Undergraduate Program

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Genetics and Genomics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Genetics and Genomics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Many of the greatest discoveries in genetics and genomics have happened right here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, including cracking the genetic code, sequencing of one of the first bacterial genomes, synthesis of the first gene, development of targeted gene knockout methods in mice, and much more. As the first Genetics department in the nation, UW-Madison is highly regarded for its research contributions in diverse areas of genetics, a number of which have led to Nobel Prizes.

More recently, the University of Wisconsin and the Laboratory of Genetics have developed a major initiative in Genomics that incorporates many biological, mathematical, and engineering disciplines. Genomics encompasses genome and epigenome characterization, comparative genomics, functional genomics, and bioinformatics. An undergraduate degree in Genetics and Genomics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides students with high-quality educational training in a discipline that is at the heart of many issues facing society today.

Genetics and Genomics majors are well prepared to become a part of the current genetics and genomics revolution. A diverse curriculum that exposes students to a variety of courses covering the general concepts of genetics and genomics, along with specialized classes that delve more deeply into specific systems (such as Human Genetics, Plant Genetics, Population and Quantitative Genetics, etc) or biological processes (such as Developmental Genetics, Neurogenetics, Cancer Genetics, etc), and exposure to bioinformatics, statistics and other methods of quantitative trait analysis, will provide you with a solid knowledge that will help you and those around you make informed opinions and decisions in regards to genetics and genomics, their many applications for the betterment of our society, and their possible ethical implications.

Our program also offers a multitude of research opportunities in world-renowned laboratories that utilize the tools of genetics, genomics and epigenomics to study important biological questions in a variety of model organisms including bacteria, yeasts, worms, fruit flies, zebrafish, mouse, humans and plants. Additionally, a study-abroad program offers international research experience opportunities. Overall, our program will provide the foundation for exciting careers in research, medicine, education, agriculture, biotechnology, science and environmental policy, and/or science ethics.

So, if you have ever been curious about how it is that humans or individuals of any other species tend to resemble their close relatives more than unrelated individuals, how all of the information for life is contained in DNA, how it is possible that all 70 trillion cells of the human body contain the same DNA sequence, yet perform the diverse functions of complex organisms, or wondered why our eyes thankfully don’t produce the same hydrochloric acid that our stomach cells do and use to digest our food, then you too should join our diverse community and become a part of the scholarly contribution to Genetics and Genomics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond.

Major Requirements

Genetics and Genomics students complete a two-semester general genetics sequence (Genetics 467 & Genetics 468) followed by upper level specialized coursework.  Students will also complete prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, and statistics, in addition to college and university requirements. Requirements, course descriptions, and additional information can be found in The Guide.

Examples of upper level specialized coursework include: Human Genetics, Epigenetics, The Genomic Revolution, Plant Genetics, Cancer Genetics, Population Genetics, Animal Developmental Genetics, and Neurogenetics.

Undergraduate Research Experience

Undergraduate research is a pillar of UW-Madison and our research enterprise. We value undergraduate research and mentorship as part of our Genetics and Genomics major and aim to train a community of diverse scientists, scholars, and practitioners. It is an opportunity we hope all interested students can participate in to gain hands-on experience, new skills, and a network of people to enhance your Wisconsin Experience. The benefits of undergraduate research benefit you and the institution mutually.

How do I find a research lab?

There are hundreds of research labs across UW-Madison’s various schools and colleges. Genetics and Genomics majors often find lab opportunities within the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), or the College of Engineering. Our own Genetics Faculty biographies and lab information can be found here: https://genetics.wisc.edu/genetics-faculty/. If you are interested in broader research from other department or areas, here is a larger list of Genetics affiliated trainers and labs: https://genetics.wisc.edu/faculty-and-trainers/.

There is a wide variety of plant, animal, and human Genetics and Genomics research happening all across campus in new and exciting ways. If you want to look for research labs broader than Genetics, finding work related to “dementia” or “evolution”, you can search by keyword, faculty name, and other parameters here: https://discoveryportal.org/default.aspx. The Discovery Portal is a database for every single research endeavor at UW-Madison.

What’s next?

