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Discoveries in L&S are changing the way we comprehend the world around us and shape our experiences within it. We welcome you to explore them here with our faculty, staff and students.

Natural, Physical & Mathematical Sciences News

The Latest

Solving the mystery of cosmic rays

Since cosmic rays were discovered in 1912, scientists have sought the origins of these mysterious particles. In September 2017, a flash of blue light in the ice deep beneath the South Pole set researchers on a path to resolving this century-old riddle.

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In On Wisconsin Magazine: The pregnancy puzzle

After a UW scientist and his wife lost two pregnancies, he sought answers. Why are these losses so common, and do other living things face the same struggle his family did?

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Study finds “hidden harvest” in world’s inland fisheries

A new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says we are dramatically underestimating the role inland fisheries play in global food security.

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Departments & Programs

Click to view all academic degree-granting program in the Natural and Physical Sciences division.

Astronomy, Department of

The UW-Madison Astronomy Department's mission is to conduct cutting-edge research and to offer undergraduate students the highest quality education. The department conducts research in diverse areas of astronomy, from the physics of stars to cosmology, in observation and theory, and through the construction of forefront instruments for our complement of telescopes.

Department Chair: Sebastian Heinz

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Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Department of

Since 1948, the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences has grown into one of the leading departments in its field. The department has strong graduate and undergraduate programs which are nationally recognized. The department specializes in climate systems, including the ocean; satellite and remote sensing; and weather systems, including synoptic-dynamic meteorology.

Department Chair: Greg Tripoli

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Biology Core Curriculum

Biocore is an award-winning intercollegiate honors program. It is a challenging four semester introductory biology sequence that provides a broad, in-depth, and integrated background for students interested in any area of biological science.  

Director: Jeff Hardin

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Biology Major

The Biology Major is designed for students who are interested in a broad exposure to the concepts and methodologies of the biological sciences, as well as those interested in a more specific sub-discipline. 

This major is appropriate for students interested in post-graduate careers in any biological science or health profession. It is also appropriate for students who think that a good knowledge of biology and the scientific process will help them in a non-biological career.

Email: info@biologymajor.wisc.edu 

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Botany, Department of

The Department of Botany's mission is to discover, maintain, and transmit knowledge concerning basic plant biology and provide leadership in the biological sciences. Department degree programs offer studies in molecular, genetic, cellular, and developmental biology, through physiology, structural botany, molecular systematics, taxonomy, ecology, ethnobotany and evolution

Department Chair: Ken Cameron

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Chemistry, Department of

The mission of the Department of Chemistry is to conduct world-class, groundbreaking research in the chemical sciences while offering the highest quality of education to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates. The department's research includes the traditional areas of physical, analytical, inorganic, and organic chemistry, and has rapidly evolved to encompass environmental chemistry, chemical biology, biophysical chemistry, soft and hard materials chemistry, and nanotechnology. 

Department Chair: Judith Burstyn

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Communication Sciences and Disorders, Department of

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders prepares the next generation of scholars, clinicians, and leaders in the field of communication sciences and disorders. The undergraduate program provides students with a thorough grounding in theoretical and applied foundations that lead to careers in speech-language pathology and audiology.

Department Chair: Katie Hustad

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Computer Sciences, Department of

The Department of Computer Sciences offers a state of the art undergraduate curriculum that is continually updated by the faculty research experience. This includes project-oriented courses in computer animation, computer architecture, databases, networking, operating systems, programming languages and compilers and software engineering. 

Department Chair: Guri Sohi

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Conservation Biology

The Conservation Biology major is designed to provide students broad training in biological and related disciplines most relevant to conservation. The program emphasizes basic knowledge of natural history, whole organism biology, ecological interactions, and conservation biology.

Department ChairDavid Baum

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Geoscience, Department of

The mission of the Department of Geoscience is to research and disseminate information on the structure, chemistry, physics, and evolution of the Earth; life on Earth and in the solar system; and the interaction between physical, chemical, and biological processes that shape the Earth.

Department Chair: Chuck DeMets

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Honors Program

The L&S Honors Program serves over 1,300 students in the College of Letters and Science with an enriched undergraduate curriculum. Students in the program pursue the Honors in the Liberal Arts, Honors in the Major or Comprehensive Honors Degrees. The program began in response to a 1958 petition by students seeking more challenging work and opportunities to "delve more deeply" into their fields of interest.

