Undergraduate students are encouraged to participate in research during their time at Boston University. Each year, approximately 100 Biology students participate in research in faculty laboratories. Students may volunteer, receive academic credit, or be paid from faculty research grants or Work-Study grants. Some students participate in research outside the Biology Department (for example, Boston University’s Medical Campus or other local hospitals and universities).
Additionally, students have the opportunity to participate in field-based programs and courses where they can gain valuable hands-on experience. Programs like the Marine Semester and the Tropical Ecology Program are two great programs students can take advantage of during their time at BU. There are also field courses like Herpetology (BI 416) which combines lectures, laboratory work, and field trips to give students firsthand experience in a natural setting. You can read about Dr. Chris Schneider and Dr. Karen Warkentin’s work in “Adventures in Herpetology.”
Finding a faculty or outside lab can take some time. Students are responsible for making connections and networking with faculty and outside labs. Students usually start by emailing several faculty whose research interests them to request a meeting to discuss possible opportunities. Other students ask the graduate students who serve as Teaching Fellows in their courses or identify faculty research projects posted on the UROP website. When you contact a faculty member, be sure to include your resume, transcript, and a short description of your goals (2 credit research, 4 credit research, Honors, etc.).
Research Opportunities (all require an application):
Undergraduate Research in Biology
Undergraduate Research in Biology allows students to receive academic credit for research conducted within or outside the Biology Department. Students are not expected to be technicians or laboratory assistants, but rather semi-independent, intellectual contributors to a research project.
Courses & Credits:
Freshman BI 191/192 (2 credits)
Sophomore BI 291/292 (2 credits)
Junior BI 391/392 (2 or 4 credits)
Senior BI 491/492 (4 credits)
Note: Up to two 4-credit courses may be counted as major electives and one of those may count toward the three-lab requirement. Students do not need to take two consecutive semesters of research (e.g., students can take BI 391 and BI 491).
During fall and spring semesters, students are expected to conduct research for three hours per credit. During the summer 1 and summer 2 sessions, students are expected to work eight hours per credit.
- Determine which faculty members (or outside researchers) are conducting research in the area of biology you are interested in. Then contact the individual(s) directly to determine if they have openings in their lab.
- Alternatively, you can ask the Teaching Fellows in your courses if there are openings in the labs they work in or if they know of anyone looking for undergrad help.
- Once you have a faculty or outside research mentor, you may then apply for Undergraduate Research.
Please note: if you are conducting research outside the Biology Department, you will also need to ask a Biology faculty member to sponsor you (i.e., he/she will act as a liaison between the Biology Department and the outside researcher). See note at end of section.**
Applications are due a week before the Add/Drop deadline to the Undergraduate Program Specialist Stacy Straaberg Finfrock in 5 Cummington Mall, Room 101. Students must be participating in research during the semester(s) of application and thus cannot apply for Undergraduate Research for previously conducted research.
Please see the application form on the Biology Forms webpage. Your research proposal should contain a clear description of any hypotheses you will test and how you will test them.
** Note: This is usually your faculty advisor but could also be another faculty member with whom you have a good relationship and who is familiar with the field of research in which you will be engaged. Both your PI and the Biology faculty sponsor must approve your application. When working outside the Biology Department, it is required that students meet with their Biology faculty sponsor at least twice/semester to provide updates on their research. This is an informal report and may be facilitated with PowerPoint slides of data or a brief written report at the discretion of the Biology faculty sponsor. Students are responsible for ensuring that the PI and the Biology faculty sponsor are in communication with each other regarding project status, updates, problems (if any), end-of-semester reports of any kind, and grading.
Honors Research in Biology
The Honors Research in Biology Program provides students with an opportunity to work closely with faculty who serve as intellectual and technical mentors in students’ exploration of biological research. Honors students also participate in a 2-credit research seminar, which provides exposure to a broad range of current science in the Biology research community. The Honors Program culminates in a written senior thesis defended before a faculty committee.
1) Senior standing
2) Overall GPA of > 3.5
3) Approval of the Honors Program application by the Biology Department’s Research & Honors Committee.
Please see the Honors application found on the Biology Forms webpage.
Please see the Honors Thesis document for formatting and content instructions.
UROP (Paid Research)
Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)
UROP is a University-wide program that helps connect students with research opportunities and provides funding for research and travel expenses as well as student stipends. Funding is available during the academic year as well as in the summer.
Please note: students may not receive academic credit and funding in the same semester.
For more information and to apply, visit www.bu.edu/urop.
Readings in Biology
Students in any standing may take Readings in Biology. These courses are often used as preparation for Undergraduate Research in Biology or Honors Research in Biology.
Students work in conjunction with a Biology faculty member to initiate these 2-credit courses, which involve library research, discussion, and possible written work on a well-defined topic in any area of the biological sciences.
The Readings in Biology application can be found on the Biology Forms webpage.