After researching labs, finding faculty, and looking for topics that relates to your interest, use that information to compile a list of faculty you will be reaching out to. The primary way is via e-mail. You will likely e-mail many faculty in this search for an opportunity. This is normal! Be consistent, polite, and have a simple message prepared.

What do I write in my e-mail to a faculty member?

  1. Share brief information about yourself (name, year, major, GPA if you’d like to share)
  2. What do you find interesting about that research lab’s work? What do you hope to gain from working in this research lab?
  3. What commitment are you willing to make: 1 semester, or longer? How many hours per week? Briefly share what time you can commit to the lab.
  4. What can you bring to the lab? It’s not expected that you have lab experience so don’t apologize for this. Instead, be positive about yourself in a sentence or two. For example, are you motivated? Responsible? Creative?
  5. Request a meeting to further discuss your fit in the lab.
  6. Attach an updated resume so they can review your other experience.

Overall be polite, do your research, and follow steps 1-6 to write a simple 1-2 paragraph e-mail to faculty. No need to write long messages! Be concise.

Then what?

You will wait for replies (hopefully), or you may get silence (quite normal, faculty are busy!). Sometimes you have to wait 2-3 weeks and send your message again, especially if it’s one of the top labs you’d like to join. The reason you made a list of faculty is because you may not get a reply or a positive outcome the first time you send your e-mails. You can repeat this process until you find a research lab to join. Continue to network, look at research lab job postings, and talk to your professors to make more connections that may help you.

Research for Credit or Research for Pay

The majority of students do research for credit, earning Independent Study credits through 299 (freshman and sophomores) or 699 (juniors and seniors). You can repeat independent study credits each semester of your experience. To gain permission for GENETICS 299 or 699, fill out the Independent Study Research Form every semester. If you are joining the lab of a non-Genetics faculty member (i.e. Plant Pathology, Biochemistry, Medicine, Oncology, Zoology, etc.) you will work with their home department administration to enroll in your credits.

*In the Genetics and Genomics curriculum we require 2 credits of lab experience which can be satisfied by 299 or 699 credits. See the Guide for more information on the requirement.

Some labs are able to pay you hourly for your work in the lab. This may be especially true if your Financial Aid package includes work-study funds. For-pay lab opportunities are most often listed on www.studentjobs.wisc.edu with further details.

Benefits of Undergraduate Research

  • Learn basic laboratory skills
  • Enhance interpersonal communication
  • Practice public speaking (lab meetings, poster sessions)

Research Forms

Independent Study Agreement Form

Please turn in by the 3rd week of the semester to ensure timely processing and enrollment. E-mail your advisor if you have questions.

Submission Drop Box for completed and signed agreement forms.

Student Life

Undergraduate Genetics Association

Undergraduate Genetics Association (fondly known by the stop codon UGA) is a student organization at the University of Wisconsin – Madison run by students under the supervision of genetics faculty. UGA typically meets biweekly in the Genetics/Biotech building on campus. The organization is open to anyone with an interest in genetics, biotech, bioethical issues, etc. At meetings, UGA often brings in guest speakers including faculty guests to share their research or professionals working with a basis in genetics or in careers with applications from genetics to talk about their career paths. Other meetings include socials like movies and rock climbing, ethical discussions, peer advising networking and resources. We encourage many opportunities for involvement, including volunteering for annual events like the Haunted House and Darwin Day.

Visit the UGA on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/groups/UGA.UWMadison/

Undergraduate Research

There are hundreds of faculty  on campus using genetic strategies in their research. Undergraduate genetics and genomics majors have the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences in these labs through mentored research experiences. They gain valuable lab, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills that will help them in their future endeavors. Many students practice presenting their research accomplishments at campus symposiums and national and international conferences. In addition, many have their research published in scientific journals.

To connect with a potential mentor, decide on a research area  and utilize the steps and resources provided on the Biocommons website to contact them.

Study Abroad

There are many study abroad opportunities offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences  and International Academic Programs . Many programs offer science coursework that can be used for degree requirements. Students have participated in programs in China, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Thailand, and Spain among others. Starting for Spring Break 2019, Genetics Professor Francisco Pelegri will lead a study abroad program in Costa Rica to study banking animal biodiversity. Students will experience local biodiversity in three diverse locations of Costa Rica while conducting team-based assessments towards global animal biopreservation efforts.

