Frequently Asked Questions
If you're considering participating in undergraduate research, we encourage you to do it! There are some common misconceptions students have about research, which we address here.
It is not true at all that researchers do not want undergraduates in their labs. Faculty members enjoy working alongside undergraduates and believe that it is very important for students to get hands-on experience working in a lab.
They want you to feel as though you are a part of their research team and to enjoy and learn from your experience in the lab. In fact, most faculty members got their start as undergraduate researchers.
When you work in any faculty member’s lab, you are working as a member of a research team. You are not expected to know everything about a subject when working on an independent study. You are expected, however, to apply your classroom and laboratory knowledge to your project and to have done your homework before starting in the lab.
Your research team members and faculty research adviser are there to help you with any questions or concerns you may have when working in the lab, but they expect you to work hard and remember what they tell you. It is a learning experience for you as an undergraduate. Faculty research advisers want you to learn and do research, but at the same time enjoy the experience of working in a scientific setting.
Although the course is called “Independent Study,” it is not a truly independent research experiment.
You will never be forced to perform long, arduous and difficult tasks or research by yourself. You are usually given simple tasks initially. As you prove yourself, you will be given more responsibility and independence. Your research team members and faculty research advisers work with you throughout the entire experience.
If you're interested in completing an independent study, you may be concerned that you'll have to be in the lab all day. However, you are required to participate in lab research and activities for a minimum of six hours per week. That means your schedule for working in the lab may be less hours than you think. You will will determine your schedule with your research adviser and must ensure your course load, extracurricular activities and other life obligations allow the appropriate time to allocate to research.
Research can fit into your curriculum of study at many different times during your undergraduate experience. Different classes work for different students depending on their future goals and current degree standing.
The breakdown below provides some advice on where those classes might fit best in your program of study:
- BIOL 395 Directed Study: First-Years to Seniors
- BIOL 492 Independent Study: Rising Juniors to Seniors (summer prior to junior year)
- BIOL 495 Research and Thesis: Senior year fall and spring semester