Director: Sabine Gross

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Integrative Biology, Department of

Research and teaching in the Department of Integrative Biology (formerly the Department of Zoology) focuses on all areas and all hierarchical levels of biology, including cell and molecular biology, neurobiology, genetics, organismal biology, ecology, evolution, and behavior.

Department Chair: Jeff Hardin

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Mathematics, Department of

Department Chair: Gloria Mari-Beffa

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Molecular Biology Major

Molecular Biology is the basic science that seeks an understanding of biological processes in terms of the properties and functions of the molecules that make up living cells. The scope of questions addressed in molecular biology ranges from evolution to development to the regulation of gene expression. A career in molecular biology requires a strong background in biology as well as a solid foundation in chemistry, mathematics, and physics.

Department Chair: Kurt Amann

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Physics, Department of

For decades, the Department of Physics at University of Wisconsin-Madison has been ranked among the top departments in the United States. The department's first Ph.D. was awarded in 1899 and since that time, thousands of students have earned undergraduate and advanced degrees from our program, in virtually every area of physics.

Department Chair: Sridhara Dasu

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Statistics, Department of

The Department of Statistics offers range of undergraduate and graduate instructional programs. The undergraduate major in statistics has an option to concentrate coursework in an area of application, including biological sciences, computer sciences, economics, or engineering. The graduate M.S. and Ph.D. programs, with options in either statistics or biostatistics, stress a balance between statistical theory and practical applications, preparing students for careers in academia, industry, medical research, business, agriculture, and government.

Department Chair: Yazhen Wang

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Interdisciplinary Centers, Institutes & Special Projects

Click to view all Natural and Physical Sciences interdisciplinary centers, institutes and special programs. 

Acoustics Phonetics Laboratory


Chemical Education, Institute for (ICE)

The Institute for Chemical Education (ICE) is a national center for science educators to develop and disseminate ideas. ICE's efforts are evident in kits and publications, in programs for students and for teachers, and in research in chemical education.

Since its founding in 1983, ICE has led the drive to help teachers revitalize science in schools throughout the United States. From "approachable" science for K–3 teachers (Super Science Connections) through nanoscale exhibits for the public to research experiences for teachers, ICE has something for all chemistry teachers and students.

Director: John W. Moore

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Chemistry Learning Center

The mission of the Chemistry Learning Center is to assist students who are enrolled in general and organic chemistry courses in becoming successful and independent learners. Participation is voluntary and there is no fee. The center offers a supportive learning environment where students meet in small groups with staff to work out effective strategies for mastering the chemical content. 

Director: Tony Jacob

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Cross-College Biology Education, Institute for

UW–Madison's Institute for Biology Education is dedicated to fostering excellence and innovation in biology education on campus, in the surrounding communities, and beyond.

Director: Janet Branchaw

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Electron Microprobe Lab

Director: John Fournelle

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Elementary Particle Physics Research, Institute for

The mission of the Institute for Elementary Particle Physics Research is to promote research at the interface of theory and experiment in particle physics, with emphasis on the interpretation of experimental data, the design of new experiments, and the construction and testing of theoretical models. The Institute's research is data-driven and encompasses collider physics, neutrino physics, particle astrophysics, particle cosmology, and low-energy physics. The Institute is internationally recognized for its leadership in this research.

Director: Vernon Barger

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Geophysical & Polar Research Center

High Throughput Computing, Center for

The Center for High Throughput Computing aims to develop, implement, deploy, and evaluate mechanisms and policies that support High Throughput Computing (HTC) on large collections of distributively owned computing resources. Guided by both the technological and sociological challenges of such a computing environment, the Center for High Throughput Computing at UW-Madison has been building the open source HTCondor distributed computing software (pronounced "aitch-tee-condor") and related technologies to enable scientists and engineers to increase their computing throughput.

Director: Miron Livny

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Limnology, Center for

The Center for Limnology was established in July 1982 to plan, conduct, and facilitate inland freshwater research. The Center grew out of almost one hundred years of limnology at the University initiated by E.A. Birge and Chancey Juday, who founded limnology in North America through extensive descriptive and comparative studies.

The Center's roots were further developed by Arthur D. Hasler, who led the way in experimental limnology and facilitated four decades of aquatic studies at Wisconsin. The present program builds on these approaches and has expanded to include long-term studies, synthesis, modeling, Great Lakes research, and application to resource management and environmental issues.    

Director: Jake Vander Zanden

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Mathematics Tutorial Program

The Math Tutorial Program is appropriate for anyone who can benefit from our structured support as they work through their math class. The program offers free small group tutoring for students enrolled in Math 095, 101, 112, 113, 114, 171/217, 211, 213, 221, 222, and 234.

- Apply during first three weeks, no referral form needed. Apply in person by stopping in 321 Van Vleck
- Apply after third week, need a referral form from your instructor, advisor, or dean Bring the referral form to 321 Van Vleck

Director: David Camacho

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Meteorological Satellite Studies, Cooperative Institute for (CIMSS)

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) is a Cooperative Institute formed through a Memorandum of Understanding between UW-Madison, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CIMSS operates as an institute within the Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC). CIMSS scientists conduct research using remote sensing systems for meteorological and surface-based applications.

Director: Steven Ackerman

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Physics Learning Center

The Physics Learning Center offers a variety of services including small group study sessions (providing a supportive environment in which to learn physics), access to study materials, and extra exam review sessions. Study groups meet twice each week and are led by trained peer tutors and staff. The Center provides extra practice problems and opportunities to discuss physics concepts. Resources are available for students in Physics 103, 104, 207, and 208.

Director: Susan Nossal

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Plant Development, Institute for

Plasmas in the Laboratory and in Astrophysics, Center for

The Center for Plasmas in the Laboratory and in Astrophysics includes several high-performance plasma confinement experiments, collaborations in national and international experiments, a cross-disciplinary theory and computation effort, a comprehensive fusion engineering program, a center for plasma-aided manufacturing, and a Physics Frontier Center on Magnetic Organization. Research is conducted under the departments of Engineering Physics, Physics, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Director: Cary Forest

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Rapid Evolution, Center of (CORE)

CORE is an institute dedicated to the study of rapid evolution. Many serious problems currently facing human societies and the environment are occurring on rapid time scales. Such problems include global warming, extinctions of species, invasions of alien species, evolution of infectious diseases, and threats to agricultural livestock and crop species from diseases and inbreeding. The study of rapid evolution is critical for gaining the tools to address such problems.

Director: Carol Eunmi Lee

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Space Astronomy Laboratory (SAL)

The Space Astronomy Laboratory (SAL) is a unit of the Astronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. SAL designs and builds instruments for the Department of Astronomy. These instruments help the Astronomy Department's faculty to do research in both space-based and ground-based astronomy.

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Speech and Hearing Clinic

The Speech and Hearing Clinic in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers evaluation, treatment and consultation services for children and adults with speech, language, hearing, and related communication needs.

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Theoretical Chemistry Institute

The Theoretical Chemistry Institute is part of the Physical Chemistry Division. Students ordinarily work toward Ph.D. degrees in physical chemistry, in an environment that emphasizes interactions among all theoretical research groups and faculty. Shared facilities include the TCI Library, seminar and conference rooms, and computational resources. The Institute interacts with groups that have primarily experimental interests and strongly enhance the environment for theoretical research. 

Director: James Skinner

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Wavelet IDR Center

The Wavelet Center for Ideal Data Representation (IDR) is a consortium of nine institutions involved in wavelet research. The goal of the Center is to develop new theories and technology for data representation based on redundant multiscale/wavelet representations, and to serve as a national center for the entire wavelet community. A primary component of the project are the application areas in image and signal processing, large scale computation, and computer graphics.

Coordinator: Amos Ron

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Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL)

The mission of the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL) is to promote literacy in science, mathematics and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers in research, teaching and public service. 

Director: Bassam Shakhashiri

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Featured Researcher: Melanie Matchett Wood

Professor of Mathematics Melanie Matchett Wood has had a phenomenal year.  

She received the Vilas Early Career Investigator Award by the Provost, was awarded the AWM-Microsoft Research Prize in Algebra and Number Theory by the Association for Women in Mathematics and won a National Science Foundation CAREER grant. And she went from assistant professor to associate professor to full professor in just the last few months.

Congratulations, Melanie!

Department of Mathematics

The Wisconsin Idea: Science Outreach