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College of Letters & Science

Biology Core Curriculum

Important Note
Suggested Sequence of Courses

345 Noland Hall, 250 North Mills Street, Madison, WI 53706; 608-265-2870; www.biocore.wisc.edu

Biocore Committee: Hardin (director), Batzli (associate director), Branchaw, Harris, Howell, Moser

Undergraduate advisor: Janet Batzli, 363 Noland Hall, 608-263-1594

Faculty diversity liaison: Michelle Harris, 307 Noland Hall, 608-262-7363

The Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is a cross-college, undergraduate honors biology program. It is a four-semester sequence of introductory to intermediate level courses that provides a broad foundation and in-depth, integrated background for students interested in any area of biological science. Biocore is not a major but fulfills some or all of the biology requirements for a variety of biological science majors, including many in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Letters & Science, College of Engineering, and Education.

Unique aspects of Biocore include:

  • Heavy emphasis on problem solving, critical thinking, research, writing and the process of science
  • Integration and continuity of course work that builds over four semesters
  • Smaller class sizes and high instructor to student ratio
  • Group learning and the development of a collaborative, supportive learning community
  • Peer mentoring, outreach, and directed study opportunities

Instructors come from departments and colleges across campus (College of Letters & Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, School of Medicine and Public Health) 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 thus offers an integrated approach to biology and permits students to attain a relatively high level of general sophistication with complete flexibility of choice for subsequent specialization.


The Biocore curriculum consists of four courses intended to be taken in sequence starting in the fall of sophomore year (typically): Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics (301, 302); Cellular Biology (303, 304); Organismal Biology (323, 324); and Biological Interactions (333). Students planning on following the Biocore sequence should not take other introductory biology courses. There is extensive overlap in the contents of the various introductory courses, and most majors will not allow credit for both. Chem 104 or 109 or 115 and Math 221 or 217 (or equivalent) are prerequisites for the sequence, and students should take these courses in their freshman year.

All Biocore courses are taken for honors credit and are challenging. However, it is not necessary to be in the honors program to participate in Biocore.

Visit the Biocore website for more program details.

Important Note

Students wishing to enroll in Biocore must download an application from the Biocore website and submit it to the Biocore office, 345 Noland Hall, by mid-March the preceding spring (deadline may vary). For most students, this means applying in the spring semester of the freshman year. The admissions committee will notify those admitted before registration in April. Late applications will be accepted as space allows. Call the Biocore office for further information.

Prerequisites into the Biocore program are (1) Math 221 (first-semester calculus), (2) Chem 104, 109, or 115 (introductory chemistry), (3) concurrent (fall) or previous registration in Chem 343 (organic chemistry). Please inquire about course equivalents.

Example Sequence of Biocore and Related Courses

Students who are majoring in programs that require chemistry course work should check with an academic advisor to obtain the most current information. Students who plan to study abroad during their junior year can plan to start Biocore as sophomores and complete coursework as seniors.

Freshman Year—First Semester

Chem 103, 109, or 115
Math 114, 171, or 221

Freshman Year—Second Semester

Chem 104 or 343
Math 221, 222, or 217

Sophomore Year—First Semester

Biocore 301, 302
Chem 343 or 344, 345
Stats 301 or  371

Sophomore Year—Second Semester

Biocore 303, 304
Chem 344, 345
Physics 207

Junior Year—First Semester

Biocore 323, 324
Biochem 501 or 507
Physics 208

Junior Year—Second Semester

Biocore 333
Biochem 508