You are here

Exploring Biology


A two-credit lecture/discussion course for first-year students interested in the biosciences

Are you considering a major or career in biology? Connect with other biology-interested students as you explore the discipline through lectures, panel discussions and group work. Get answers to questions like: 

  • What is college-level biology like? What are the "Big Ideas" in biology?
  • What kinds of things do biologists do in the world?
  • What careers can I have with a biology degree?
  • What impact does biology have on people's lives?
  • What majors and beyond-the-classroom opportunities does UW–Madison offer in biology?

If you intend to major in a biological sciences field, Exploring Biology is a great way to prepare for the Introductory Biology course sequence required by your major. This course is not required for any major, but it will fulfill the CALS Freshman Seminar requirement, as well as count as Biological Science breadth credit.

Optional FIG Opportunity—Become Part of a Learning Community

The Exploring Biology class is part of the FIGs (first-year interest groups) program, which creates learning communities by connecting students who are enrolled in multiple courses together. The course-pair options for Exploring Biology students are:

- Math 114 (Algebra & Trigonometry)/ Religious Studies 102 (Religion in Sickness and Health)
- Math 112 (Algebra)/History of Science 212 (Bodies, Disease, and Healers: An Introduction to the History of Medicine)
- Chem 103 (General Chemistry)/Anthropology 105 (Principles of Biological Anthropology)
- Math 171 (Calculus w/Algebra & Trig)/Chem 103 (General Chemistry)
- Chem 103 (General Chemistry)/Gender & Women Studies 103 (Women and Their Bodies in Health and Disease)

To enroll in a FIG section, please email Kari Fernholz at

Peer Mentoring Opportunity

Applications for peer mentors for fall are due the previous spring.

If you are a second-year student or beyond and would like to share your enthusiasm for biology with first-year students, consider becoming a peer mentor for the Exploring Biology class. You'll assist a graduate student or postdoc instructor in leading a weekly discussion section for approximately twenty students. You'll help facilitate discussions, encourage students to think more deeply, and share your experiences at UW Madison. 

The time commitment is approximately 4-6 hours per week. Peer mentors must be available for the weekly course lecture and discussion. In addition, there is a weekly one-hour course planning session and a weekly one-hour leadership seminar, during which mentors reflect on their experiences and learn about group facilitation, communication, and mentoring. Peer mentors sign up for "INTEGSCI 320: Internship" (1 cr) and "INTEGSCI 230: Exploring Discipline-Based Leadership & Mentoring" (2 cr) courses.


Cara Theisen

Director of Professional Development in Teaching & Learning
Contact Info

(608) 890-4497


445 Henry Mall

Room 114C

Madison WI, 53706

Currently I am course director for:
Exploring Biology (Integsci 100)
Secrets of Science (Integsci 375)