What do you gain from doing research?

The process of scientific inquiry is very basic to an education in science, which is why the Department involves students in research in introductory biology as well as upper-level laboratory courses. If you enjoyed those experiences, you may want to try doing more intense work in a research laboratory.

If you are planning to attend graduate school in a biologically related field or find a job in an academic or industrial setting, laboratory experience whether here at Binghamton or elsewhere as a job, internship, or on a volunteer basis, is almost a necessity.

When should I NOT try to do research?

A student who is in research for the wrong reason is wasting his or her own time, the professor's and often a graduate student's time as well. The student could be getting practical experience in other venues, making career moves through internships, or taking more courses. Also, that student prevents someone else who might gain a lot from the experience from having it.

These are some very common WRONG reasons:

• I am not really interested but it will look good on my resume.
• I need a letter of recommendation from a faculty member who knows me. (If you are not really interested in the work, he/she will know you in a negative way!)
• My parents insist -or- My older sister did it.
• I will need it for graduate school -- I don't really want to go to grad school but it helps me postpone a career decision for a while.

How do I get into a professor's research program?

Students who work in professors' research programs are enrolled in Biology 497. But this is one-on-one teaching so spaces in the laboratories are limited. The department has a new application process to improve the match between students and professors' research groups.

First of all, this new application procedure applies only to students who want to register for the first time with a specific faculty member starting Fall 2003 in Biology 497. Starting Fall 2003, students who are returning to the same laboratory will register in a course with a new number, Biology 498 - Continuing Independent Field or Laboratory Research.

Application Process for Newly Registering Biology 497 Students

*This entire process is for students who have no prior arrangements for entering a research laboratory. If a faculty member has invited you to work in his/her laboratory, skip to #s 3, 4, and 5, and submit only one name on the routing slip and one application packet.

1. Select up to three research programs of greatest interest to you. The easiest way is to study the faculty research program descriptions. Read through the latest publications to see if you can imagine yourself doing similar work.

Why three? The Biology Department office will expedite your application for entry into a maximum of three different laboratories. You can select just one or two, if you like.

2. Assess your preparation for work in those laboratories by consulting the following list of courses and interests that faculty members seek in their undergraduate research students.

3. Print out a copy of your academic transcript from BUBrain, one copy for each faculty member that you are applying to.

4. Prepare a resume and cover letters, one for each of the laboratories you wish to apply to. Refer to the following guide for writing your resume and download a sample cover letter from the Career and Development Center website. Change these as you please. Note that with a little modification, you can use this resume when you apply for internships and jobs, or when you are contacting possible faculty mentors for graduate school applications. If you have already made arrangements with a faculty member to work in a laboratory, you do not need to hand in a resume and cover letter.

5. Fill out the routing form and assemble the packets for each faculty member listed in your routing form. Take these to the Biology Department office. The packets will be placed in faculty members' mailboxes.

6. If a faculty member is interested in your application, he/she will contact you directly.

You may be invited for an interview in which case be prompt and re-read the professor's materials ahead of time. At the end of the interview, if you think you would like to work in the faculty member's laboratory, ask him /her if it would be appropriate for you to check back regarding the decision and if so, when, and what means he/she would prefer - e-mail, phone call, visit during office hours.. Regardless of the outcome, send an e-mail message with thanks for the interview. If you would like to be in this lab, say so in your thank-you message.

7. When you do follow up, be polite, and use the occasion when appropriate to give an update as to your accomplishments. For example, did you learn a new technique in a lab class that will be of use in this laboratory?

A professor said, Yes! Here is how to get registered.

When it is time to register for the intended semester, go to the Biology Department office and get an independent study registration form. Fill out as much as you can, then take it to your sponsoring professor to fill out the rest. Return the form to the Biology department office.

You may want to refer to the following when filling out the form:

1. The number of credit-hours is variable, but most sign up for 4 credits.
When you do this, be sure to save at least 12 hours a week (and even more!) for working on your research. Also make sure that those hours are in big blocks of time, a good portion of which should be during the normal work day.

2. It is up to you and the professor to agree on the grading option.
Some professors do say they will only give Pass/Fail grades. Be sure you ask about this first before committing to someone if you really want a letter grade.

3. You usually get this done the semester before you start.

Before you go off for intersession break or the summer, do ask for reading material so you will be prepared when you return.

I liked doing research and wish to continue next semester. Is that possible?

Yes, if your faculty advisor agrees. You would then register in Biology 498 by filling out the Biology 498 form and a registration form for independent study. The latter is available at the Biology Dept. office.

If you are working toward a B.S. degree, it will be assumed that you are working in a lab in the area of your concentration - Cell and Molecular Biology, or Ecology, Evolution and Behavior - and both the Biology 497 and 498 can count toward your upper-level Biology electives and laboratory requirements in the respective categories. You can count only two registrations toward that, ie. two labs and a maximum of 8 credits. It is possible to major in CMB and apply techniques toward a problem in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior - or the other way around - major in EEB and useg techniques of Cell and Molecular Biology. However, some feature of your research work should have something to do with your area of concentration because the DARS will credit your Biology 497 and 498 as a course and lab in your concentration.

If you are working toward a B.A., only the Biology 497 will count toward your upper-level Biology electives and one laboratory requirement. The Biology 498 would count toward the 126 credits that you need for graduation.

My research work has been very successful. I would like to graduate with the award of Distinguished Independent Work in Biology. What is involved and how should I get started?

The department grants the special award of Distinguished Independent Work in Biology to students who have done well in research and have written an honors thesis that has been accepted by a thesis committee. For more details, see Honors and Awards.

Can I get credit for doing research at another institution?

You arrange this as an internship before hand. For more details, see Internships.

Can I start the research experience earlier?

Students can start earlier through a course, Biology 297, provided a faculty member is willing to be the supervisor. Prerequisites are the year of introductory biology (Biology 117 and Biology 118) or equivalent. This course can be taken for 2 credits that go toward Harpur credits for graduation but NOT to fulfill requirements for the Biology major.
If you are interested, then approach the faculty member directly. If the faculty member has agreed, fill out the Biology 297 application form. 

Complete this form, attach evidence of completing the prerequisite, a copy of the independent study registration form, with all the proper signatures, and take it to the Biology Department office in Science III Rm 210.

Distinguished Independent Work in Biology

Students who have a GPA of 3.3 in Biology courses and G.P.A. of 3.0 overall and do research (Biology 497 and 498) for at least one year can elect to write an Honors thesis. The research results are presented by the student in a written thesis and an oral presentation to a three-person faculty committee. Students who complete an honors thesis are recognized in the Commencement Program and on their transcript as having done Distinguished Independent Work in Biology. If you are interested in possibly preparing an honors thesis, start by discussing this possibility with your research advisor as early as possible.

Last Updated: 8/20/15