For more information about research options and how to register Biology academic credit please see our BioAdvising page at

Any undergraduate can conduct research with any faculty member (who accepts them)! Working in the lab will not only teach you the fundamentals of research but also will earn you academic credit. If nothing else, you will learn skills and techniques that could lead to postgraduate employment!

Common Misconceptions

Undergraduate Research Options for Biology Majors

Most individuals interested in taking an independent study have the idea that they will have to be in the lab from sunrise to sunset. This is a complete misunderstanding. When working on an independent study you are required to participate in lab research/activities for a minimum of six hours per week. Your schedule for working in the lab will be determined in conjunction with your research adviser, but you will need to be a very organized person.

Research experience is valuable because it promotes:

  • Learning by doing - and it's fun!
  • Skills development, including study design, data collection, computation, analysis of findings, and communication of results.
  • Tangible outcomes such as research abstracts, conference presentations, and manuscripts grounded in real-world experience.
  • Career development opportunities such as professional networking and resume/vitae building.
  • Positive attitudes, habits, and intentions, including research ethics, perseverance, and professionalism.

VCU is proud to host an impressive array of research opportunities for our undergraduate students. In addition to faculty members in Biology, Biology majors can choose to engage in research anywhere at VCU including the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Nursing or at with the Center for Environmental Studies and the VCU Rice Rivers Field Station.

Undergraduate researchers at VCU are frequently presenting their research at VCU, and Regional, and National Research meetings. Some VCU undergraduates have even been recognized by authorship on peer-reviewed scientific papers. VCU also offers the NIH-funded Initiative to Maximize Student Development which VCU Biology students are eligible to apply for.

Students studying Biology at VCU can take advantage of many programmatic opportunities, class based opportunities for academic credit (BIOL/Z 395 Directed Study, BIOL 492 Independent Study, or BIOL 495 Research and Thesis).

In addition, many institutions around the country (and even abroad) offer summer based research programs. We encourage students to apply for these! Current opportunities can be found on this blog and the Biology facebook page.

Students should read the following pages describing our class based opportunities and follow our “Finding Research Opportunities” guide for step by step instructions on how to secure a mentor. See our FAQs section to answer all your questions about undergraduate research!

Research can fit into a student curriculum of study at many different times. Different classes work for different students depending on their future goals and current degree standing. The breakdown below provides some crude advice on where those classes might fit best in your program of study.

  • BIOL 395 Directed Study: Freshman-Seniors
  • BIOL 492 Independent Study: Rising Juniors - Seniors (Summer prior to Junior year)
  • BIOL 495 Research and Thesis: Senior Year Fall and Spring

For more information on undergraduate research at VCU see the Bioadvising portal “Finding Undergraduate Research Opportunities” or the University Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program “UROP”

To discuss your research interests further feel free to email: Sarah Golding, Ph.D., Director for Undergraduate Research –