At the University of Florida many scientists and engineers mentor biology students in research. Research mentors can be found across the university including faculty from Colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine. All are located at the main UF campus in Gainesville, FL. But this is not the only location at which students may participate in research. The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) which has 19 research centers located throughout the state from the panhandle to the Everglades at which students may participate in research.
In a nutshell here are the steps you should follow to enter undergraduate research in the life sciences.
1. Find a UF faculty member who will invite you to do research in her/his lab.
2. Identify the project on which you will work.
3. In collaboration with your mentor develop a one-page research proposal including days and hours you will be expected to conduct your research.
4. Register for the appropriate undergraduate research course.
5. Receive a grade from your mentor.
6. Submit any required final reports or other documents.
Entering research requires that you identify a faculty mentor and that you choose a project that interests you.
How to find a research mentor
The best advice to undergraduate students who want to find a research opportunity is to do your homework.
- The very best way to find an opportunity is to figure out what you want to do, find the professors (or graduate students) on campus who are doing research in that area (the web is your friend: for example, you could see what you get if you search Google for “parasite biology research site:ufl.edu), and get informed.
- You should choose a project that you find intrinsically interesting. When you interview with a potential mentor, find out what you will do on a daily basis and how that applies to the bigger research questions being asked in the mentor’s laboratory. Communicate your expectations of the experience, and ask the mentor whether these expectations can be met by joining his or her lab. For example, if you want to learn how to work with DNA or if you want to do field research, make sure that is a part of the lab’s daily mission. Finally, determine the level of commitment that is expected of you by the lab so you can be sure that you can meet that commitment.
- Read professors’ web pages to find out the specifics of their research; professors, especially those who have several undergraduates in their lab, often post information about openings and policies.
- Read papers by the professors you’re interested in — you can either find citations on their web pages or find them, very easily, on the Web of Science, PubMed or Google Scholar .
- Decide what you’re interested in, and what you’re willing to do. How much time do you want to commit? Do you want research credit (usually pretty easy), money (harder unless you bring unusual skills/experience or levels of commitment), or are you willing to work just for the experience?
- Once you’ve figured out which labs might have openings and in which ones you might be interested, e-mail the professors (don’t phone them or drop by their labs) to find out whether you will fit in. Tell them what courses you’ve taken and what skills you have, and why you’re interested in working in their lab. Don’t be afraid to approach professors who are doing specific work you’re interested in, even if they don’t specifically say on their web pages that they’re looking for students, but also don’t be surprised if there isn’t room in their labs at present. Be prepared to wait for what you want.
- Finally, a college education offers you the chance to discover what interests you most and to learn how to make that into a career. A research position can last a semester, or it can last for four years. While science is incredibly diverse, the basic principles of research are not. With a few skills, and a solid understanding of the scientific method, you can progress in any number of directions.
Databases of undergraduate research opportunities at UF
- Department of Biology Researchers Seeking Undergraduates
- Science for Life Program Faculty Mentor List
- UF Undergraduate Research Database: provides links and descriptions for research programs and opportunities across the campus. Please select the area of research you are interested in under the Category option and then click search.
- The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences maintains a list of faculty that may support undergraduate research, depending upon semester and project. Please click on this link “Honors Mentor List” to obtain information.
Research support programs at UF
- The first resource you should access regarding questions about undergraduate research is the UF Center for Undergraduate Research.
- University of Florida University Scholars Program is a competitive program that provides undergraduates with the unique opportunity to work closely with UF faculty. Teamed with a faculty mentor, students pick their topic, conduct summer research, and complete their paper throughout the following academic year. All undergraduates are eligible. You may choose to work with a faculty member in a different college than your own major. Scholars receive a stipend and travel expenses to a scholarly conference to present the results of the research. In addition, scholars have the opportunity to publish their research in UF’s online Journal of Undergraduate Research.
- The UF Science for Life program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This is the largest early undergraduate research program at UF and in the State of Florida. The intramural program provides opportunities for students to engage in multi-year research projects starting the summer following their freshman year culminating in a second award for co-authorship in publications. A one-credit Science for Life course (IDH3931) is offered each fall and spring. This course is intended for freshmen and sophomores who are interested in research.
- (NEW FOR FALL 2015) The UF Emerging Scholars Program is designed to provide first research experiences to younger students. The program will provide a spring semester stipend of $500 for approximately 25 students. We have matching second semester commitments from most colleges that will provide the ESP Scholars with a second semester award that will either be used in the summer or following fall semester.
