cals-lifesciencescomm

The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) is a world leader working at the intersection of science, media, and society. The LSC major teaches students how to understand the way we all make sense of increasingly complex scientific breakthroughs that we often know little about. This theoretical background allows them to learn to more effectively communicate about controversial science topics in areas such as the environment and natural resources, health, agriculture, and new science technologies like gene editing and artificial intelligence.

LSC allows students to pursue an individualized curriculum focusing on strategic communication, writing, marketing, visual communication, or digital media with an emphasis on the sciences. Key to the education that LSC students receive is a combination of theoretical grounding and state-of-the-art practical applications. Students receive instruction across multimedia platforms such as print, audio, video and web. They are taught how to target and create communications for both news and marketing. Most important, they learn how to plan strategically and implement the most effective communications for diverse audiences.

Our faculty study a broad range of science communication issues critical to the future of our state, nation, and global community. Examples include combating invasive species to preserve environmental integrity, how risk perceptions influence public opinion of controversial science topics, and how businesses, universities, and non-profits can better work with consumers and citizens to ensure that we use science to society’s benefit. Our instructors are a mix of world-class researchers and real-world practitioners of regional or national profiles.

The interdisciplinary education that LSC graduates receive make them highly sought after by employers across both scientific and communication industries. Many go on to careers in science writing, digital media and marketing, public health, environmental advocacy, and research in industry, non-profits and the government. Others go on to graduate and professional schools in the health, biological, social and physical sciences.

Approximately 30% of our students choose to double major or pursue a certificate in areas such as genetics and genomics, dairy science, physics, environmental science, legal studies, global health and more, to complement what they learn in LSC.

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 under the Advising and Careers tab.

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

Courses may not double count within the major (unless specifically noted otherwise), but courses counted toward the major requirements may also be used to satisfy a university requirement and/or a college requirement. Students must have a minimum of 15 credits within the LSC major that do not double count with CALS or university “general education” requirements.

Math and Statistics Foundation

LSC strongly recommends that all students complete MATH 112 Algebra or MATH 114 Algebra and Trigonometry to complete the university Quantitative Reasoning A requirement and either STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods, STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences or SOC/​C&E SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I which would complete the university Quantitative Reasoning B requirement.

Required Courses

Foundation Course
LSC 111 Science and Technology Newswriting3
or LSC 212 Introduction to Scientific Communication
Core
LSC 250 Research Methods in the Communication Industry3
LSC 251 Science, Media and Society3
Select two of the following:6
Marketing Communication for the Sciences
Introduction to Digital Video Production
Feature Writing
Print and Electronic Media Design
Visualizing Science and Technology
Information Radio
Concentration within the Major
Select 6 credits from one of the following concentrations:6
Communication Strategy
Communication Skills and Technologies
Capstone
LSC 515 Social Marketing Campaigns in Science, Health and the Environment3
or LSC 640 Case Studies in the Communication of Science and Technology
Total Credits24

Concentrations within the Major

Communication Strategy

This concentration focuses on the skills and theory necessary to effectively communicate with audiences in the life sciences context, while satisfying the long terms strategic goals of an organization. The concentration includes courses in marketing, strategic and risk communication, and data analysis.

Select two of the following:6
Social Media for the Life Sciences
Theory and Practice of Integrated Marketing Communication
Contemporary Communication Technologies and Their Social Effects
Native American Environmental Issues and the Media
Health Communication in the Information Age
Risk Communication
Data Analysis in Communications Research

Communication Skills and Technologies

This concentration focuses on the skills required to translate organized information into informative and persuasive messages for a variety of media, such as writing, documentary photography, social media, web design and video production.

Select two of the following:6
Communicating Science with Narrative
Social Media for the Life Sciences
Documentary Photography for the Sciences
Web Design for the Sciences
Advanced Video Production

Honors in the Major

Admission to the Honors Program is not competitive provided students meet the required admission criteria.

