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Undergraduate Research and Independent Study

Databases of undergraduate research opportunities at UF

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Why you should participate in research as an undergraduate

All biology, botany and zoology majors are strongly encouraged to participate in research. Research experience is valuable on many levels: it diversifies your college experience; it teaches you how scientists apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to real world questions; it gives you the opportunity to work with and get to know researchers who are the best in their field; it introduces you to cutting edge scientific questions and techniques; it can enhance your resume/CV when applying to graduate or professional school; and finally it is essential in helping you determine if science is a good career choice for you.

CLAS pre-professional biology majors, botany majors, and zoology majors may participate in research for course credit (e.g., ZOO4911), as a Scholar (e.g., University Scholar, HHMI Science for Life Scholar, Beckman Scholar), as a volunteer, or (in rare cases) as a paid research assistant. If you plan to enroll for course credit, you must contact potential research mentors before the end of the drop/add period. If you miss the drop/add window, you should still contact potential research mentors, if only to discuss upcoming opportunities.

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Individual Study/Research for credit

At UF, "Individual Study" or "Directed Study" courses (e.g., ZOO4911, BOT4911, BCH4905, IDH 4917, MCB4115, AGR4911) are used to allow a student to receive course credit for conducting researching under the supervision of a faculty mentor. This may typically be repeated for full credit, and BIO Pre-Professional majors can apply up to six credits toward graduation. This option is open to students who have completed the BSC 2010/L and BSC2011/L and have a faculty project supervisor.

Botany and Zoology Majors: Botany majors should register for BOT4911 and Zoology majors should register for ZOO4911. Specific instructions for registering for these courses are provided below.

Biology Majors: Only ZOO4911 (Individual Study in Zoology) can be used directly for credit in the CLAS BIO major, but students can register for this course for research in life sciences across the UF campus, including with faculty in the CLAS departments of Botany and Zoology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Anthropology, the Florida Museum of Natural History, and the Colleges of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Pharmacy, Engineering, and Agriculture and Life Sciences.

BIO Pre-Professional majors may proceed through either of the following two paths to receive credit for research:

  • 1) Register for ZOO4911. As noted above, 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 are meant to ensure that each student receives a valuable educational experience.
  • 2) Receive credit for 4911 through another department or program (e.g., with a prefix of BOT, IDH, MCB, BCH, AGR, etc.), and request a "course substitution" from a Biology Advisor after completion of the course. To do this, you must submit a final report (using the ZOO4911 final report form), which will be evaluated by the CLAS Biology Undergraduate Coordinator. You must use this option if your faculty advisor's home department or program requires that students must register using their prefix.
The application and proposal process

To receive course credit for research, your planned research activities for this course should contribute substantially to your knowledge and skills in biology.

To apply for registration in BOT4911 or ZOO4911, you must complete the application form and submit a proposal for your Individual Study 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 Dept. of Biology office before the first week of classes for approval by the Undergraduate Coordinator.

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 Application Form.

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The Final Report

All Individual Study students must submit a final, written report of their research project. 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 4911 Report form is provided below. The completed report form must be sent via email to before Noon on the last day of instruction (i.e., before reading week, and before finals week). This 4911 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 4905 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 BOT/ ZOO 4911 Report form.

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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 Study project and you may be able to receive course credit for it. Such an arrangement requires some additional forms to be completed, and therefore you must contact the Undergraduate Coordinator if you think this applies to you.

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Can I perform research off-campus?

Yes. You must first contact the Undergraduate Coordinator to discuss the research, and then complete the normal application process. However, if the research will be performed at a laboratory or field site that is not part of the UF campus, you must contact the Center for Leadership and Service at 352-392-1261 ext 4, who will assist you in completing additional required forms.

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Information for the faculty member serving as the Project Supervisor

Individual Study students request your supervision on an undergraduate research project that will count as Individual Study credit for the student's major. Please establish the nature of the project and what you expect of the student before signing the Registration Approval form. You should expect the student to work on the project approximately 3 actual hours each week for each credit (i.e., 3 credits would typically require about 9 hours of weekly work).

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How to find a research mentor

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.

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.

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, and get informed.
  • Read professors' web pages to find out the specifics of their research; professors, especially those who have lots of undergraduates in their lab, often post information about their 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?
  • Finally, once you've figured out which labs might have openings and which ones you might be interested in, 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.
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Research support programs at UF

  • University of Florida University Scholars Program. This highly competitive program 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 $2,500 stipend and $500 for travel 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.
  • The Ronald McNair program, which helps prepare low income, first generation and/or minority undergraduates for graduate study -- includes a summer research component.
  • The Beckman Scholars Program "support[s] research ... by exceptionally talented undergraduate students ... in either chemistry, biochemistry, the biological and medical sciences". This is very competitive (GPA around 3.8, quant. SAT around 770, or 2 AP scores of 5 on science/math/physics), but also very rewarding (academic-year and summer support, etc.). If you think you're competitive, check it out.
  • The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience Research Experience for Undergraduate program (REU), funded by the National Science Foundation, offers an exceptional opportunity for the motivated undergraduate to participate in scientific research. If you are serious about science but have never had the opportunity to perform like a scientist, then this program is for you. In cooperation with a faculty supervisor, students choose a project that fits both their interests and ongoing investigations of the Lab and that can be completed within the eleven-week training period during the summer. Undergraduates who qualify for the REU Program receive a competitive stipend, assistance with travel expenses, and free housing. Students must be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency to qualify for NSF funding. Students from groups under-represented in the sciences (African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders), first generation college students, women and non-traditional students are encouraged to apply.
  • These and other programs are Center for Undergraduate Research.
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