Discovery Seminars - Information for Students

Student Information for Discovery Seminars

Who can enroll in Discovery Seminars?

All first-year students regardless of their college or major are eligible to enroll in lower-division Discovery Seminars. Transfer students are eligible to enroll in upper-division Discovery Seminars.

Grading Option:

Courses are taken for Pass/Not Passed credit so grades do not affect a student’s GPA.

Unit Limits:

  • Students are limited to 3 Discovery seminars during their time at UCSB. Discovery Seminars offered by the Freshman Summer Start Program also apply to this maximum.
  • No seminars with the same suffix (AA-ZZ) may be repeated.

Registration Details:

  • Courses are listed on GOLD each quarter. For detailed information review the Discovery Seminar List.
  • Enrollment is completed using GOLD.
  • Students with transfer units or AP test credit may need an approval code to enroll. Contact Kate Von Der Lieth at
  • Discovery Seminars do not have finals assigned during Finals Week. Any final exam will be administered during the final class meeting for these seminars.

Faculty Information for Offering a Discovery Seminars

Interested in Sharing your Knowledge and Passion with Students?

Discovery Seminars allow faculty to share their passions and insights into various academic disciplines, guiding students to understand the subjects that captivate each field and how faculty members pursue research within them. These seminars offer a unique opportunity for faculty to showcase their expertise and inspire students to explore the diverse avenues of academic inquiry and igniting curiosity for future exploration. Submit your proposal HERE!

Who is eligible to teach a Discovery Seminar?

Senate faculty, Unit 18 faculty, and Continuing or Senior Continuing Unit 18 faculty are eligible to teach Discovery Seminars. These seminars are taught in addition to the faculty member's regular workload and are compensated with research funds, as outlined below.

Discovery Seminar Funding

First Year Discovery Seminars (INT 86AA-ZZ) and Transfer Discovery Seminars (INT 186AA-ZZ)

  • Time commitment: One hour each week (10 hours for the quarter)
  • Credit: 1 unit
  • Student Enrollment: 20 for seminar (limited to 11 for field trips or labs)
  • Faculty Member: 1
  • Funding: $1,500 research fund (not salary) + $300 for course supplies and expenses

First Year Discovery+ Seminars (INT 87AA-ZZ) and Transfer Discovery Seminars (INT 186AA-ZZ)

  • Time commitment: 1 hour, 50 minutes or 20 hours for the quarter
  • Credit: 2 units
  • Student Enrollment: 30 or 40
  • Faculty Members: 2
  • Funding: Each participating FM receives $2,000 for seminars with 30 students, $3,000 for seminars with 40 students + $150 per FM for course supplies and expenses.

General Funding Information

  • Research funds may be used for any reimbursable research related expense. For example, these funds can be used for books, equipment, software, hardware (e.g., a laptop computer), research assistant salary, travel to professional conferences, registration for conferences, publication costs

  • The course support funds ($300/$150) can be used to pay for expenses associated with the course including: copies, handouts, a video for class, transportation on a field trip, museum admission, etc. Any funds not spent on the course can be used as research funds.

  • Funds will be transferred to your Department after the 3rd week of the quarter. Please coordinate with your MSO or FO 

How to Apply

  1. Submit a seminar proposal through the Online Faculty Application Form.
  • If the seminar will have two instructors, complete the additional instructor fields.
  • All faculty members who submit the electronic applications understand and agree to be the primary instructor of this proposed course.

        2. Upon approval of your course, the College of Letters & Science will manage all room scheduling, book orders, and media requests.

Application Deadlines for Priority Consideration

Spring 2024 Seminars: no longer accepting applications

Fall 2024 Seminars: Monday, March 18th (Priority consideration)*, Monday, June 17th**

Winter 2025 Seminars: no longer accepting applications

*When submitting for priority consideration, you ensure optimal selection of preferred day, time, and room availability.

**While proposals submitted after the deadline will be reviewed, acceptance will be contingent upon funding availability.

Discovery Seminars Structure

  • Each 1.0 unit seminar meets for a total of ten hours during the quarter, and each 2.0 unit seminar meets for a total of twenty hours.
  • All grading is passed/not passed (P/NP).
  • Student’s complete enrollment using GOLD.
  • Detailed course descriptions can be found by visiting the Seminar List page.
  • Discovery Seminars do not have finals assigned during Finals Week. Any final exam should be administered during the final class meeting for these seminars. In addition, regular class meetings may not take place during Finals Week. 

Off-campus Trips or Labs

The $300 provided for course support may be used for field trips for the class. Outings to museums, field research sites, plays, and lectures provide wonderful material for class discussions. If additional funding is needed, include this request in the space provided on the application. If you choose to plan a field trip, please note that your seminar will have an enrollment cap of 11 students. Course instructors are responsible for coordinating the use of campus vehicles for off-site excursions through Transportation Services.

What kind of reading and course work should be assigned?

As Discovery Seminars are one- or two-unit classes, formal research papers are rarely assigned. Grades might be based largely on attendance, class participation, or in-class work/presentations. In addition, a final exam or a short paper could be required. In regards to course reading, one to two books or a compiled reader are within reason.

What subjects/topics are taught in Discovery Seminars?

Many seminars are based on a professor’s current research project/topic, professional interest, or personal interest. Allowing each professor to choose his/her topic gives students the opportunity to learn about current faculty interests and provides academic exposure to the research process. Since these seminars are designed for first-year or transfer students, coursework and discussion level should be appropriate for this level.

Contact Us

For students with questions about Discovery Seminars, or trouble registering for courses, please contact Kate von der Lieth at

For faculty who would like more information about Discovery Seminars, please contact Madeleine Sorapure, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education at