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Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is an undergraduate Honors biology certificate program for students who are motivated to learn biology within a small community of students, peer mentors, and faculty instructors. The four-semester curriculum of lecture and laboratory courses provides an integrated foundation of knowledge and skills applicable to any area of bioscience.

Biocore is not a major but fulfills requirements (introductory to intermediate coursework, Honors, and Communication Part B) for a variety of biological science majors including those in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Letters & Science, College of Engineering, and School of Pharmacy. See the Biocore website and video to learn more.

Unique aspects of Biocore include:

  • Small classes and high faculty/instructor contact
  • Emphasis on research, problem solving, science reasoning, group learning, and communication
  • Collaborative community of students and faculty
  • Peer mentoring, outreach, and directed study opportunities
  • Biocore Honors certificate.1

Biocore is an application-based Honors program that starts in the fall. While any UW–Madison who is admitted to Biocore can take courses and complete the program, only students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the School of Human Ecology, the College of Letters & Science, and the School of Pharmacy will be eligible to have the certificate noted on their transcript.

Application options:

1. Regular: For all students who have have completed the prerequisites and would like to begin Biocore sophomore year. Applications are available through the Biocore website. Regular application deadline is in early March prior to April registration; however, Biocore continues to accept applications right up to the start of classes (space permitting). Most students apply during the spring of freshman year and begin fall of sophomore year.

2. Freshman: for a small cohort (~10) of well-prepared students who meet the requirements and would like to begin Biocore at the start of their freshman year (see website).


Please inquire about course equivalents.

Select one of the following:5
Calculus with Algebra and Trigonometry II
Calculus and Analytic Geometry 1
Introductory Chemistry
Select one of the following:5
General Chemistry II
Advanced General Chemistry
Chemical Principles I
Total Credits10


Complete the following lecture courses (in sequence): 1
BIOCORE 381 Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics3
BIOCORE 383 Cellular Biology3
BIOCORE 485 Principles of Physiology3
BIOCORE 587 Biological Interactions3
Complete two of the following lab courses (in any order):4
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
Cellular Biology Laboratory
Principles of Physiology Laboratory
Total Credits16

residence & quality of work

  •  Minimum 3.3000 University GPA
  • Grade of B or better in all BIOCORE and courses used for the certificate


This undergraduate certificate must be completed concurrently with the student’s undergraduate degree. Students cannot delay degree completion to complete the certificate.

  1. Demonstrate a learning mindset and intellectual curiosity for biology.
  2. Demonstrate advanced level scientific reasoning and integration of biological concepts and processes – from molecules to the biosphere, across different forms of life, through space and time.
  3. Generate novel scientific questions, formulate hypotheses, carry out experiments, and make logical conclusions based on evidence.
  4. Demonstrate advanced scientific communication skills, oral and written, and the ability to translate their understanding to the broader community.
  5. Actively engage in and practice group learning, collaboration, and teamwork.
  6. Reach for and achieve high standards in the quality of learning.
  7. Articulate the value of their Biocore Honors experience.

Some majors require students to complete the whole program, but others do not. Check on your major requirements and with an academic advisor in your major.  Look on the Biocore website for how Biocore fits into many different bioscience majors. Students who plan to study abroad during their junior year can plan to start Biocore as sophomores and complete coursework as seniors.

For general academic and advising questions in Biocore, contact: Janet Batzli, Biocore interim director, jcbatzli@wisc.edu.

For questions about the student experience in Biocore, contact: Biocore peer advisors, uwbiocore.peeradvisors@gmail.com.

Janet Batzli (interim director)

Michelle Harris (faculty associate)

Seth McGee (lab manager)

Carol Borcherding (program manager)

Baila Khan (high impact practice facilitator)

Biocore faculty instructors come from departments and colleges across campus (College of Letters & Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health, College of Engineering) and bring with them different perspectives and disciplinary expertise on a whole range of topics and scales of biological organization from molecules to ecosystems. The curriculum permits students to attain a relatively high level of sophistication with complete flexibility of choice for subsequent major specialization.

Affiliated Faculty Instructors

Elaine Alarid (Oncology, SMPH)

Bill Bement (Zoology, L&S)

Paul Bethke (Horticulture, CALS)

Erik Dent (Neuroscience, SMPH)

Irwin Goldman (Horticulture, CALS)

Anne Griep (Cell and Regenerative Biology, SMPH)

Jeff Hardin (Zoology, L&S)

Evelyn Howell (Landscape Architecture, CALS)

Stephen Johnson (Comparative Biosciences, VetMed)

Trina McMahon (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engr)

Amy Moser (Oncology, SMPH)

Shelby O'Connor (Pathology, SMPH)

Biocore Committee: Jeff Hardin (director), Janet Batzli (associate director), Michelle Harris, Evelyn Howell, Amy Moser, Shelby O'Connor

The Biocore Experience is aligned with the Wisconsin Experience, supporting students’ development of knowledge, intellectual skills, and social responsibilities.

Biocore is an Honors biology program, a community, and a curriculum that challenges students to discover and reach their academic potential within a supportive biology education program. The Biocore Honors community of highly motivated students works with dedicated faculty to extend opportunities for scientific research, communication, integrative learning, and collaboration in the context of a four-semester undergraduate biology curriculum.

Students say:

“Biocore has helped me think about science in a completely different way.”

“I have never been so challenged, nor so excited about learning, as during my time in Biocore.”

“Biocore taught me how to think critically and how to question. I learned to be part of a team and made some great friendships. “

“Taking Biocore made other advanced courses in biology/biochemistry/genetics so much easier because I gained such solid background knowledge.”

“Biocore has been my most valuable academic experience yet. It has helped me develop my scientific writing skills, ability to problem solve as a member of a team, and to think like a scientist.”

“The great staff and teaching teams are excellent -- they really care and invest a huge amount of time to benefit our learning.”

See Biocore Experience video and alumni profiles.

The Biocore curriculum provides an Honors experience in introductory to intermediate level integrated biology. Students experience  small class sizes and a high instructor/student ratio all within a learning community of highly motivated and dedicated Honors students, faculty, staff, and peers. Biocore courses emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, research, scientific writing, group learning, and the process of science. In this collaborative and supportive learning community, students are also able to engage in peer mentoring, in directed study opportunities, in the Biocore Prairie, and in K–12 outreach through the Biocore Outreach Ambassadors.