Undergraduate research is an excellent way to enhance your biology degree and make yourself stand out among other candidates for internships, jobs, or graduate or professional school. Check out our tips on how to identify a research lab to get involved.
- Research courses
- Research for credit
- Research for pay
- Competitive paid research fellowships
- Research as a volunteer
- Research for credit outside the School of Biological Sciences
- Senior Research Experience
- Research Option
- Vertically Integrated Projects
- Summer research internships
- Travel awards
- How to identify a research lab
- BIOS 4698 is research for pay (details below)
- BIOS 4699 is research for credit (details below)
- BIOS 4690 is Independent Research Project, which is one of two options to fulfill the Senior Research Requirement
Research for credit
To receive course credit for conducting research, you must be involved in a biology-related, research project and not simply providing services that are only distantly related to research goals (e.g., washing glassware or preparing media). Students not completing their Senior Research Experience should register for BIOS 4699. Students who are completing their Senior Research Experience should register for BIOS 4690. BIOS 4699 can count towards a Biology major’s program of study; up to 6 credits of BIOS 4699 can count as Biology electives, and additional BIOS 4699 credits count as free electives. Your faculty mentor must provide permission for you to register for any of the research classes by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (include student name and GT ID#); you can find full instructions on the Permits and Registration page. You and your professor must agree upon the number of hours for which you'll register; 1 credit hour equals 45 hours of work over the course of the semester, which works out to 3 hours per week per credit hour during the fall and spring semesters, or 4.5 hours per week per credit hour in the summer semester. After registering for the course, follow these instructions to change the default from one hour.
Research for pay
In some cases, you can be paid to conduct research-related activities. As with research for credit, you must be involved in a biology-related research project, and not simply providing services that are only distantly related to research goals. Current pay rates are ~$10-12/hr depending on experience. After you and your faculty member agree to the terms, you must visit the Biological Sciences finance office to complete appropriate paperwork to get paid. You will then be responsible for completing bi-weekly timesheets that your faculty mentor signs. If you are hired at the start of a semester, you should register for BIOS 4698. Although these are audit-only, no-credit courses that do not count towards your program of study, they allow you to document your paid research experience on your transcript. Your faculty mentor must provide permission for you to register by emailing email@example.com (include student name and GT ID#); you can find full instructions on the Permits and Registration page.
Paid research fellowships
Georgia Tech offers a number of competitive paid research fellowships that match you with a Georgia Tech faculty member for a semester-long research experience. These programs also have travel awards. For more information, see
- the President's Undergraduate Research Awards (PURA)
- the College of Sciences Undergraduate Research Scholarship Awards (URSA) program website
- the Biological Sciences McCallum Research Fellowships
- In addition, there are numerous competitive Summer Research Opportunities around the country
Research as a volunteer
You may volunteer to conduct research-related activities. These arrangements are informal and the work can be negotiated between you and your faculty advisor. You must fill out the Georgia Tech Agreement for Volunteer Services form available from the Biological Sciences office to officially recognize the volunteer relationship.
Research for credit or pay outside the School of Biological Sciences
Biology majors can conduct research in other Schools within Georgia Tech or even in institutions outside of Georgia Tech, and obtain credit for BIOS 4690, 4698, or 4699. Dr. Chrissy Spencer, the School of Biological Sciences Associate Chair for the Undergraduate Program, will serve as official co-supervisor and instructor of record within Biological Sciences for the class. Note that a co-supervisor is not needed if your faculty mentor has a minor or courtesy appointment within the School of Biological Sciences. The primary research faculty mentor (e.g. in Psychology, Emory University, etc.) must be a PhD or MD level scientist, preferably in a group leader-like role (not a postdoc, etc). To obtain approval for this research to count for BIOS course credit, you must provide the Associate Chair with (1) a description of the research you will be doing, (2) the name of the primary research mentor, (3) the department or institution of the research mentor, (4) your full name, (5) your GTID number, and (6) the class (i.e., 4690, 4698, or 4699) that you want to register for. In addition, (7) your primary research mentor must email the Associate Chair agreeing to serve as you research mentor and follow the Biology syllabus for the course in question. If appropriate, the Associate Chair will approve the project for credit or pay.
Senior Research Experience
All Biology majors complete a Senior Research Experience consisting of a research course (either BIOS 4590 or 4690), and BIOS 4460 Communicating Biological Research. BIOS 4590 Research Project Lab is taught by Biological Sciences faculty members each semester; topics vary depending upon the faculty teaching the course; BIOS 4460 should be taken concurrent with BIOS 4590. BIOS 4690 Independent Research Project is conducted under the supervision of a faculty member in the research laboratory; BIOS 4460 can be taken either concurrent with or in the semester after taking BIOS 4690. In addition, you must take BIOS 4460 either concurrent with or in the semester after taking BIOS 4590 or 4690. Note that if BIOS 4460 is taken after BIOS 4590 or 4690, you must seek a permit to register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (include your GT ID number in your request).