Admission Criteria for New Freshmen:

  • In the upper 10% of their high school graduating class
  • ACT score of 28 or higher
  • SAT score of at least 1240

Admission Criteria for Transfer and Continuing UW-Madison Students:

  • UW-Madison cumulative GPA of at least 3.25

Highly motivated students can apply for admission to the program in the absence of these requirements by including a letter with their application addressed to the Honors Dean in 116 Agricultural Hall explaining why they should be in the program.

How to Apply

Apply to the program online or request an application in the Office of Academic Affairs, 116 Agricultural Hall. Applications are accepted at any time.

New freshmen with accepted applications will automatically be enrolled in Honors in Research. It is possible to switch to Honors in the Major in the student’s first semester on campus after meeting with the advisor for that major by completing the application form and selecting Honors in the Major. Transfer and continuing students may apply directly to Honors in Research or Honors in the Major (after meeting with the major advisor).

How to Cancel Participation

Students who are no longer interested in pursuing Honors should contact the CALS Honors Program Manager (see the contact box for CALS Honors Program). Students may cancel their participation at any time, and this will not be noted on the student’s transcript.

Honors in the major in life Sciences Communication: Requirements

Students may apply for admission to Honors in the Major in Life Sciences Communication (LSC) at any time but are strongly advised to apply before their junior year.  Interested students are encouraged to meet with the LSC advisor with any questions about Honors in the Major in LSC.

  • 24-28 credits of coursework, as outlined in the chart below.
  • For the 15 credits of LSC coursework taken for honors credit:
    • Students must earn at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA in this coursework.
    • It is the student's responsibility to enroll in honors sections or to select honors optional in order for courses to count toward Honors in the Major.
    • Thesis and Independent Study credits do not count toward the required 15 credits of LSC honors coursework.
  • Complete a senior honors thesis and present the thesis at the CALS Undergraduate Research Symposium or another public venue.
Required Coursework
STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods3
or STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
or C&E SOC/​SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I
LSC 289 Honors Independent Study2
or LSC 299 Independent Study
or LSC 699 Special Problems
LSC 681
LSC 682
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
4-8
15 credits of LSC coursework taken for Honors credit15
Total Credits24-28

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. Specialized knowledge in theoretical and applied communication of science and technology, along with an education broad enough to meet the challenges of changing careers and opportunities.
  2. The ability to think critically and creatively: to synthesize, analyze, and integrate ideas for decision making and problem solving.
  3. The ability to communicate effectively across media and a broad range of audiences.
  4. A global perspective; an appreciation for the interdependencies among individuals and their workplaces, communities, environments, and world; and an understanding of the interrelationships between science and society.
  5. The ability to work with others in small or large groups, to recognize civic and social responsibilities, and to appreciate the uses of public policy in a democracy.
  6. A respect for truth, a tolerance for diverse views, and a strong sense of personal and professional ethics.

Four-year plan

Sample Life Sciences Communication Four-Year Plan

First Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC 10013LSC 111 or 2123
MATH 112 or 11423LSC 2503
First Year Seminar1Chemistry4-5
Humanities Elective3Ethnic Studies3
Electives34-5Elective3
 14-15 16-17
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC 2513LSC Core Elective3
STAT 301, 371, or CE SOC 36043International Studies3
Biological Science Elective3Science Breadth Elective3
Humanities Elective3Electives7
Elective3 
 15 16
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC Core Elective3LSC Concentration3
Social Science Elective3Biological Science Elective3
Electives9Electives9
 15 15
Fourth Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC Concentration3LSC 515 or 6403
Additional Science Elective3Electives12
Electives9 
 15 15
Total Credits 121-123

This Sample Three-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it —along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools — to make their own three-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests.

Three-year plans may vary considerably from student to student, depending on their individual preparation and circumstances. Students interested in graduating in three years should meet with an advisor as early as possible to discuss feasibility, appropriate course sequencing, post-graduation plans (careers, graduate school, etc.), and opportunities they might forgo in pursuit of a three-year graduation plan.

