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Independent Research

Approximately 300 students receive credit each semester for undergraduate research in biology by enrolling in BIOG 2990 and BIOG 4990. Students can participate in laboratory research or special projects including library research or computational analyses.

BIOG 2990 is intended for students who are new to undergraduate research and is a prerequisite for BIOG 4990. Students enrolled in BIOG 2990 may be reading scientific literature, learning research techniques or assisting with ongoing research. Credit hours are variable (maximum of 3 credits is suggested) and grading is S/U only. The faculty supervisor will determine the work goals and the form of the final report.

BIOG 4990 is for students continuing their Cornell research. In order to enroll in BIOG 4990 you must have previously completed one semester of research as an undergraduate. Students enrolled in BIOG 4990 should be doing independent work on their own research project. The faculty supervisor will determine the form of the final report. Each student must submit a proposed research project description with the course registration form. The faculty supervisor will determine the work goals and the form of the final report. Non-Cornell supervisors are not acceptable. S/U grades optional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I do research with any faculty member? As long as the project that you are doing is biological in nature, the faculty member can be in any department. The descriptions of research projects will be looked at by the Director of Undergraduate Research to make sure that they are biological in nature. In most cases, you must be supervised by a faculty member, although in the lab you may be working with a graduate student or a postdoc.

How many credit hours can I enroll for? Most students enroll for 1 or 2 credits the first semester that they are involved in research. Make sure that you have enough time to do research and that you are really interested in research. Later on you can enroll for more credits.

If you are in the College of Arts and Sciences there is a maximum of 6 credit hours per semester with one professor and 8 credit hours with more than 1 professor. Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences may count 15 credits of research towards graduation.

Can I sign up for BIOG 4990 S/U? Talk to your research faculty member about grading and whether to sign up for a letter grade or S/U.

What is required for BIOG 2990/4990? Every professor has different expectations of undergraduate research students. Ask them what will be required of you at the end of the term. Most professors require either a written or an oral summary of your progress for the semester.

How many hours a week do I have to work in the lab? Again, every professor has ideas about the number of hours that you need to work in the lab to get one hour of credit. The rule of thumb is that students receive one hour of credit for every 3-5 hours per week they spend working in the lab, with the minimum being three hours per week per credit. Talk to your research advisor.

Everyone knows that you may work a different numbers of hours different weeks, depending on prelims. Always let the person that you are working with know when you have exams coming up.

I work in a lab for pay now, but the professor just offered me my own project and said that I could get credit for it. How do I do that? You can enroll in BIOG 4990 for credit. Enroll online, BioG 2990/4990. You will need to write a description of your research project. Once you have submitted the online enrollment a request for approval will automatically be sent. Enrollment forms are due three days prior to the end of the add period.

I signed up for 2 hours of BI G 4990 credit, but I am in the lab all of the time. Can I increase my credit hours? In most cases you can go up or down one credit without too much hassle. For more information stop by the Office of Undergraduate Biology (216 Stimson Hall), or call 255-6859 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .