Undergraduate Research Opportunities

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The Importance of Research in a Program of Study


Sciences are often thought of as bodies of knowledge, or a collection of facts and data that tell us about the world.  Learning this body of knowledge is a major focus of science majors and an important component of science education, including Biology.  But all of those facts and figures came from somewhere, and the heart of the sciences is action and practice: doing research!  Engaging in undergraduate research provides students with a fuller perspective of sciences, and also provides valuable experience that is similar to what they can expect to be doing on the job once they graduate.  Students considering graduate or professional schools are strongly encouraged to get involved in a professor’s research lab, as this experience helps build a competitive portfolio for program applications.  Biology-related research experiences done with Iowa State faculty can also count directly towards a student’s degree requirements in Biology.


Getting Involved in Research


As a major research institution, there are plenty of opportunities to engage in undergraduate research at Iowa State for the students who are interested in doing so.  The Biology Program alone has around 60 faculty members between its two departments (EEOB & GDCB), most of whom have research labs; several other departments on campus also offer biologically-focused research opportunities.  


Students can ask their advisor for assistance in locating a suitable research opportunity.  Research opportunities are sometimes posted on bulletin boards in science buildings such as Bessey Hall, but usually students need to do some networking on their own.  A good place to start is by looking at the faculty pages on the EEOB and GDCB website and learn more about what various professors are doing in their labs.  Then, use those networking skills to make introductions, express interest, and see if there are lab openings available.  


Advanced Biology Credit for Research Experiences


Biology-related research experiences with Iowa State faculty can count directly towards Biology degree requirements.  To do so, students set up a BIOL 499 course.  Click here for more information about setting up a BIOL 499.    


Freshman Research Initiative (FRI)


The Freshman Research Initiative began in Spring of 2015 across three life science majors (Biology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and Genetics).  Students attend weekly meetings and spend 5-6 hours per week doing science in the lab.  For Spring of 2015, opportunities include working with Dr. Essner (cancer research) and Dr. Sandquist (neuroscience research).  New students will hear about these opportunities in their BIOL 110 orientation class. 

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