Description and Prerequisites
BIOS 4460 Timing and Other Notes
|BIOS 4590 Research Project Lab||Class of 12-24 students. Taught by BioSci faculty. Graded by course instructor. No prior research experience required.||Take BIOS 4460 Communicating Biological Research concurrently.|
|BIOS 4690 Independent Research Project||Individual research project. Arrange for a faculty mentor. Write short proposal at start. Write paper at end in scientific manuscript style. Graded by faculty mentor. Pre-req: 1 credit hour prior research experience (BIOS 2699, 4699).||Take BIOS 4460 Communicating Biological Research concurrently or during next semester. For Research Option students: take LMC 4701 during semester prior and take LMC 4702 during concurrent semester (Must be in Research Option to take LMC 4701 and 4702).|
See these instructions for registration issues related to BIOS 4590 or BIOS 4460.
Complete the Senior Research Permit Request form for a permit for BIOS 4590 or BIOS 4690.
Georgia Tech Research Option
The Research Option gives you a competitive advantage on getting into graduate and professional schools through an intensive, multi-semester research experience, an undergraduate honors thesis. For more information, see our page on the Research Option for Biology majors.
Vertically Integrated Program (VIP) courses
Vertically integrated projects are team-based, multidisciplinary research experiences for students and faculty. With multi-semester research projects, VIP courses offer opportunities for developing and practicing new skills, mentoring new team members, and contributing to a long-term research goal. Up to six credits of 3000 or 4000-level VIP coursework led by at least one faculty member from the School of Biological Sciences can count toward Biology Breadth electives, and any additional credits can count toward free electives. For more information, see the Virtually Integrated Projects website.
Summer Research Internships: Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs)
Summer is an excellent time to gain research experience, either here at Georgia Tech or at another institution. Many institutions have summer research programs specifically for undergraduates; many will pay you to do research for the summer (~$4000 for a 10 week program) and also cover travel, housing, and in some cases food. Research mentors are great people to ask for letters of recommendation when it comes time to apply for med/grad/dental/pharmacy/etc. school or jobs after graduation.
When to apply: Most of these programs have deadlines in January or February
How to find the right program: To find funded programs, you can Google the standard program acronyms, like REU, SURF, SURE, SROP, with the topic you’re are interested in: Evolution, Ecology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, etc.
General listings of summer research opportunities:
- NSF Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs)
- Web Guru Listings for Summer Programs
- M.D. Anderson Summer Programs
Opportunities in Georgia:
- Biological Sciences Aquatic Chemical Ecology REU program
- Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project's Bee-INSPIRED Summer Research Program
- UROP Listings for Summer Programs (includes GT and external options)
- GT PURA program (requires a faculty sponsor)
- GT CoS URSA program (requires a faculty sponsor)
- Augusta University STAR program
- UGA Population Biology of Infectious Disease REU program
- UGA Nanotech and Biomedicine Engineering Research
- UGA Undergraduate Biology Education Group
If you have been accepted to present a poster or talk at a conference, you may qualify for travel funding from the College of Sciences. See that CoS Conference Travel Grants page for more information.
How to identify a research lab
- Earn 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 record of academic excellence.
- Choose an area of biological sciences that you find interesting and corresponds to one of the areas of faculty expertise here at Georgia Tech. Think about the biological sciences courses you have enjoyed most, 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 several faculty mentors whose research programs are of interest to you. You can consider faculty in the School of Biological Sciences as well as other Schools at GT or neighboring institutions (Emory, GSU). Recent publications of most biology faculty are listed on faculty members’ web pages. You can read about faculty research interests and ongoing projects in Biological Sciences at the links below:
- After identifying faculty members, email them to tell them about your interest in research, including why you are specifically interested in their research group. It needs to be clear that you are sending an individual email rather than mass emailing multiple faculty. Ask to meet with them to discuss their current research projects and if they have an opening for an undergraduate researcher beginning in the specific semester you wish to start. At this point it is important to emphasize both why you think that an undergraduate research project would be a valuable experience for you, and also why you would be a good choice to join their research group. Don’t forget that you need to think about how your work will benefit other scientists and our understanding of biological sciences in general, not just how you will benefit individually.
- Do not be discouraged if the first professor tells you no. There are many reasons why faculty may not want to take on more undergraduate researchers. For example, their lab may be full, or they may be over-committed with other responsibilities. Your chances of being invited to join a research group are better if you get to know a professor. Take their classes and show an interest in their work. If you are courteously persistent and demonstrate success in your coursework, an opportunity is likely to come your way.
- Another option to connect with a research group is to reach out to graduate students, such as your graduate TAs, who are working in research areas of interest to you. The Georgia Tech Undergraduate Research Ambassadors program can also provide support in identifying and securing a research position.
You can contact your Biology Advisor for more help with this process.