All faculty welcome student
participation in various aspects of their research projects. One of the best
ways to participate is for a student to work with a faculty member on their
research and earn course credit (Directed Research or Independent
Study). Undergraduates may apply up to 6 credit hours toward the Biology major
upper division electives.
Also, some faculty may hire undergraduates as
Research Assistants funded by research grants. Students may then be paid to do
research in a faculty member’s lab. Generally, faculty research advisors prefer
to work with students who have completed the Biology core with good grades and
have performed well in their classes. Students interested in working with
faculty should have at least a 3.0 grade average overall.
Student contributions to research. Students may contribute to research in many ways. Many
help perform analyses or experiments in the laboratory, or learn techniques by
working with other students. They may accompany faculty who work in the
areas of ecology, animal behavior, or related fields on field trips to gather
data or collect materials, such as plants or soil samples, for study in the
lab. Students also may be given access to data sets for the purpose of
statistical or graphical analysis, or for modeling or synthesis exercises.
After learning analytical or
experimental techniques, some students may be interested in taking
responsibility for some of the experiments, analyses, or field data collection.
They may also devise their own research projects, asking questions related to
those being investigated in their advisor’s lab.
Undergraduate students often contribute
important information to a research effort, and occasionally sufficient
information to be included in a conference presentation or research paper.
Students are sometimes invited to participate as a co-author or leading author
on a conference talk or, more often, a poster presentation; this may lead to
the experience of attending a professional scientific meeting with the faculty
advisor and other students. These meetings are very exciting and inspirational,
because programs always include lectures and talks by the foremost researchers
in a field. Meetings also provide opportunities to learn what research is going
on at different universities, to network with other students, and to "shop
around" for prospective graduate advisors at other institutions.
Often, research papers result from the
collaborative work of faculty and students in a given research lab. These are
usually written by the faculty member or a graduate student and submitted to
peer-reviewed scientific journals, with all key contributors listed as authors.
Occasionally, undergraduates gather sufficient and adequate data to justify
being lead author on a paper, especially if they help write the paper.
UROP research grants. Research grants are available through UCD's
Undergraduate Research Opportunity Fund (UROP). Projects are either designed
around the activities of a faculty member or designed independently by a
student or team of students and sponsored by a faculty member.
Participation in UROP is an intense
educational experience that introduces students to the process of research,
including writing a proposal, preparing a budget, conducting research,
analyzing data, and bringing the project to closure in the form of a written
abstract and presentation. Grant funds can be used to purchase supplies and
equipment, travel to field sites, cover lab costs, and pay student researchers
a small stipend for the hours invested. About 20 to 30 awards are available
through UROP each year. Details on the application process are available on the
UROP Web site.
Honors and recognition. The Department of Integrative Biology recognizes
research as a critical component of academic achievement. Students who excel in
both coursework and research can apply to be recognized as Biology Research Scholars.
How to Get Involved:
Read the Biology Department’s Faculty Profiles
Search for faculty members you would be comfortable contacting and
research topics you are interested in. The topic need not be in your specific
area of expertise or future career. You will obtain useful skills and the
experience of how research is conducted, no matter which lab you choose.
Contact faculty members with whom you are interested in working. This
step will be easier if you are already acquainted with the faculty member from
a class or other interaction. Politely approach the faculty member (during
office hours or by appointment) and ask them about their research program. If
you are interested, let them know you would like to get involved. Understand
that there may not be work for you in the lab at that time. If the faculty
member is agreeable to the idea, you and the faculty member will discuss the
specifics (i.e., work expectations, schedules). The two of you will also
discuss if the work will be for Independent Study credit, as a volunteer or as
a paid employee.
Carry out your agreed upon work responsibly and to the best of your ability.
Research is important and must be performed in very precise ways. Involvement
in research as an undergraduate is a privilege and one that you should not
undertake lightly. The faculty member and other members of the research team
will be depending upon you to perform your tasks.