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Life Sciences Communication

Administrative Unit:Life Sciences Communication
College/School: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Admitting Plans:M.S.
Degrees Offered:M.S.
Minors and Certificates:Doctoral Minor

Faculty: Professors Brossard (chair), McSweeney, Loew, Meiller, Reaves, Scheufele; Associate Professors Shaw (director of graduate studies), Shepard


The department offers the a master's degree in life sciences communication, with available research/thesis or available professional course-based tracks.

The thesis track requires 30 credits. Study programs match the interests and needs of individual students. However, all students must take a communication theory course, a research methodology course and a statistics course. The program requires a thesis based on original research.

The professional track is a course-based program (30 credits total) that is designed to prepare students for professional careers in life sciences communication and related fields. Students in this track will usually not pursue a Ph.D. program in the future. In fact, many graduate programs (including LSC) do not accept a nonthesis master's as a criterion for admission to their Ph.D. program.

Teaching and research in the department focus on science communication in the areas of emerging technologies, environment, agriculture, health, and nutrition. The department also has a strong program in international communication.

The M.S. and Ph.D. graduate programs provide advanced professional training in communication and preparation for communication research and teaching. Students in the professional track M.S. program are studying for careers in a variety of fields, including journalism, strategic communication, marketing and market research, particularly in science-related fields.

Admission to the Master's Programs 

Students must meet the minimum requirements for admission set by the Graduate School. Applicants must submit an online application, GRE scores, a statement of purpose, official transcripts of grades, a CV/resume, and three letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation should come from people who can speak to the scholarly abilities of the applicant. International applicants are required to take and attain a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. Applications are typically reviewed once a month. In order to be eligible for various fellowships and teaching assistantships, early application is recommended. For admissions information and requirements, see Graduate Studies on the department website.

Master's International Program 

This joint program with the U.S. Peace Corps coordinates graduate study with a two-year Peace Corps service commitment. Students work with faculty to develop applied research that fulfills the requirement of a thesis or creative project. 

Doctoral Minor 

The doctoral minor in life sciences communication is a course-based minor (10 credits) for students enrolled in other Ph.D. programs who would like to supplement their existing Ph.D. coursework with a minor in science communication. It is particularly valuable for graduate students in the natural and physical sciences or in engineering who are interested in the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of emerging technologies, or in communication and public attitudes about science and technology.

For more information: Kristin Haakenson, Student Services Coordinator, Department of Life Sciences Communication, Hiram Smith Hall, 1545 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706-1563, 608-262-1241, fax 608-265-3042; kahaakenson@wisc.edu; lsc.wisc.edu/masters/.