cals-lifesciencescomm

The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) is one of the world’s leading science communication programs, 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. This theoretical background is a foundation to 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.

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.

Many courses in LSC have a strong professional focus, combining classroom instruction with projects that have real-world clients from industry and non-profit. Our faculty and instructors work with clients from a variety of industries and the policy world and bring those experiences into the classroom. These collaborations and projects prepare LSC students for careers in a wide variety of fields, including healthcare, digital marketing, education, media, agriculture, information technology, consumer goods, life sciences and consulting. LSC students also pursue graduate and professional school after graduation in the health, biological, social and physical sciences.

Students can also participate in an honors in major program in LSC.

Learn through hands-on, real world experiences

State-of-the-art computer labs, radio labs and video production equipment support student learning and preparation for careers.

Capstone courses provide students with an opportunity to put their LSC education into practice. Students apply their skills in the real world through these capstones, working with a real-life client on a social marketing campaign to influence behavioral change or participate in a science communication internship.

Students interested in science communication research can participate in research projects with professors leading the field of science communication.

Build community and networks

LSC instructors are world-class researchers and real-world practitioners. Many courses enroll between 15-50 students, allowing students to get to know award-winning faculty and instructors personally throughout their time in the major.

Customize a path of study

LSC is an attractive major and double major to students interested in a variety of fields including genetics, global health, environmental science, physics, legal studies, psychology and more. The LSC major is highly customizable both in terms of course selection in the major and in the ability to add majors and certificates to the LSC bachelor’s degree based on each student’s interests and career goals.

Make a strong start

LSC introduces students to the field of science communication, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the university by offering LSC 155: First Year Seminar in Science Communication, a seminar course for first year students.

Gain global perspective

LSC students often participate in study abroad opportunities around the world including places like Spain, Uganda, Denmark, England and Ecuador. Programs range from two-weeks in duration to an entire year. Learn more about studying abroad as an LSC major .

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
Print and Electronic Media Design
Misinformation, Fake News, and Correcting False Beliefs about Science
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
Brand Strategy for the Sciences
Digital Media and Science Communication
Native American Environmental Issues and the Media
Social Media Analytics
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

Students admitted to the university and to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences are invited to apply to be considered for admission to the CALS Honors Program.

Admission Criteria for New First-Year Students:

  • Complete program application including essay questions

Admission Criteria for Transfer and Continuing UW-Madison Students:

  • UW-Madison cumulative GPA of at least 3.25
  • Complete program application including essay questions

How to Apply

The application is available on the CALS Honors Program website.  Applications are accepted at any time.

New first-year students 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 receiving approval from the advisor for that major.  Transfer and continuing students may apply directly to Honors in Research or Honors in the Major (after approval from the major advisor).

Requirements

All CALS Honors programs have the following requirements:

  • Earn at least a cumulative 3.25 GPA at UW-Madison (some programs have higher requirements)
  • Complete the program-specific requirements listed below
  • Submit completed thesis documentation to CALS Academic Affairs

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 11423-5LSC 2503
CALS First Year Seminar1CHEM 103, 108, or 1094-5
Humanities Elective3Ethnic Studies3
Electives34-5Elective3
 14-17 16-17
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC 2513LSC Core Elective3
STAT 301, 371, or C&E SOC 36043-4CALS International Studies3
Biological Science Elective3Science Breadth Elective3
Humanities Elective3Electives7
Elective3 
 15-16 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 121-126
 

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

1

LSC 100 is not required for the major but is strongly encouraged for students who need to take a Comm A course. 

2

LSC recommends MATH 112 or MATH 114 for students who need to complete the university Quantitative Reasoning A requirement. 

3

Many LSC students choose to use elective spaces throughout their career to complete an additional major or certificate. Other students choose to take more LSC courses than the minimum required. Students should consult the advisor for more information and to create a personalized four-year plan based on their background, interests, and career goals. 

4

LSC strongly recommends STAT 301, STAT 371, or C&E SOC/​SOC  360 to fulfill the university Quantitative Reasoning B requirement.

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 Science Elective3
CALS First Year Seminar1LSC 2503 
Humanities Elective3CHEM 103, 108, or 1094-5 
Electives37Ethnic Studies3 
 14 13-14 3
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits 
LSC 2513LSC Core3 
STAT 301, 371, or C&E SOC 36043-4Biological Science Elective3 
LSC Core3Humanities Elective3 
Additional Science Elective3Electives7 
Electives3  
 15-16 16 
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits 
LSC Concentration3LSC Capstone3 
CALS International Studies3LSC Concentration3 
Science Breadth Elective3Biological Science Elective3 
Electives6Electives6 
 15 15 
Total Credits 91-93
 

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

1

Plan #1 assumes that students are coming to UW-Madison with approximately 29 credits from AP/IB or college transfer credits and that the University Quantitative Reasoning A requirement is fulfilled through transfer credit or placement scores. Your plan may look different depending on the number of credits you bring in. 

