“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.” — Lewis Thomas
Student Research FAQ
Students often have questions about how the Biology undergraduate research program works. We have tried to provide answers to the more common ones here, but please feel free to get in touch with a Biology faculty member if you need more information.
- How much time does research take?
- Doing investigational research takes a significant time commitment. To get the most from your research experience, you need to be able to devote a minimum of 6-8 hours per week for several semesters to your project. And that time needs to be in large blocks; one hour between classes here and there is not enough time to do anything useful in the lab. If you are unable to make that kind of a time commitment during the academic year, then consider looking at some of the intensive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships at other institutions, or at the possibility of finding a sponsor for a Ferlic summer fellowship at Creighton.
- How do I go about finding a lab to work in?
- Step 1: Identify faculty whose work you find interesting. Look for research links in the home pages or faculty pages of the different biological departments on campus (e.g. Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Pharmacology) Then, pull up the lists of individual faculty members, and look for links to descriptions of their research; often there will also be a list of recent publications that you can read. Science faculty may be able to assist you in identifying opportunities.
- Step 2: Contact (individually) the faculty whose work you find most interesting. Either in person or via e-mail, provide a cover letter describing what your long term goals are, why you are interested in that faculty member’s research, and how much time you have in your schedule to devote to research. It is also good to include a resume with your name, address, phone, e-mail, professional goals (e.g., M.D., Ph.D., or if undecided, say that), class year and/or intended month of graduation, and a list of relevant coursework. Also, be sure to indicate prior laboratory experience (even projects in high school), and other work or volunteer experience that shows you are reliable, industrious, curious, etc.
- Step 3: If the faculty member has room is her/his lab and is willing, make an appointment to meet in person to discuss their research and your motivations for wanting to get involved.
- Can I get paid for doing research?
- It depends. Some faculty have grants that include monies to hire undergraduates There are also some awards and fellowships to pay students to work full-time on research projects in the summer, and a smaller number that provide stipends during the academic year. But the majority of Biology majors doing research in the Biology Department or in the Medical School are not paid, or at least not paid all of the time.
- Can I get course credit for doing research?
Yes. The Biology Department offers three separate courses to provide students
with academic recognition of time and effort spent pursuing mentored research
activities. The courses are:
- BIO 297 – Directed Research This is a SA/UN course intended for students participating in research for the first time.
- BIO 397 – Directed Independent Research (Extramural) This is a SA/UN course for students conducting research with a scientist outside of the Biology Department.
- BIO 497 – Directed Independent Research (Intramural) This is a graded course for students conducting research with a faculty mentor from the Biology Department.
- How many hours of research credit should I sign up for?
- You will decide that in consultation with your faculty mentor. The general rule of thumb is one credit hour equals at least three hours of lab work per week. The miximum number of credits is three per semester. If registering for credit would result in increased tuition, discuss options with your faculty mentor.
- What will I need to do to prepare for working in someone's lab?
- For the most part, your mentor will let you know what you should be ready for the first day you come in to do work. But there are several things that all research students need to take care of, ideally before they start:
- For research in the department, obtain a copy of the 297/497 syllabus from your mentor; for research elsewhere, read the Extramural Research page. Discuss time requirements, expectations, grading standards, etc., with your mentor. If you have questions, ask them before you register!
- Fill out an override form ("purple sheet") to be signed by your mentor (297/497) or the extramural research coordinator (397), and submit it to the registrar.
- Complete the online Lab Safety Training.
- Can I count my undergraduate research experience toward the Biology major requirements?
You can, under the following conditions:
- You must have enrolled in and received a grade of “B” or better in at least 6 credit hours of BIO 497. This will require two or more semesters (or one semester and a credited summer).
- You must present your research (in poster form) at the Biology Department’s Research Colloquium at the end of spring semester.
- You must present your research (in talk or poster format) at a professional scientific meeting, which can be local, regional or national. One such local meeting is the Nebraska Academy of Sciences meeting in Lincoln every April.