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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.

If you are interested in becoming an Exploring Biology peer mentor, contact Christopher Trimby at

Chris Trimby

Director of Teaching Fellows Program and Exploring Biology Course
Contact Info

(608) 265-0850


Room 103A

445 Henry Mall

Madison, WI 53706

My work at WISCIENCE focuses on helping graduate students and post-docs in the sciences develop their teaching skills. I teach courses, lead workshops, and mentor Scientific Teaching Fellows during their first independent teaching experiences.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and did my undergrad work not too far from here, at Northern Illinois University, before going on to earn my Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Kentucky in 2011. I realized fairly quickly that I didn’t enjoy doing bench research, but I was fortunate enough to be in a department that supported graduate students to develop skills and interests in teaching.

Despite my training, however, my first full-time teaching position—as a lecturer at the New Jersey Institute of Technology—felt akin to being tossed in the deep end of the pool. Luckily, I had fantastic cohort of new lecturer peers in my department, and we were able to learn and grow together to become better educators.

Now I help arm future educators with the tools to be successful from day one of their teaching careers. Having experienced first-hand how vital it can be to have a peer group to work with, I strive to help  aspiring faculty develop that same sense of community support around their teaching.