Biology Independent Study

Student and professor working side by side in the greenhouse
Dr. Pysh works with Rob Harbert on an independent research project.

The Biology Department encourages students to engage in some form of independent study. The nature of these projects can vary depending upon a student's interests and the expertise of the faculty. For example, a student could work on a project in a faculty member's research laboratory. If a student has an interest in a topic outside the specific expertise areas of department faculty members, the project might take the form of an extensive review of the scientific literature on that topic. A student may even work on a project at a local health care facility.

Whatever form the study takes, the idea is to give students the opportunity to formulate a problem, to determine the best way to attack the problem, and to work toward bringing the project to some reasonable conclusion. Independent study requires self-sufficiency and self-motivation and demands serious commitment from a student. A student enrolling in independent study is expected to budget ample time for work on the project.

Generally, a student will carry out independent study during her/his 3rd and/or 4th years, although some students do begin work in the research lab in the 1st or 2nd year. The earlier a student approaches a faculty member, the sooner the student may join a lab. An independent study project will culminate in an extensive written summary of the work and usually requires that the student make a public, oral presentation of the work.

Students may obtain academic credit for independent study work in three ways: 1) by enrolling in either Biology 350 (1 unit of course credit) and/or Biology 355 (1/2 unit of course credit); or 2) by completing Biology 460 (Senior Research) and Biology 470 (Senior Thesis) during their 4th year; or by enrolling in the Department Honors sequence (Biology 495, 496, and 497). More specific information on these options can be obtained from any Biology faculty member.