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College of Letters & Science


Requirements for the Major
Committee Major
Honors in the Major
Additional Information
Note on Introductory Courses

132 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI 53706; 608-262-1057; www.botany.wisc.edu

Professors Baum, Cameron, Fernandez, Gilroy, Givnish, Graham, Spalding, Sytsma, Waller (chair), Zedler; Associate Professors Ane, Emshwiller, Hotchkiss, Larget, Otegui; Assistant Professor Maeda

Undergraduate advisor in the major: Ken Sytsma, 250 Birge Hall, 608-262-4490, kjsytsma@wisc.edu.

Undergraduate advisor in the major for honors: Professor Bret Larget, 241 Birge Hall, 608-265-6799.

Senior Thesis Coordinator: Professor Ken Sytsma, 250 Birge Hall, 608-262-4490. Majors will eventually choose from the faculty a Senior Thesis advisor, who then will be the student's undergraduate advisor. Prospective majors should contact the general advisors directly.

Faculty diversity liaison: Professor Eve Emshwiller, 321 Birge Hall, 608-890-1170.

The Department of Botany provides an introduction to the living world: the diversity of its organisms; its historical origins through evolution; its principles of structure, function, and ecology; and its interactions, relationships, and effects on the nonliving world. Botany is the science of plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria—all living organisms except animals. Green plants and algae provide the photosynthetic energy for fueling all other life on earth and drive global water and carbon cycles. Fungi and bacteria are the fundamental recyclers of the earth.

The study of botany provides a broad background in the principles of modern biology and gives a solid foundation for careers in environmental studies, conservation biology, ecology, systematics, evolution, genetics, physiology, biotechnology, agriculture, and horticulture. Jobs requiring such preparation include teaching in secondary schools and colleges, research and development in industry and medicine, stewardship of our natural world through private and governmental programs, and research and teaching in academia.

Undergraduates interested in majoring in botany should take an introductory course or course sequence in their freshmen or sophomore years.Option A (Botany 130 with or without Zoology 101/102) is strongly recommended, but Option B (Botany/Zoology/Biology 151–152) or Option C (Biology Core Curriculum) is also appropriate. The general undergraduate botany advisor will help guide students to a botany faculty member in their field of interest, who should be chosen as soon as possible—no later than the junior year. All botany faculty members serve as advisors for their special fields.

The department encourages undergraduates to participate in its activities. Volunteers are welcome in the herbarium and greenhouses. There are a few paid positions there and in many of the research laboratories as well.

Requirements for the Major

Prospective botany majors should consult with the general undergraduate botany advisor by the beginning of the junior year to outline a course of study appropriate to the student's needs. Major Declaration forms may be obtained in the department office.

To be accepted as a major in botany, a student must have a grade point average of 2.5 for all science courses taken during the freshman and sophomore years.

General Requirements
  • 30 credits of approved courses, to include courses that count toward the L&S requirement of at least 15 credits of upper-level work in the major completed in residence. All courses numbered 300 and above, except 350, count toward this requirement.
  • An elementary course or course sequence. Botany 130 (Option A) is strongly recommended. In addition to Botany 130, Zoology 101 and 102 (3 or 5 credits) will count towards the 30 credits of the Botany Major but are not required. In addition, Botany/Zoology/Biology 151–152 (Option B) or Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) (Option C) may be used. No more than one introductory course or course sequence may be applied towards the major.
  • 5 credits of Botany 130 may be applied if students complete one semester of Biocore, but only 3 credits of Botany 130 may be applied if two or more Biocore courses are taken.
  • All courses required for the major must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Majors are also required to complete an independent research project. This can take any of two forms:
    1. Senior Thesis. Students enroll for 4 to 6 credits of Senior Thesis (Botany 691 and 692) or 6 credits of Senior Honor Thesis (Botany 681 and 682) over a period of 2 semesters, typically in their senior year.
    2. Senior Composition. Students enroll for 2–4 credits of Directed Study (Botany 699) in order to complete an independent research paper based on primary literature in an area selected in consultation with an advisor. This should occur during one of their last 3 semesters.

Conceiving, executing, and writing a research project under any of these options represents a valuable experience central to the scientific enterprise. Juniors must plan ahead to meet this requirement by actively seeking appropriate research opportunities with their advisor or another suitable faculty supervisor in advance. Students wishing to count courses similar in spirit and content from another department or university should make such requests in writing to the Senior Thesis Coordinator (Professor Sytsma) before their final year.

