An alternative way to satisfy the Biology Department’s experiential requirement is undergraduate research (BIO 499). Undergraduate research involves hypothesis formulation, review of the biological literature within a particular focus area, independent data collection, analysis, and interpretation. This research project is conducted under the direct supervision of a full-time faculty member of the Biology Department.
BIO 499 is open to students at all levels who have a minimum GPA of 2.5 and the permission of the supervising faculty member, the student’s academic advisor, and the Biology Department Chair. During any one semester, a student can sign up for 1 or 2 hours of research (potentially up to 4 but this is rare). Generally, it is expected that a student will spend a minimum of 3 hours per week for each credit of research. So, students who have signed up for 2 sh of research should spend 6 hours per week working on their research. In addition to the research time, you will be expected to have a 1-hour progress meeting with the supervising faculty member each week. Students may earn a maximum of 12 sh of credit for BIO 499 before graduating from Elon University.
One of the primary responsibilities of scientists conducting research is to communicate their findings. Many of our students have presented their research to a variety of professional audiences including the undergraduate research forum at Elon University (SURF), the North Carolina Academy of Science, the Association of Southeastern Biologists, and the National Council on Undergraduate Research. The research of Elon students has also been published in Bios, the journal of the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society, the Southeastern Naturalist, and the Journal of Phycology.
Procedures for Enrolling in Bio 499
- Identify a research question that intrigues you. For many students, the independent projects they conduct in their laboratory courses act as a springboard to new questions and more ambitious, longer-term studies. Other students find it difficult to develop their own research ideas without a little assistance. In this case, you might want to approach one of the faculty and ask them to help you further define research areas which may be of interest to you. Areas of particular interest to Elon Faculty are listed in the next section. But remember, it is important that you be responsible for the direction of the research. If you feel ownership for the research then you will do more, learn more, and grow more.
- In the semester before you wish to conduct the research, identify a faculty member who has experience or interest in your chosen research field. Discuss your plans with this professor in terms of your questions, hypotheses, possible experimental approaches, and any special supplies or equipment you might need. Secure his or her permission to act as the faculty supervisor of your research project.
- With the help of the faculty member you have secured to supervise your research, you should develop a written proposal for your projected research project. This activity will help you to clarify your research goals, consider what methods or procedures you will learn, and determine what equipment and supplies you will need to obtain. This proposal will help you in applying for Elon University Undergraduate Research Program grant or a Rawl’s grant. Additional financial support is also available through the North Carolina Collegiate Academy of Science and the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society for students who are organized and apply for funds in the semester prior to initiating research. You must also fill out the 499 Registration form which is available from the Undergraduate Research Director’s Office the assistance of your faculty mentor. You, the mentor, your academic advisor, and the Biology Department Chair must sign this form.
- During preregistration week, bring the completed 499 form to the Registrar’s Office to enroll in Bio 499. The final deadline to turn in a 499 form to enroll in undergraduate research is 4:00 PM on the Friday of the second week of classes. The section letter corresponds to a specific faculty member so make sure you designate the correct section. For instance, a student who signs up for research under Dr. Haenel might enroll in Bio 499-A during a particular semester while another student working with Dr. Vick might enroll in Bio 499-D. Check the Course Schedule to ensure that you have the correct section.
- On the first day of classes during the semester you are to do your research, contact your faculty supervisor and schedule a regular meeting time each week. Start work immediately and build your research time into your class schedule. But, don’t be surprised when you find yourself spending more time on your research than you expected.
Bio 499 Academic Requirements
The specific requirements for each research project will be determined by the faculty member supervising the research. These requirements should be made clear to the student before the student registers for Bio 499. Typically, the minimal requirements will include:
- a research notebook that completely and carefully documents the progress of the research with dated entries. The research questions, hypotheses, and experimental design should be completely explained. All data collected by the student should be recorded in the research journal along with their observations, questions, ideas for future experiments, data analysis results, and interpretations of the data.
- a research paper that not only communicates the student’s findings but relates them to the current state of scientific knowledge
- any other requirements specified by the faculty research supervisor prior to the initiation of the research.
As in any other course, the grade will be determined by the supervising faculty member who evaluates the performance of the student. The student should ask what criteria will be used in grading during one of their discussions with the faculty supervisor before starting the research. Typically, the student’s grade will be based upon the following criteria:
- faculty evaluation of student’s progress and intellectual growth
- research journal
- research paper
- other criteria that the faculty supervisor and student have discussed