In Biological Sciences .
Independent Research and Honors Program
Biological Sciences majors are encouraged to conduct research with Cornell faculty members. Students interested in beginning research should contact faculty members who have compatible research interests. View the OUB’s resources for undergraduate researchers to learn more about best practices for contacting faculty, faculty research projects, and other undergraduate research opportunities. Faculty members may consider the student’s academic accomplishments, interests and career goals, and the availability of space and equipment when agreeing to supervise a student in their laboratory.
Students can receive academic credit via BIOG 2990 or BIOG 4990 for conducting research that is biological in nature under the supervision and mentorship of Cornell faculty members based at the Ithaca campus. Students conducting research for the first time enroll in BIOG 2990 - Introduction to Research Methods in Biology , an S–U course designed to introduce students to research. After conducting research for at least one semester or summer, students may enroll in BIOG 4990 - Independent Undergraduate Research in Biology . To enroll in BIOG 2990 or BIOG 4990 students must submit an online enrollment form that will be sent to their faculty mentor for approval. Prior to submitting the enrollment form, students should meet with their mentor to discuss expectations for the semester. Students enrolling in BIOG 4990 must also submit descriptions of their research projects, including the objectives, methods, and significance of the research. Students engaging in undergraduate research and participating in BIOG 2990 and BIOG 4990 will be trained in diverse skills, and learning outcomes from each course may include several of the following:
Students will be able to:
- Discuss the general research area with other lab members in a casual setting
- Discuss and/or apply methodology used in their field with accuracy and precision (with the assistance of a mentor)
- Generate reproducible results in the lab
- Discuss research questions, and/or hypotheses and predictions for that research question they are working on
- Understand the importance of correctly/Learning how to organize data effectively and maintain appropriate records (e.g., meta-data) such that their mentor can easily access
- Search the literature to become familiar with scientific studies related to their field of interest
- Read and discuss scientific literature relevant to their field
Students will be able to:
- Search the literature to become familiar with the existing body of work relevant to their research area
- Explain how their research fits into existing knowledge within that field of study, demonstrating understanding of “the big picture”
- As relevant, formulate or describe hypotheses and predictions for the research question they are working on
- Work collaboratively with other researchers – including their mentor – demonstrating effective, professional communication and problem-solving skills
- Apply appropriate procedures and technical skills to answer a research question with the guidance of a mentor
- Organize data effectively and maintain appropriate records (e.g., meta-data) such that their mentor can easily access these data and understand all components of data files
- Analyze & interpret data
- Explain their research project either verbally or in writing to multiple audiences including others in their field and a broader audience (educated, non-specialist)
- Practice iterative writing related to their research (for example, writing abstracts, research descriptions, or manuscript drafts with repeated revisions)
- Reflect on their research experience to identify personal strengths and opportunities for growth, and how the experience informs their future educational and career goals
The Biological Sciences Honors Program is designed to offer advanced training in research through the completion of an original research project under the direct guidance of a member of the Cornell faculty who acts as their honors supervisor. Biological Sciences majors planning on graduating with honors apply to the honors program in the summer after their junior year. Applications and information are available on the honors page of the Office of Undergraduate Biology website. To qualify for the program, Arts & Sciences students must be in the Biological Sciences major. CALS students from other majors may apply as long as there is significant biological content in the research. Students must have completed at least 30 credits at Cornell or have junior standing as a transfer and have a cumulative Cornell grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0. Students accepted into the honors program are required to attend honors meetings during their senior year, submit a honors thesis that is approved by the honors committee, maintain a 3.0 Cornell cumulative GPA through graduation, and give a public presentation of their research. The Biological Sciences Honors Committee formally accepts the thesis and awards the level of honors. Arts & Sciences students’ honors levels are determined by students’ cumulative GPA after their penultimate semester and CALS students’ honors levels are determined as indicated on the CALS honors web site.
Students interested in the honors program are strongly encouraged to begin their research projects in their junior year and often spend the following summer at Cornell engaged in full-time research on their thesis project.
It is possible to study abroad and successfully complete the honors program. Students are encouraged to meet with their academic and research advisor during their sophomore year to carefully plan their academic and lab schedule to meet the requirements of the honors program.
Application forms, deadlines, and details about the program can be found on the honors page of the Office of Undergraduate Biology website.