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Biology Internship (BIOL 494)

Students in the Biology Program are encouraged to seek out and participate in internships or jobs that have a clear biological science focus.  This supplements their academic course work at Iowa State University with "real world" experience that will make a student a more desirable and competitive applicant for post-graduate studies and future careers.  Participation in a biology-related internship, whether it is arranged with a government agency, non-profit organization, for-profit business, or other entity, counts as advanced biology credit when a BIOL 494 is arranged in conjunction with the experience.  

In order to arrange a BIOL 494, students must first identify and secure an internship.  The internship must have a biological science focus, and may be paid or unpaid.  After securing the internship, the student must then identify a faculty or staff member who will serve as their BIOL 494 instructor.  The potential instructor will assess the nature of the internship and determine if it qualifies for BIOL 494 credit.  Instructors are typically faculty members in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) or the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology (GDCB).  Students may wish to consult with their academic advisor or Biology Student Services staff for assistance in identifying a BIOL 494 instructor.    


BIOL 494 courses are taken for 1 to 2 credits, typically in the fall following a summer internship experience.   The BIOL 494 course is repeatable, but only 6 credits may be applied as advanced biology coursework*, and no more than 9 may be applied towards graduation.  The number of credits received depends on the activities agreed upon by the BIOL 494 instructor and the student.

* A maximum of 7 credits total from BIOL 480, BIOL 481, BIOL 490, BIOL 491, BIOL 494, and BIOL 499 can be applied towards advanced biology course requirements


1 credit. Students complete a daily journal documenting and reflecting on the activities of the internship experience.  They also develop an electronic poster related to the experience.  The poster theme is determined by the student and the instructor; the theme should be either a biological topic related to the internship, or a descriptive overview of the internship duties and experiences.

2 credits.  In addition to completing the journal and poster, students taking a BIOL 494 for 2 credits write a research paper (approximately 10 pages, with references) on a topic related to the internship.  The paper topic and format must be approved by the instructor.

Registration and Deadlines

A contract for the BIOL 494 internship must be completed and turned in to Dr. Warchola (Bessey 135) before the start of the internship.  As part of this contract, the student and Dr. Warchola (or other faculty instructor) will decide whether the course will be graded or taken satisfactory/fail.  The format and topics of the poster and journal, as well as deadlines for submission, are set by the BIOL 494 instructor in consultation with the student.  Students typically register for the BIOL 494 the semester immediately following the internship experience (i.e., for a summer internship experience, students register for BIOL 494 in the fall).

BIOL 494 Contract Form (PDF)

Biology Internship Checklist

  1. Identify and secure a suitable internship opportunity (often months before it starts)
  2. Identify a Biology faculty member to serve as the BIOL 494 instructor (generally Dr. Warchola)
  3. Sign a contract with the instructor specifying the number of credits, due dates, and so forth; turn this in to Dr. Warchola
  4. Participate in the internship experience, keeping a journal about it in the process
  5. Register for BIOL 494 during the semester immediately following the internship
  6. Satisfactorily complete the post-internship activities specified in the contract