University of Wisconsin–Madison
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences | School of Medicine and Public Health

Undergraduate Program

  • Genetics In Wisconsin

    Genetics at Wisconsin

    You have your mother’s eyes and your father’s nose…

    How is it that humans or individuals of any other species tend to resemble their close relatives more than unrelated individuals? This question has always fascinated curious observers, but only after Mendel’s discovery of the basic laws of inheritance have we been able to study the transmission of genes, the hereditary factors. Since Mendel’s discovery, genetics has changed from a science in which geneticists studied the transmission of genes in a relatively few plants and animals to one which occupies a central position in the biological sciences.

    Does Genetics Fit Your Interest?

    Do you have a sharp mind and imagination? Do you have a special kind of curiosity that makes you eager to uncover hidden relationships? Are you looking for a career exploring the edges of today’s scientific knowledge? If so, a major in Genetics may be just what you are looking for.

    Putting Genetics to Work

    The Laboratory of Genetics is the oldest and one of the finest genetics centers in the nation. It is highly regarded for its research contributions in the areas of plant genetics, population genetics, developmental genetics, molecular genetics, immunogenetics, neurogenetics, cytogenetics, viral genetics, bacterial genetics, mammalian genetics, behavioral genetics, and medical genetics.

    The University of Wisconsin has inaugurated a major initiative in the area of Genomics. Genomics is a significant new field of genetics that contributes to and uses the knowledge of many biological, mathematical, and engineering disciplines. Genomics encompasses genome sequencing, functional genomics, comparative genomics, and bioinformatics.

    Undergraduate Training

    All undergraduates in the Genetics program are required to develop a strong academic foundation with many courses taken in chemistry, mathematics, physics, biology, general genetics, biochemistry and bacteriology. Students also must include advanced courses, such as cytogenetics, human genetics, microbial genetics, quantitative and population genetics, plant genetics, prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology, medical biochemistry, molecular neurobiology, clinical genetics, crop improvement, immunology, biotechnology, evolution, animal breeding, and parasitology.

    Other requirements include course work designed to develop strong written and oral communication, and course work in economics, ethnic studies, humanities, social science and international studies.

    Experience Outside of Class

    While classroom lectures and laboratories provide the foundation of your education, we offer abundant opportunities for practical, hands-on experience. For example, students can work in research labs. This interaction with nationally and internationally renowned researchers provides our students with experience in “cutting-edge” science.

    The Undergraduate Genetics Association (UGA) is a student-run organization that arranges exposure to careers in Genetics, fosters academic excellence, and provides a social network.

    Where You’ll Be Learning

    There are about 300 undergraduate students and 60 graduate students currently enrolled in the genetics program.

    The Genetics offices and laboratories are located in the Genetics-Biotechnology complex on Henry Mall. This complex houses well-designed laboratories which provide with all the equipment necessary for state-of-the-art genetic research.

    Career Opportunities

    The biotechnology industry has exploded within the last decade, providing many diverse career opportunities for our graduates. A strong background in Genetics will prepare you for research technical support, technical writing, quality control, assay development, technical services, and sales or marketing.

    Many of our graduates continue their education by pursuing an advanced degree. Our students are competitive for admission to medical schools, veterinary schools, and graduate schools throughout the country. Students may elect a Ph.D. in Genetics to prepare them for careers in research, academia, and industry. Others may elect an M.S. program for a career in Genetics Counseling.


  • Major Requirements

    In addition to fulfilling University and College of Agricultural & Life Sciences requirements, students must complete the following:

