The BSC Biology Research Program
The BSC Biology Research Program
One of our department's greatest strengths is our research program. Students planning a career in research get valuable one-on-one training and a head start on their careers. Pre-health students get an edge over other applicants and show professional schools how serious they are. Whatever their end goal, all participants in our research program hone their writing, public speaking, problem solving, critical thinking, and self-discipline skills.
All of our biology majors work closely with a faculty member on a research project for two semesters as part of their Senior Capstone Experience (BI 470, BI 472 or BI 499). They share their research findings with the entire BSC community during the annual Senior Science and Mathematics Conference; some also present at regional or national scientific conferences or even coauthor papers based on their research.
Some of our students seek additional research experience through our Summer Research Associate Program or through independent study course credits during the academic year (BI 293, 393, or 493).
BI 470, 472, 499 Directed Research
An advanced exploration of the practices and techniques of biological research focusing on the design, conduction, and presentation of experiments, data analysis, and information retrieval. Two units are required, one of which may be in the Exploration Term or summer session. During the first term, students will consult with their research advisors and the course facilitator to (a) develop and write a formal research proposal based on literature related to the topic, (b) give an oral presentation of the proposal to the class, and (c) begin their research. During the first term, students will lead discussions of research articles related to their projects.
During the second term, students will (a) give a progress report, (b) complete their research, (c) write a thesis in the form of a scientific article, and (d) prepare an oral presentation summarizing the results of their research. Students will be expected to devote as much time to this course as that required of an upper-level laboratory course. Research may be conducted off-campus if suitable supervision can be arranged. Interdisciplinary research projects are also encouraged. Students conducting their first term of research in the fall, spring, or summer will register for BI 470. Students conducting their second term of research in the fall, spring, or summer will register for BI 472. During Exploration Term, students will register for BI 499, but may only use Exploration Term for the second term of the capstone requirement (BI 470 will not be offered during the Exploration Term term).
Here’s how some students fit directed research into their term sequences:
- BI 470 Spring junior year, BI 472 Summer between junior and senior year
- BI 470 Spring junior year, BI 472 Fall senior year
- BI 470 Summer between junior and senior year, BI 472 Fall senior year
- BI 470 Fall senior year, BI 499 Exploration Term
- BI 470 Fall senior year, BI 472 Spring senior year
In the first term of directed research, you will:
- develop a research project with a faculty mentor (on or off-campus)
- attend a weekly seminar, where you will discuss papers related to your topic with your peers (view the seminar syllabus)
- conduct an extensive literature search on your topic
- write and present a formal proposal for your project
- have an additional faculty member (NOT your faculty sponsor or course facilitator) read and comment on your final proposal (i.e., after the final copy has been turned in)
- begin collecting data
In the second term of directed research, you will:
- complete data collection
- give a progress report on your research
- write a formal scientific paper as if for submission for publication, incorporating comments from your faculty mentor and second faculty reader (see 5, above)
- present your findings in accordance with the requirements
Finding a faculty mentor for directed research
The first and most important step in the process of completing the biology research requirement will be to establish a working relationship with an on- or off-campus faculty mentor who holds a Ph.D. in a related field.
You must have completed a consent form with your faculty mentor before you will be allowed to register for BI 470 your first term. This must be turned in to the BI 470 instructor THE DAY BEFORE REGISTRATION FOR THE TERM IN WHICH YOU WISH TO TAKE BI 470. The earlier that you establish your research connection, the better your overall experience will be, and the more research options you will have.
When you are selecting your faculty mentor, there are several considerations to keep in mind:
- You will be working on the project for two terms, so be sure that you are truly interested in the research interests of your faculty mentor, and if possible, choose a project that could be related to your future career.
- All BSC biology majors will be looking for faculty mentors, and the faculty mentor you hoped to work with may not be able to accept any more research students, so contact your first choice early and have a back-up.
- Even if you contact your first choice early, securing a research position in the lab of your choice may be competitive.
- Do not be afraid to branch out and utilize off-campus faculty mentors (if you meet the requirements ) if your areas of interest lie outside of the specialties of the on-campus biology faculty.
- Scan through the senior conference abstracts from previous years to get some ideas about on- and off-campus research projects.
Off-campus faculty mentoring
You may work with an off-campus faculty mentor from UAB or another appropriate institution or organization. You may seek out your own off-campus faculty mentor, but if you do not already have a working relationship with someone from another institution, you should consult a BSC biologist to help you establish appropriate contacts.
In order to conduct research with an off campus mentor, you must have:
- at least a 3.0 GPA in your science courses taken at BSC
- consent from the biology faculty to pursue research outside BSC
Some examples of programs that may have faculty members who are interested in conducting research with you include (but are not limited to):
- UAB Department of Biology
- UAB Department of Microbiology
- UAB Department of Neurobiology
- UAB Department of Genetics
- UAB Department of Cell Biology
- Montevallo University Department of Biology
Student Abstracts from Past Projects