These three-year road maps below are designed to provide an example of how a student could complete their B.S. in Life Sciences Communication within three years. One plan assumes you are entering college with 29 credits from Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or college transfer courses, including fulfilling UW-Madison's Quantitative Reasoning A requirement through credit or placement scores.  The other plan assumes you are entering without bringing in outside credits. Your specific program of study could, and probably will, look different. You should customize the road map to fit your unique path at UW–Madison. Consult with your advisor about the best path for you.

Sample Three-Year Plan #1 1

First Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC 100 (Comm A)23LSC 111 or 212 (Comm B)3Social Sciences Elective3
First Year Seminar1LSC 2503 
Humanities Elective3Chemistry4-5 
Electives36Ethnic Studies3 
 13 13-14 3
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits 
LSC 2513LSC Core3 
LSC Core3Biological Science Elective3 
STAT 301, 371, or CE SOC 36043-4Humanities Elective3 
Additional Science Elective3Electives6 
Electives3  
 15-16 15 
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits 
LSC Concentration3LSC Capstone3 
International Studies3LSC Concentration3 
Science Breadth Elective3Biological Science Elective3 
Electives6Electives6 
 15 15 
Total Credits 89-91

SAMPLE THREE-YEAR PLAN #21

First Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC 10023LSC 111 or 212 (Comm B)3LSC 2513
MATH 112 or 11433LSC 2503Electives6
First Year Seminar1Chemistry4-5 
Humanities Elective3Ethnic Studies3 
Electives44Electives3 
 14 16-17 9
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC Core3Biological Science Elective3LSC Core3
STAT 301, 371, or CE SOC 36053-4Social Sciences Elective3Science Breadth Elective3
Additional Science Elective3Humanities Elective3Electives3
Electives7Electives7 
 16-17 16 9
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC Concentration3LSC Capstone3LSC Concentration3
International Studies3Biological Science Elective3Electives6
Electives9-11Electives 10 
 15-17 16 9
Total Credits 120-124

Advising

Current and prospective students should contact the advisor, Tera Holtz Wagner (tholtz@wisc.edu), with questions. Declared majors are required to meet with the advisor at least once per semester prior to registration.

Careers

The interdisciplinary education that LSC graduates receive make them highly sought after by employers across both scientific and communication industries. Many go on to careers in science writing, digital media and marketing, public health, environmental advocacy, and research in industry, non-profits and the government. Others go on to graduate and professional schools in the health, biological, social and physical sciences.

We encourage you to check out our website to view recent alumni features. 

Professors

Brossard (chair), Meiller, Scheufele (director of academic programs), Xenos

Associate Professors

Shaw, Shepard

Assistant PROFESSORS

Chen, Chinn, Li, Newman

Faculty Associates

Botham, Fisher, Stanley

Lecturers

Nelson, Still

Studying Abroad

LSC majors can find study abroad and internship abroad opportunities on the International Academic Programs and International Internship Program websites. Travel opportunities range from one to two weeks to an entire academic year, and many students pursue volunteer, research or internship opportunities while abroad.

INTERNSHIPS

LSC notifies majors of abundant opportunities to apply for summer and academic year internships related to science communication. Students intern with marketing agencies, environmental and sustainability organizations, and healthcare and agricultural agencies. The Wisconsin Technology Council and Farm Journal, Inc. actively offer internship opportunities to LSC seniors. 

LSC Capstones are Service-Learning Courses

All LSC seniors can select their final capstone course from either LSC 515 or LSC 640. LSC 515 Social Marketing Campaigns in Science, Health and the Environment partners with a real-life client to create a strategic marketing campaign for issues of social significance, such as environmental conservation. Students in LSC 640 Case Studies in the Communication of Science and Technology participate in internships throughout the semester that put their communication skillset into practice for science and technology organizations.