Research Options

Directed Research (BIOL 290, 390, or 490)

Research focus: Typically involves research closely connected to the mentor's specialty. Can be repeated for credit.

Requirements: A general department contract must be filled out during registration. Students and mentors must develop a timeline with specific due dates for various components of the research program (see General Guidelines below).

The results of all directed research projects must be reported in some written format that can be determined by the mentor. Often, this will take the form of a typical lab report, similar in detail to what one would expect from an upper division course in the mentor's specialty.

The results of junior and senior level directed research projects must also be reported via either a poster or oral presentation conducted for an on-campus audience. Typical venues are the Fall Student Research Symposium (usually in early September) and the Undergraduate Research Symposium cosponsored by Phi Sigma each Spring (usually in April). Sophomore level directed research has no presentation requirement.

Senior Thesis (BIOL 491)

Research focus: Typically involves research closely connected to the mentor's specialty although student-initiated projects can also be done. Senior Thesis work must be more independent than Directed Research, though the manner in which this independence is realized can vary quite a bit. Regardless, students are expected to gain strong "ownership" of this work.

Often Senior Thesis students begin their research project over the summer between their Junior and Senior years, and use the BIOL 491 registration for finishing up data collection, analysis, and writing up the work.

This experience is strongly encouraged for our students considering graduate school and should serve as rigorous preparation for a grad school experience.

Requirements: A general department contract must be filled out during registration. Students and mentors must develop a timeline with specific due dates for various components of the research program (see General Guidelines below).

Senior thesis students must present their results in an oral format (talk or poster), and are strongly encouraged to do so in April at the Undergraduate Research Symposium via a 20-minute talk rather than a poster.

The written thesis is expected to have a depth of analysis and literature review that is a step above that expected for Directed Research. At least one reader other than the mentor is required and should be stated in the contract. Additional readers (faculty or students) may be worthwhile in certain instances.

It should be emphasized to the student that readers' comments should be seriously considered in the revision of the paper. Thus, students must write a formal letter to the reader, explaining what suggestions they implemented and what suggestions they did not implement (including why not), similar to what professional scientists do when resubmitting a revised manuscript for publication.

The student and mentor must decide whether the thesis format will be a "traditional thesis" or manuscript(s) ready to submit.

Students should bring a final, signed, unstapled copy of the thesis to the department secretary for binding. This copy will be kept in the biology office. There are no formalized guidelines for the margins, font, etc. of theses other than the cover page. 

Independent Study (BIOL 495/96)

Research focus: Typically involves research outside of mentor's specialty (be that technique or organism driven) or library-based research projects.

Requirements: (See Logger for full policy.) Available to juniors and seniors with a 3.00 minimum GPA. A contract must be filed with the Registrar at the time of registration. The contract must include a schedule with specific dates for reporting progress on the study, for reporting to the supervising instructor, and for final completion of the project.

The results of all independent studies must be reported in the form of a final paper.

General Guidelines

  • One unit = at least 150 hours of work
  • Contracts that detail specific due dates are required, and should be signed by both student and mentor (as well as readers, if appropriate). It is important to establish with the student that specific expectations for the semester exist and that meeting due dates will be an important part of their grade.
  • Directed research and senior thesis have a "1-year" due date for a final grade. This means that a student who enrolls in the Fall may have an "In Progress" grade standing until the end of the following summer session when a final grade is required. (Note that a student would not fulfill graduation requirements until the grade was changed from In Progress to a letter grade.)