Undergraduate Research Experience (BIOL 499)

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Iowa State University is a major research institution, and students in the Biology Program are encouraged to take advantage of this as part of their program of study.  Participation in biology-related undergraduate research at ISU counts as advanced biology credit when a BIOL 499 is arranged in conjunction with the experience.  

In order to arrange a BIOL 499, students must first identify a research opportunity on campus that interests them.  Students will learn how to seek out these opportunities during  biology orientation, but they are also welcome to discuss this with their academic advisor or staff in the Biology Student Services Office (103 Bessey Hall).  The research program must have a biological science component, and most commonly, students will identify research opportunities with faculty in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) or the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology (GDCB).  Once a research opportunity has been identified and secured, students may request that the faculty member arrange a BIOL 499 and serve as their instructor for the course.   

Requirements

BIOL 499 credits are considered to be equivalent to "laboratory" credits.  The minimum time commitment is 30 to 45 hours (e.g., 2 to 3 hours per week for the 15 weeks of a semester) per credit.  The course may be taken for 1 to 3 credits.  We recommend that students arrange 1 or 2 credits of BIOL 499 in a given semester to balance other time commitments.  The BIOL 499 course is repeatable, but only 6 credits may be applied as advanced biology coursework*, and no more than 9 may be applied towards graduation.

* 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

Activities

Students work on a laboratory or field research project under the supervision of the BIOL 499 instructor or an appropriate person designated by the BIOL 499 instructor.  The work carried out by the student should include a substantial component of actual research and should not be limited to chores such as washing glassware or cleaning field equipment.  Research must also pertain to the biological sciences.  

Students should provide a final report of activities in a written document, an oral presentation, or a poster presentation, as determined by the BIOL 499 instructor.  It is strongly recommended that the BIOL 499 instructor review at least one draft version of the report as the student develops the final report. 

Registration and Deadlines

Students should aim to register for the BIOL 499 at or before the beginning of the semester they are doing the research, though other options may be possible.  The student and instructor must agree on and complete a BIOL 499 contract before registering for the course.  As part of this contract, the student and instructor will decide whether the course will be graded or taken satisfactory/fail.  The format of the reports, as well as deadlines for submissions of drafts and the final report, are set by the BIOL 499 instructor in consultation with the student.  Completed contracts should be taken to the Biology Student Services Office.  Copies of this contract will be provided to the student and the instructor, and the original will be kept on file in the Student Services Office.  

BIOL 499 Contract Form (PDF)