    1. Mathematics and Statistics
      1. Choose 1:
        1. MATH 221
        2. Math 171 and 217
      2. STAT 371
    2. Chemistry
      1. Choose 1:
        1. CHEM 103 and 104
        2. CHEM 109
      2. CHEM 343 and 344 and 345
    3. Physics (Choose 1, Subsets 1 or 3 are preferred)
      1. PHYSICS 103 and 104
      2. PHYSICS 201 and 202
      3. PHYSICS 207 and 208
    4. Biology (Choose 1, Subsets 1 or 2 are preferred)
      1. BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 151 and 152
      2. BIOCORE 381 and 383 PLUS any two BIOCORE labs: 382, 384, 486
      3. BOTANY 130 and ZOOLOGY 101 and 102
    5. Core Biology Requirements
      1. Choose 1  (Subset 1 preferred):
        1. GEN 467 and 468
        2. GENETICS 466 and one 3 credit Subset 1 course
      2. Choose 1:
        1. Biochem 501
        2. Biochem 507 (Must be taken as part of BIOCHEM 507 and 508 which counts below)
      3. Choose 1 laboratory experience:
        1. GEN 545
        2. GEN 299, 699, 681, 682 (consult with your advisor if genetics related research will be performed in a department other than Genetics)
        3. GEN 399
    6. Major Electives
      1. Subset 1 (Minimum of 6 credits required)
        AGRONOMY/BOTANY/HORT 339, BIOCHEM 550, GENETICS 520, 546, 548, 550,  562, 565, 607, 612, 620, 627,  631, 633, 655, 660, 662, 677, MICRO 470
      2. Subset 2
        AGRONOMY 338, 340,AGRONOMY/BOTANY/HORT 555, AGRONOMY/HORT 501, 502,BIOCHEM 508, BIOCORE 485, 487, B M I 576,BMOLCHEM 504, BOTANY 563, BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 410,DY SCI 361, 362, 363, GENETICS 522, HORT/PATH BIO 500, MICROBIO 303, 304, 545, 622, 632, 640, M M & I 341 or MICROBIO 528, PL PATH 505, ZOOLOGY 360, 410, 425, 470, 555, 570 or

    A biological science course approved by advisor (that has a strong genetics component)

    1. Choose 1 capstone experience
      1. GEN 566 (offered only in spring)
      2. GEN 564   (offered only in spring)
      3. GEN 399, 699 or GEN 681 AND Genetics 567 (must be taken concurrently; offered only  in fall semester)
  • Research Forms
  • Undergraduate Genetics Association

    The Undergraduate Genetics Association is an academic club which promotes networking, volunteer events, science outreach, career exploration, peer mentoring, social events, and research on campus. We are more than your average stop codon! Join UGA!  Visit us on Facebook!

  • Advising for Genetics Majors and other current UW-Madison students

    Our undergraduate students are advised by:

    Reck, Martha
    Senior Student Services Coordinator
    1426 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-265-9285,
    Please use Scheduling Assistant to make an appointment with Martha.

    Tilmann, Kit
    Instructional Faculty Associate
    1428 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-263-7580,
    Please use Scheduling Assistant to make an appointment with Kit.

    Vermillion Kalmon, Katie
    Instructional Faculty Associate
    1430 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-265-2865,
    Please use Scheduling Assistant to make an appointment with Katie.

    Majors are assigned an advisor, but may meet with another advisor if they choose. Advisors are not available for drop-in assistance, please schedule an appointment using the links above. If appointments are unavailable or the matter is urgent, please call or email. Current UW-Madison students with a 2.5 or above may schedule an appointment with any advisor to declare the major.

  • Advising for Prospective Students

    The College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and the Office of Admissions offer several opportunities for prospective students to learn about campus. For more information and to schedule a visit please see 

    Advisors are not available for drop-in meetings, however, may meet with prospective students via appointment.

    Reck, Martha
    Senior Student Services Coordinator
    1426 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-265-9285,

    Tilmann, Kit
    Instructional Faculty Associate
    1428 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-263-7580,

    Vermillion Kalmon, Katie
    Instructional Faculty Associate
    1430 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-265-2865,

  • Resources

    Center for Prehealth Advising
    Information for health careers including pre-med, pre-nursing, pre-vet, and pre-physical therapy including course suggestions.

    CALS Career Services Office
    Information about resume writing, interviewing, networking and other aspects of the career and job search. Job and internship listings and information about companies.

    CALS International Programs
    Information about CALS related study abroad programs.

    Study Abroad
    Information about study abroad programs.

    Resources to help undergraduates navigate the biosciences at UW-Madison including BioCommons, Engage Children in Science, Entering Research Course Series, Exploring Biology, IMPACT Peer Leaders, and Exploring Service in Science.