Undergraduate Research in Biology/Honors

Please note: The course section for which you will register is the first three letters of your professor's last name. These four courses are variable-hour courses. You and your professor must agree upon the number of hours for which you'll register (usually one registered hour equals three hours work in the lab per week). After registering for the course, follow instructions at http://www.registrar.gatech.edu/registration/vhours.php to change the default from one hour.

Many undergraduates in the School of Biological Sciences become involved in research. Research experience is a valuable complement to coursework, and it increases career options upon graduation. The research experience also provides a topic for you to present in Senior Seminar (BIOL 4450), which is a required course for biology majors. Working independently on your own research project teaches you the true nature of scientific investigation. You will learn fundamental techniques, scientific methods, and how to work effectively in a research environment. It also provides you with experiences that make your résumé stand out from the crowd. You can explore research opportunities anytime, starting in your freshman year.

The following are some suggestions for becoming involved in research:

  1. Get good grades and make yourself known to your professors. Undergraduate research is competitive and you are more likely to be accepted with the faculty member of your choice if you have a strong background.
  2. Choose an area of biology that you find interesting. Hopefully it will correspond to one of the areas of faculty expertise at Georgia Tech. One of the best ways to determine the areas of biology in which you are most interested is to reflect upon the courses you have taken, identifying those that you most enjoyed. Then, think about how these courses fit in with your career goals. For example, are you seeking a career in medicine, the biotech industry or in environmental protection? Within these or other areas, it is best to identify the faculty member whose research program most closely fits your interests. You can read about faculty research interests on the School of Biological Sciences Web site. Recent publications of most biology faculty are posted on a bulletin board outside the main office and references for additional publications are listed on faculty members' Web pages. You can access scientific research articles published by Georgia Tech faculty and students at the Georgia Tech library or online by using the Georgia Tech library resources.
  3. After identifying faculty members, ask to meet with them to discuss their current research projects and your potential contribution. Next, tell the faculty member that you are interested in their work, and ask about the possibility of doing a research project in their lab. At this point, it is important to emphasize why you think that an undergraduate research project would be a valuable experience for you and why you would be a good choice for the faculty member. Do not be afraid of this step; it's no big deal. 

    Undergraduate research is a learning opportunity for students, AND enables student to make unique contributions to science — thus, don't forget that you need to think about how your work will benefit other scientists and our understanding of biology in general, not just how you will benefit.
  4. Do not be discouraged if the first faculty member tells you no. There are many reasons why faculty members may not want to take on more undergraduate researchers. The most common is that their lab is full, and space and equipment are limited. They may be over-committed with committee assignments or teaching duties. Your chances of being invited to join a research group are better if you get to know a professor. Take his/her classes and show an interest in his/her work. If you are courteously persistent and demonstrate success in your coursework, an opportunity is likely to come your way.
  5. Some undergraduate research positions are paid from a professor's research grant (in this case students register for BIOL 2698/4698). More commonly, students register for undergraduate research credits (BIOL 2699/4699) and are not paid. Before you register for these courses, you must arrange for a professor to sponsor your work and submit a signed Permit Request Form for the course to CULC 474E or room 321 in the Cherry Emerson building.)
  6. You and your faculty mentor may obtain a President's Undergraduate Research Award (PURA), with up to $1,500 for salary and travel to meetings and conferences, by submitting an application to the College of Sciences. Seehttp://www.undergradresearch.gatech.edu/funding/pura/.

Registering for Research:

You can do research for credit or for pay, but you must get permission from the professor you want to work for and have a Permit Request Form completed first. Here are the details:

1. Research for credit:

If you are a freshman or sophomore, register for BIOL 2699. These credits count as free electives. If you are a junior or senior, register for BIOL 4699. Up to six of these hours can count as Biology electives, the rest count as free electives.

2. Research for pay:

Freshmen and sophomores: Register for BIOL 2698.
Juniors and seniors: Register for BIOL 4698.
These are non-credit, audit-only courses.

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