Eligibility and Details:
- Will be available to all majors including undecided
- Will only be available to Freshman and Sophomores who have had no previous research experience
- Applications will be taken in the late fall. The student will have to identify a research mentor and project as part of the application process.
- If selected, students will receive a $500 stipend for Spring 2016 to conduct the research, and a matching second semester award. There will not be a mentor award.
- A final product – report/poster – will be required as determined later.
- The Ronald McNair program, which helps prepare first generation and/or minority undergraduates for graduate study — includes a summer research component.
- These and other programs are summarized at the UF Honors Program website.
- For university-wide information regarding undergraduate research please visit the UF Center for Undergraduate Research.
Undergraduate Research for Credit for CALS BLY Students
There are important differences between CALS BLY and CLAS BIO majors regarding the issue of undergraduate research. So, please carefully read the following.
CALS BLY students should use ALS 4905 or another CALS undergraduate research course unless they are working with a mentor who is in the Department of Biology. In this case CALS BLY students may register for BSC 4910 or 4912. CALS BLY Pre-professional students may use up to but no more than 3-credits of undergraduate research towards their 12-credit additional life sciences electives requirement.
Undergraduate Research for Credit for CLAS BIO Students
CLAS BIO students should use BSC 4910 and BSC 4912 when registering for undergraduate research if their mentors are in the Biology Department. If a CLAS BIO student’s mentor is in the College of Medicine he/she may register for BMS 4905. CLAS BIO students may also register for undergraduate research in other departments if required by their mentor. CLAS BIO Pre-professional majors may use up to but no more than 6-credits of undergraduate research towards their 12-credit additional life science requirement. Please note that this differs from the CALS BLY guidance.
Please note that there is an important caveat regarding the use of non-BSC courses for undergraduate research for CLAS BIO majors. Because these courses are offered outside the UF Biology Major they may not meet the standards required for use as a substitute for BSC 4910 or 4912. The standards include that the research is life science oriented, experimental and that a final report over the research is submitted by the last day of classes of the semester when the research is conducted. Because the Biology Major has no control over the content and structure of other department’s courses it is up to the student to make sure that the research meets the standards required for BSC 4910 and 4912. If you are in doubt about the research being either life science oriented or experimental you should send an email to the UF Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator (email@example.com) with an inquiry. If you do not want to write a final report, then you will not be able to use a non-BSC undergraduate research course to count towards the major’s requirements.
At UF, “Mentored Research” courses may include ALS 4911, BSC 4910 & 4912, ZOO 4911, BOT 4911, BCH 4905, IDH 4917, MCB 4905, AGR 4911, and BMS 4905. This list should always be compared to the Undergraduate Catalog listing of courses.
CLAS BIO majors should follow the instructions below:
- 1) Register for BSC 4910 Individual Mentored Research in Biology and BSC 3911 Entering Research in Biology for your first research experience and the BSC 4912 Advanced Mentored Research in Biology, for subsequent research experiences. A student may work with life sciences researchers across the UF campus, and in some cases at other universities and organizations in the USA and abroad. However, the student must follow specific application procedures before registering, and must submit a final report at the end of the semester. These requirements are meant to ensure that each student receives a valuable educational experience.
- 2) Students seeking to use credits from other UF undergraduate research courses (e.g., with a course prefix of ALS, BMS, IDH, MCB, BCH, AGR, etc.) for BSC 4910 or 4912 should contact the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator before registering for the course if there is doubt that the research might not be life science related. Before registering for research through another department or program, it is highly recommended that the student first contact the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator to confirm that the proposed research project is appropriate for credit in the major. The work should be research rather than a literature review. In order to apply the research credits to satisfy the Additional Life Science electives requirement for the BIO-PRO and BLY-PRO majors students must request a course substitution from the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator after the final grade is posted and a final report is received and approved. Please submit the final report to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Application and Proposal Process
To receive course credit, your planned research activities for this course should contribute substantially to your knowledge and skills in biology.
To apply for registration in BSC 4910 or BSC 4912, you must complete the application form and submit a proposal for your Individual Mentored Research course. A link to download the application form is provided below. The proposal should be no more than one page in length, double-spaced. Submit the completed application form and course proposal to the Biology Major Office (214 Bartram) no later than 4:00PM on the last day of Drop/Add for approval by the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator. A final report is required by the last day of classes.