Specific Requirements

In addition to fulfilling university and L&S requirements, students must fulfill the following requirements for the botany major.

Students preparing for graduate school are strongly advised to take the recommended courses, which are usually required for entry into post-undergraduate programs.

1. Mathematics

One intermediate level course in statistics/probability (Statistics 301 or 371)
Recommended: one calculus course (Math 211 or 221)

2. Chemistry

General Chemistry (Chem 103–104, or Chem 109)
One semester of organic chemistry (Chem 341 or 343)
Recommended: organic chemistry sequence (Chem 343, 344, & 345)

3. Physics

One semester of physics (not Physics 107 or 109; Physics 115 is the best choice if one course is to be taken)
Recommended: two semesters of physics (Physics 103/104 or 201/202 or 207/208)

Biology Courses

The total number of credits in sections 4, 5, and 6 must equal at least 30.

4. Introductory Biology

Option A: General Botany (Botany 130); Zoology 101 with or without Zoology 102 (3–5 credits) will count towards the Botany Major
Option B: Introductory Biology (Botany/Zoology/Biology 151 and 152)
Option C: Biocore (Biocore 301 and 303 and two lab courses from 302, 304, 324)

5. Botany

Genetics (Botany/Genetics/Zoology 466 or Biocore 333 or Agronomy/Horticulture 338)
An intermediate or advanced course in four of the following five areas:
Plant Structure (Botany 300 or 305)
Ecology (Botany 455, 460)
Plant Physiology (Botany 500 or Biocore 323 & 324)
Cryptogamic Botany (Botany 330, 332, 360 or Microbio 303)
Systematics (Botany 400, 401, 422, or 474)
Recommended: courses in all 5 five of the above areas; Biochemistry 501; Zoology I/A courses up to 5 credits of which will count toward the major – no more than 5 credits of Zoology will count toward the major including Zoology 101/102 and I/A courses.

6. Independent Research Experience

4–6 credits of Senior Thesis (Botany 691 & 692) or 6 credits of Senior Honors Thesis (Botany 681 & 682); or
2–4 credits of Senior Composition as Directed Study (Botany 699).

Committee Major

The occasional student needing to design a specialized program should discuss forming a committee major with the chair of the botany department no later than the junior year. The committee must include at least three staff members, from three different sections within the department. The program must include 30 credits in botany and courses in at least four of the six areas of botany listed in 5.

Honors in the Major

The Honors in the Major track in Botany is intended for students who are eager to experience the excitement of original research and who wish to graduate with the best possible undergraduate training in the discipline. Honors in the Major is especially appropriate for students who are considering graduate work in plant biology or who want an especially rigorous training in research, reasoning, and writing skills useful to a wide range of career choices. Students should consult with the departmental honors coordinator and departmental advisor to determine the best way to fulfill honors requirements and how to make the most out of the Honors in the Major experience in the field.

To earn the B.A. or B.S. degree with Honors in the Major in Botany, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major in sections 1 through 5 above, and the following additional requirements:

  • Take 12 credits for honors in botany courses (sections 4 and 5) (in addition to the Senior Honors Thesis), including at least one upper-level course (numbered 300 or above, but not including Botany 681–682).
  • Maintain a GPA of 3.4 or greater for courses within the major and an overall GPA of at least 3.3 in all courses taken at UW–Madison at the time of graduation.
  • Take 6 credits of Senior Honors Thesis (Botany 681 & 682).

Students should check with the department honors advisor, Professor Bret Larget, at least once a year to seek guidance about planning the best possible Honors in the Major curriculum that reflects their special interests.

Additional Information

Training in botanical research is available to students individually via Directed Study (Botany 698 or 699) by special arrangement with the faculty member who will supervise the work.

Note on Introductory Courses

The 5-credit introductory course (Botany 130) provides an elementary knowledge of the major areas of Botany and satisfies the prerequisite of an introductory course required for advanced work. The two-semester course sequence Introductory Biology (Botany/Zoology/Biology 151–152) also satisfies the prerequisite of an introductory course, but both semesters must be completed. Prospective botany majors should also consider the Biology Core Curriculum program, a sequence of courses that can satisfy both introductory biology and some I/A course requirements.

A student may take only one introductory course for credit toward the major. Students who have taken Botany 100 and then decide to pursue a major in Botany must take Botany 130 or an alternative introductory biology course sequence. Botany 100 will count toward graduation requirements, but not toward the 30 credits of botany courses required for the major.

Botany 100 and 260 do not serve as prerequisites for advanced courses and do not count toward a botany major.