cals-lifesciencescomm

The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) prepares students for careers as professional communicators in scientific and technical fields or for graduate and professional school. Scientific areas of expertise include the environment and natural resources, health and nutrition, agriculture, new technologies and social sciences. LSC is a world leader in science communication and our instructors are a mix of world-class researchers and real-world practitioners of regional or national profiles.

Graduates of the program are highly sought after by employers across both scientific and communication industries. 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. 

Students can choose to pursue LSC as a stand-alone major but many choose to add an additional major and/or certificate(s) to complement what they learn in LSC. Examples of double majors and certificates pursued by our students include biology, dairy science, genetics and genomics, environmental studies, political science, business and global health. 

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. Specific requirements for all majors in the college and other information on academic matters can be obtained from the Office of Academic Affairs, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, 116 Agricultural Hall, 1450 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-3003. Academic departments and advisors also have information on requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies and Science), 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.

Mathematics and Statistics
Select one of the following (or placement exam recommended to fulfill the CALS Quantitative Reasoning Part A requirement):3-5
Algebra
Algebra and Trigonometry
Select one of the following (recommended to fulfill the CALS Quantitative Reasoning Part B requirement):3-4
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Statistics for Sociologists I
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 Credits30-33

Concentrations within the Major

Communication Strategy

Communication Strategy 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; it includes courses in advertising, social marketing, and risk communication.

Select two of the following:6
Advertising in the Life Sciences
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

Communication Skills and Technology Concentration:  focuses on the skills required to translate organized information into informative and persuasive messages for a variety of media, such as newswriting, documentary photography, publications editing, 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

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

Freshman
FallCreditsSpringCredits
MATH 11213LSC 111 or 2123
COMM A Course3Chemistry4-5
Humanities Elective3Humanities Elective3
Electives6Social Sciences Elective3
 First-Year Seminar1
 15 14-15
Sophomore
FallCreditsSpringCredits
LSC 2503LSC 2513
LSC Elective3LSC Elective3
Math or Statistics3-5Ethnic Studies3
Electives6Science Elective3
 Elective3
 15-17 15
Junior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Comm-B3Concentration Course3
Biological Science Elective5Electives12
Electives6-7 
 14-15 15
Senior
FallCreditsSpringCredits
International Studies3Concentration Course3
Electives9Electives12
Select one capstone course:3 
 
 
 15 15
Total Credits 118-122

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.

Our graduates secure communications positions in areas like advertising and marketing, public relations, writing, and digital media in industries related to health, agriculture, biotechnology and the environment. Many students also go on to graduate or professional school in the social, biological or physical sciences. We encourage you to check out our website to view recent alumni features. 

Professors

Brossard (chair), Meiller, Scheufele, Shepard

Associate Professor

Shaw

Assistant PROFESSOR

Newman, Stenhouse

Faculty Associates

Botham, Stanley

Lecturers

Flaherty, Nelson, Smith, 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.