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Research in Biology - Frequently Asked Questions
1) Why would anyone want to do research in biology?
2) What opportunities are available in the biology department?
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
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
If you are lucky and diligent, you may experience the wonderful satisfaction
of contributing to the understanding of how the biological system you study
It is fun. OK, it is also frustrating sometimes, but that makes the fun
times all the more satisfying.
3) Do I need to be a biology major?
- 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.
4) How do I get started?
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.
For more information see the Faculty research area of the Biology Webpage.
Talk to a faculty member whose research is interesting to you. Send us
an e-mail 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
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.
return to student research page
Click on Faculty and Staff
to access a listing of the biology faculty, our research interests, and
links to our home pages.