LSC faculty and graduating seniors at the LSC graduation reception

LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting students filmed their final story presentations as a way to help them critique their performances.

LSC students and Director of Graduate Studies at the LSC scholarship reception

Undergraduate

Major Overview

The Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) is a global leader in the research and practice of communicating emerging science. Our faculty work 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 that we often know little about. Our students graduate with a strong theoretical background in science communication and practical experience which allows them to more effectively communicate about controversial science in areas such as gene editing, the environment, health, agriculture, and artificial intelligence.

An LSC degree allows students to pursue an individualized curriculum focusing on strategic communication, (computational) communication research, writing, marketing, visual communication, or digital media, with an emphasis on emerging science and technology. Close to half of our students choose to double major or pursue a certificate in areas such as genetics and genomics, dairy science, environmental sciences, physics, legal studies, global health and many other fields.

The interdisciplinary education that LSC graduates receive make them highly sought after by employers across both scientific and communication industries. Many go on to careers in public health, science writing, digital media and marketing, environmental advocacy, and research or consulting in industry, non-profits and the government. Others go on to graduate and professional schools in the health, biological, social and physical sciences. For more information on what LSC alumni are up to, check out our alumni page on our website.

Life Sciences Communication Major Requirements:

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Foundation (3 credits)

Students must choose one of the following: 

LSC 111: Science and Technology Newswriting
LSc 212: Introduction to Scientific Communication

Core (12 credits)

All LSC students are required to take both of the following courses: 

LSC 250: Research Methods in the Communication Industry
LSC 251: Science, Media and Society

Students must also choose 6 additional elective credits from:
LSC 270: Marketing and Communication for the Sciences
LSC 314: Introduction to Digital Video Production
LSC 320: Feature Writing
LSC 332: Print and Electronic Media Design
LSC 350: Visualizing Science and Technology
LSC 360: Information Radio

Concentration (6 credits)

Students must choose 6 credits from one of the following concentrations: 

Communication Strategy
Focuses on the skills and theory necessary to effectively communicate with audiences in the context of the sciences, while satisfying the long-term strategic goals of an organization. This concentration includes courses in advertising, social marketing, and risk communication.

LSC 432: Social Media for the Life Sciences
LSC 435: Theory and Practice of Integrated Marketing Communication
LSC 440: Contemporary Communication Technologies and Their Social Effects
LSC 444: Native American Environmental Issues and the Media
LSC 617: Health Communication in the Information Age
LSC 625: Risk Communication
LSC 660: Data Analysis in Communications Research

Communication Skills and Technology
Focuses on the skills required to translate organized information into informative and persuasive messages for a variety of media, such as news writing, documentary photography, web design, and video production.

LSC 430: Communicating Science with Narrative
LSC 432: Social Media for the Life Sciences
LSC 450: Documentary Photography for the Sciences
LSC 532: Web Design for the Science
LSC 614: Advanced Video Production

Capstone (3 credits)

Students must also choose one of the following capstone courses, taken in their final semester of study. 

LSC 515: Social Marketing Campaigns in Science, Health and the Environment
LSC 640: Case Studies in the Communication of Science and Technology

For a full list of undergraduate degree requirements, including college and university requirements, please visit the Guide.

Students interested in exploring the LSC major should consider the following:

  • Take an LSC class, here are some initial recommendations but feel free to contact an LSC advisor to determine which course(s) might be the best fit for your interests and requirements.
    • LSC 155: First-Year Seminar in Science Communication
    • LSC 212: Introduction to Science Communication, fulfills Comm B requirement
    • LSC 251: Science, Media & Society, fulfills Humanities/Social Science, LAS-Intermediate, CALS International Studies requirement
  • Meet with an LSC advisor to discuss your interests and determine if LSC is a good fit for your academic and career goals. Current UW-Madison students can set up an advising appointment using Starfish and students not currently enrolled at UW-Madison can e-mail the advisor at lifescicomm@cals.wisc.edu with questions.

Students who would like to declare the LSC major:

  • Students can declare their major as LSC at SOAR or current UW-Madison students can set up an advising appointment with an LSC advisor using Starfish
  • Note: Students with “senior standing” cannot declare the major. Students must be enrolled in the major for three semesters before they graduate. Senior standing equals 86 or more cumulative credits taken as an undergraduate student (e.g. AP credits do NOT count against you).

Advising & Mentoring

Each LSC student is assigned an academic advisor in LSC and a faculty/instructor career mentor. The academic advisor is a professional advisor who works with students on conversations about their coursework, getting involved on campus, and serves as an overall resource for navigating campus.

The faculty/instructor career mentor program provides students with another direct contact and resource in the department specifically focusing on career conversations and getting involved in research. Students are welcome to contact other faculty and instructors for advice, and we hope that having a permanent, assigned mentor will help students feel more comfortable reaching out to a faculty/instructor for career advice.

