to $6,000 to support undergraduate research in genetics- and genomics-related areas. There are also scholarships available for students who participate in certain genetics-focused study abroad programs.


The Center for Pre-Health Advising provides information about health careers including pre-med, pre-nursing, pre-vet, and pre-physical therapy, and offers course suggestions.