The proposal should be developed with your research mentor and must contain the following components:
1) Background and Significance. Provide relevant background information on what you propose to investigate and why it is important.
2) Hypothesis. Provide a clear, concise hypothesis for your research project.
3) Methods. Briefly explain what specific activities and/or experiments you will perform that will test your hypothesis. Include an estimate of how much time you will spend per week (or over the duration of the semester) on your project, and your specific responsibilities in the project (i.e., what tasks will you perform, and will you be functioning independently or assisting a graduate student, post-doctoral student, clinical resident or laboratory technician in the research project). Download the BSC4910-4912 Registration Approval Form.
***If your mentor is in the College of Medicine he/she may want you to register for undergraduate research using BMS 4905. Click here to go to CoM BMS 4905 registration page. to begin the registration process. For additional information contact Recruiting & Admissions, Student Records, Brett Looney (352) 273-8602.
All students enrolled in BSC 4910 or 4912 must submit a final, written report of their research project before their grade will be posted. The report length should be at least 750, 1300, 1600 and 1800 words for a 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-credit project, respectively. A link to download the Final Report form is provided below. The completed report form must be emailed to email@example.com before 5:00 p.m. on the last day of instruction (i.e., before reading week, and before finals week). This Final Report requirement will be strictly enforced. Failure to submit the report electronically by the deadline will result in an automatic “NG” (no grade). The report will be sent to your faculty project supervisor, who will recommend a semester grade, and therefore it is strongly advised that the report be developed in consultation with the faculty mentor. A thesis may not be used to replace your final report. The Final Report is used to evaluate the quality of your educational experience for one semester only, and therefore is distinct from a thesis, which typically includes the results of research spreading across multiple semesters. Download the BSC4910-4912 Final Report Form.
Can I be paid while also receiving course credit?
Yes. If you perform research as part of your employment, for example as an assistant in a campus laboratory or conservation agency or as a technician in a local biotechnology company, your research may qualify as an Individual Mentored Research project and you may be able to receive course credit. If the arrangement requires you to work more than 20 hours per week you will need to complete an extension of hours form and have your academic advisor sign. The this link to access the UF student employment website that contains links to forms and additional information.
Can I perform research off-campus?
Yes, however your research PI must have an affiliation with UF that will allow him/her to submit a grade for a UF student.
CLAS BIO majors submitting a thesis to receive High or Highest Honors
CLAS BIO majors wishing to graduate with high or highest honors must have an upper-division GPA greater than 3.5 and must have completed at least two semesters of Individual Mentored Research (with a total of at least 6 credit hours). In some cases volunteer research effort can be used towards the 6 credit requirement; contact the Undergraduate Coordinator for additional information. The research must be presented as a thesis. If the thesis is approved, the student will be recommended for high or highest honors. The research program should be started by the second semester of the junior year.
Any student who plans to submit a thesis must contact a Biology Advisor and the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) before the semester in which the student intends to graduate.
The thesis should be submitted to the UF Biology Major Office (email@example.com) and to the CLAS Academic Advising Center no less than four weeks before the end of the semester in which the student intends to graduate. Prior to this submission deadline, you must give your thesis to your faculty research mentor, whose obligation is to read and evaluate the work and thesis and assign a grade and an honors rating (High Honors or Highest Honors), based on your mentor’s assessment of its merit.
The thesis copy submitted to the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator must be in electronic format (preferably as a single PDF file) and submitted via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Requirements and guidelines for thesis submission are provided by the Honors Program. The Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator will submit the thesis to the Biology Major Executive Committee to review. The committee would then make high or highest honors recommendations to the Biology Major Undergraduate Coordinator.
CALS BLY majors submitting a thesis to receive High or Highest Honors
Requirements for high and highest honor designations are different for CALS BLY students. BLY students must have a 3.75 minimum upper-division GPA plus submission of an approved honors thesis for high honors, and a 3.85 minimum upper-division GPA plus submission of an approved honors thesis for highest honors.
CALS Biology students can also elect to participate in the CALS Honors Scholar Certificate Program. This is the only formal upper division Honors program at the University of Florida. Students who successfully complete this program are designated as CALS Honors Scholars and receive a Scholars Medallion and certificate. For more information, visit: this site.