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.

Admission to Honors in the Major

Admission to the Honors Program is not competitive provided students meet the required admission criteria.

Admission Criteria for New Freshmen:

  • In the upper 10% of their high school graduating class
  • ACT score of 28 or higher
  • SAT score of at least 1240

Admission Criteria for Transfer and Continuing UW-Madison Students:

  • UW-Madison cumulative GPA of at least 3.25

Highly motivated students can apply for admission to the program in the absence of these requirements by including a letter with their application addressed to the Honors Dean in 116 Agricultural Hall explaining why they should be in the program.

Interested students should first contact the LSC advisor for more information on the application process.


Requirements for students pursuing Honors in the Major in LSC: 

  • 24-28 credits of coursework including:
    • STAT 301, STAT 371 or C&E SOC/SOC 360 (3 cr)
    • LSC 289, LSC 299 or LSC 699 (2 cr)
    • LSC 681 and LSC 682 (4-8 cr)
    • 15 credits of LSC coursework taken for Honors Optional 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.

For more information on enrolling in LSC courses for Honors Optional credit, visit this webpage.

Research

Students interested in exploring opportunities to participate in science communication research and/or writing a senior thesis are encouraged to discuss this interest with their assigned faculty/instructor career mentor or another research professor in LSC.

Students interested in getting involved in research are also encouraged to consider the Honors in Major program. Information on Honors in Major is included in the tab to the left.


Internship-for-credit

The LSC department, faculty, and advisors highly encourage internship experience. For interested students, LSC offers the opportunity to pursue credit for a communications related internship through enrollment in LSC 399. Students should keep in mind that enrolling in credits for an internship is not required and tuition is charged for these credits in the same way they are for other courses. You can count up to eight academic internship credits toward your required 120 credits to graduate. LSC allows a maximum of four internship credits per semester, including summer. For each credit you enroll in, you must work 80 hours on site with your internship.

Your first step is to speak with the LSC advisor to determine if your internship is eligible for internship credit. If your internship is eligible, you must work with both your LSC advisor and your internship supervisor to complete the necessary paperwork. Internship enrollment requires the completed paperwork to be turned into your LSC advisor by the end of the first week of the semester.


Independent/Directed Study Credits

There are limited opportunities to enroll in independent study credits in the LSC undergrad major. Independent study opportunities should first be discussed with your LSC academic advisor. Independent Study enrollment is treated like a regular class, e.g. for a 3-credit independent study enrollment, the estimated amount of student work is 8-10 hours per week, including independent work and weekly meetings with the instructor.

LSC is the home to two student organizations, the National Agri-Marketing Association and the Science Communication Club.

The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) provides a hands-on approach to marketing and communications in a way that many other organizations don’t. Not only do members have the opportunity to participate in Marketing Team, they also build professional skills through resume workshops, study tours, working at World Dairy Expo and Professional-NAMA events. There are many opportunities to network with industry professionals through these events. In addition, NAMA helps students create lifelong friendships through many of our activities and social events.

Connect with NAMA on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to learn more about their meetings and upcoming events!


Science Communication Club is a student organization for any student at UW-Madison who is interested in science communication or wanting to learn more about science communication. It’s also a way to meet other students interested in science communication, learn about related research/job opportunities, hear from LSC faculty members/experts in the field, and take part in professional development. 

Contact the club via email at scicommclub@gmail.com or follow them on Instagram for meeting information!

Where can I find a list of classes?
A list of LSC courses is provided in the Guide.

What are the summer courses that LSC offers?
A list of the LSC online summer courses can be found here.

Is there a specific course sequence I should follow?
Not necessarily, but you do need to take an introductory science writing course (LSC 111 or 212) before taking more advanced courses in the major. Additionally, LSC 250 and 251 are prerequisites for some other classes. You will work closely with your advisor to better understand when courses are taught, how often they’re taught, and when you’ll likely be able to enroll.

What resources (classrooms, labs, and studios) does LSC have?
In addition to one regular classroom, LSC has two computer labs (with dual boot Mac and PC machines) and three radio labs.

Is financial aid available?
Yes, financial aid is available through the University of Wisconsin Office of Student Financial Aid.

Are scholarships available?
Yes, LSC is committed to recognizing student excellence. Students apply for scholarships using the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH). CALS announces the scholarship application “open date” every November and the deadline is typically late January or early February.

What can I do with my LSC major?
A degree in LSC prepares students for a variety of communication opportunities. Learn more about the diverse and interesting career paths of LSC graduates.

When should I meet with my advisor?
You can meet with your advisor anytime throughout the year. However, you should schedule an appointment to talk with your advisor specifically about classes/enrollment/your DARS/etc. as soon as the LSC course schedule is released. Students schedule appointments with the LSC advisor using the Starfish app in MyUW.