Campus Resources

Wisconsin Involvement Network

Morgridge Center for Public Service  

Tutoring and Learning Support Resources



Advising for Genetics and Genomics Majors

Advisor Contact Information

The majority of students in Genetics will be assigned to advisors based on the first letter of their last name, as follows below. To confirm, please check you’re assigned advisor via Starfish.

Claire Minor, MSc (Last names A & K-Z)
Academic Advisor
1430 Genetics Biotechnology Center, cminor2@wisc.edu
Please use the Starfish Calendar to make an appointment with Claire.

Nicholas A. Zumwalde, Ph.D (Last names B)
Teaching Faculty & Advisor
1432 Genetics Biotechnology Center, (608) 265-5405, nazumwalde@wisc.edu
Please use the Starfish Calendar to make an appointment with Nick.

Carin Loewen, Ph.D (Last names C-D)
Teaching Faculty & Advisor
1426  Genetics Biotechnology Center, cloewen@wisc.edu
Please use the Starfish Calendar to make an appointment with Carin.

Kit Tilmann, Ph.D (Last names E-G)
Teaching Faculty & Advisor
1428 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-263-7580, cetilmann@wisc.edu
Please use the Starfish Calendar to make an appointment with Kit.

Katie Vermillion Kalmon, Ph.D (Last names H-J)
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Assistant Teaching Professor, & Advisor
1424 Genetics Biotechnology Center, 608-265-2865, kvermillion@wisc.edu 
Please use the Starfish Calendar to make an appointment with Katie.

Genetics and Genomics majors should meet with their assigned Academic Advisor.

Continuing UW-Madison students interested in declaring a major in Genetics and Genomics may meet with Claire Minor or their advisor based on the above alpha split to review the program’s curriculum and next steps in declaring the major. Advisors are not available for drop-in assistance, so please schedule an appointment using the links above. If appointments are unavailable or the matter is urgent, please email or call.

Advising for Prospective Students On and Off Campus

Prospective students currently on campus may contact the Academic Advisor for Undergraduate Studies, Claire Minor (cminor2@wisc.edu) to inquire about a 1:1 meeting on campus or a virtual appointment.

For prospective freshmen and transfer 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 http://www.cals.wisc.edu/academics/admissions/visit-us/ 

Advisors are not available for drop-in meetings.

Student 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, Entering Research Course Series, Exploring Biology, IMPACT Peer Leaders, and Exploring Service in Science.

Careers related to Genetics and Genomics

Graduates with degrees in Genetics and Genomics work in many capacities, including:

  • Medicine and Public Health: medicine, physical therapy, epidemiology, genetic testing and therapy, pharmacy
  • Agriculture and Wildlife: genetic modification of foods, wildlife management
  • Computational Biology: modeling, super-computing, analysis
  • Engineering: biomedical engineering
  • Law: patent, genetic and paternity testing, DNA forensics
  • Military: soldier and pathogen identification, exposure assessment
  • Space Exploration: effects on humans
  • Bench Science: sequencing, data analysis, functional genomics, proteomics, education
  • Science Communication: writing, editing, public relations, marketing, web development

Undergraduate Fellowships

The Laboratory of Genetics will provide up to $6,000 to individual UW Genetics and Genomics undergraduate majors to support research projects in UW faculty laboratories. The funds will be administered by the student’s faculty advisor. The funds may be used for stipend, research supplies, travel to professional conferences, and other research expenses. Eligible applicants: All UW-Madison Genetics and Genomics undergraduate majors working in research laboratories on campus with a faculty research advisor are eligible. Students can receive this award only one time. Expectations: At completion of the research project, the student is required to submit a two-page project report on their findings. The students are also expected to present their research in a public forum as a poster, talk or a manuscript submitted for publication. The funds must be used within one year after the date of the award. 
Application: Applications should use the template format here and be uploaded to the following link here. The selection criterion for the award is academic excellence as documented by the student’s academic record, CV, academic accomplishments and quality of the research proposal. Application due date: March 31, 2023; Decision date: April 14, 2023