2

LSC 100 is not required for the major but is strongly encouraged for students who need to take a Communication A course. 

3

Many LSC students use their elective coursework to take additional LSC courses, to add one or more certificates, to add a double major, or to take other coursework to work to achieve their academic and career goals. 

4

LSC recommends STAT 301, STAT 371, or C&E SOC/​SOC  360 to fulfill the university Quantitative Reasoning B requirement. 

SAMPLE THREE-YEAR PLAN #21

First Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC 10023LSC 111 or 212 (Comm B)3LSC 2513
MATH 112 or 11433-5LSC 2503Electives6
CALS First Year Seminar1CHEM 103, 108, or 1094-5 
Humanities Elective3Ethnic Studies3 
Electives44Elective3 
 14-16 16-17 9
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
STAT 301, 371, or C&E SOC 36053-4Biological Science Elective3LSC Core3
LSC Core3Social Sciences Elective3Science Breadth Elective3
Additional Science Elective3Humanities Elective3Elective3
Electives7Electives7 
 16-17 16 9
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCreditsSummerCredits
LSC Concentration3LSC Capstone3LSC Concentration3
CALS International Studies3Biological Science Elective3Electives6
Electives9-11Electives10 
 15-17 16 9
Total Credits 120-126
 

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

1

Plan #2 assumes that you are coming to UW-Madison without credits from AP/IB or another college/university. 

2

LSC 100 is not required for the major but is strongly encouraged for students who need to take a Comm A course. 

3

LSC recommends MATH 112 or MATH 114 for students who need to complete the university Quantitative Reasoning A requirement. 

4

Many LSC students use their elective coursework to take additional LSC courses, to add one or more certificates, to add a double major, or to take other coursework to work to achieve their academic and career goals. 

5

LSC strongly recommends STAT 301, STAT 371, or C&E SOC/​SOC  360 to fulfill the university Quantitative Reasoning B requirement. 

Advising

Each LSC student is assigned to both an academic advisor and a career mentor in LSC. The academic advisor is a professional advisor who works with students on planning their coursework, as well as navigating and getting involved on campus. Current and prospective students should contact the advisor, Tera Holtz Wagner (tholtz@wisc.edu) with questions.

The career mentors are LSC faculty and instructors who provide students with another direct contact and resource in the department specifically focusing on career conversations as well as how to get involved in research as a student.

Career Opportunities

LSC alumni hold professional positions in communications, digital marketing, environmental advocacy, and research or consulting in a variety of industries including health care, media, education, agriculture, information technology and life sciences. Many pursue advanced degrees in graduate and professional programs in the health, biological, social and physical sciences.

Graduates are recognized for their skills in social media, event management, marketing, leadership, public speaking, customer service, public relations, strategic planning, research, data analysis, writing and digital video production.

LSC has a large alumni network across many industries and fields. To connect students to these networks, LSC hosts career panels during the academic year, posts alumni profiles on its website, and manages a LinkedIn group to share job opportunities and facilitate connections between alumni and students.

ProfessorS & Instructors

Botham, Sarah
Brossard, Dominique (chair)
Chen, Kaiping
Chinn, Sedona
Fisher, Madeline
Li, Nan
Newman, Todd
Scheufele, Dietram (director of academic programs)
Shaw, Bret
Stanley, Don
Xenos, Michael

Advisor 

Wagner, Tera Holtz

INTERNSHIPS

Most LSC students participate in internships during their time as undergraduates. LSC staff notify students of opportunities to apply for summer and academic year internships related to science communication and students are encouraged to discuss their goals with their career mentor. Students intern with marketing agencies, environmental and sustainability organizations, and healthcare and agricultural agencies. The Wisconsin Technology Council and Farm Journal, Inc. actively offers internship opportunities to LSC students. Read about student internship experiences.

STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS

LSC is home to both the Science Communication Club and the National Agri-Marketing Association UW-Madison chapter, and there are many additional opportunities for students to get involved with other student organizations on campus.

Global Engagement

LSC students are encouraged to gain global perspective by participating in study abroad opportunities all over the world including places like Spain, Uganda, Denmark, England and Ecuador. Students choose programs ranging anywhere from two-weeks in duration to an entire year. Learn more about studying abroad as an LSC major.

LSC offers a course introducing students to communication at the intersection of science, politics and society to provide students with an international perspective on science communication. Taught by faculty from around the world, LSC courses provide an overview of the theoretical foundations of science communication and their relevance for societal debates about science and emerging technologies across different parts of the world.

Community engagement and volunteering

LSC students often volunteer in healthcare, non-profits, advocacy agencies and more. The Morgridge Center for Public Service provides resources to help students connect with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and goals.

Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. LSC awards over $42,000 in scholarships each year to students in the department. Students apply for CALS and LSC scholarships through a single application in the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH). Learn more about college scholarships.