The biology curriculum encourages active engagement in experimental thinking from the first year through the senior year. Faculty research programs are specifically designed to encourage the participation of undergraduate students.
Biology Research FAQ
1) Why would anyone want to do research in biology?
- You will have the opportunity to pursue an area of biology in much more substantial depth than is possible in classes.
- You will work closely with a faculty member, gaining a resource for career advice and letters of recommendation.
- The experience will help you to decide whether a research career is right for you.
- Research is a challenging enterprise. It involves focusing on an interesting question, choosing an appropriate approach, working through the inevitable problems that occur, interpreting your results critically, and communicating your conclusions effectively. These skills you will develop doing research are applicable to a broad range of future endeavors.
- Research skills are sought after by employers, graduate schools, and medical schools.
- If you are lucky and diligent, you may experience the wonderful satisfaction of contributing to the understanding of how the biological system you study works!
- It is fun. OK, it is also frustrating sometimes, but that makes the fun times all the more satisfying.
2) What opportunities are available in the biology department?
- Independent projects in biology 110 or 111.
- Biol 385/386 - Research in Biology - work with a faculty member for one or more semesters and get course credit. Two semesters of Research in Biology count for one lab class towards the biology major.
- Biology honors - A two-year program starting with Research in Biology in the Junior year, and culminating in a written thesis, oral thesis presentation, and examination by an outside reviewer. Students should have a GPA of ~3.3 or better to participate.
- Volunteering - Many faculty members accept freshman and sophomore volunteers who help out in the lab and learn techniques. Many of these students go on to more formal research experiences later.
- Paid positions - Many faculty also have paid positions available. These positions often involved some routine duties (solution making, dishwashing, etc) and also some opportunity to become involved with research experiments.
- Summer Science Scholar program - Students work with a faculty member for 8-10 weeks over the summer. Proposals are due in mid-February; you should contact a faculty member before winter break to begin developing a proposal. Most students that participate are between the junior and senior year, but proposals are welcomed from first year students and sophomores.
3) Do I need to be a biology major?
- Obviously, we encourage you to major in biology. However, non-majors can pursue research in the department. In the past, students majoring in areas ranging from Neuroscience to English have done research in the department.
4) How do I get started?
- Talk to a faculty member whose research is interesting to you. Send us an email or stop by during office hours. We love to talk about our research and will welcome your interest.
- Talk to students that are currently doing research in biology. They will have a wealth of information about the best way to pursue your research interests.
- Remember that research opportunities in biology come in a variety of flavors. You don't need to commit to our honors program to have a valuable research experience in the department.