Undergraduate Biology Research

R. Napoliello, studies the behavior of insects in the laboratory of Dr. William Conner

We encourage all Biology majors and minors to become involved in the challenging and enriching investigations conducted daily by the 20+ research groups in the Biology Department and the much larger number of laboratories at the WFU Medical School (and, research is required for the BS degree). The Biology Department provides the opportunity to work closely with the faculty (a benefit of attending a school of Wake’s size) while simultaneously participating in your mentor’s group of Master’s and doctoral students as a team member. Each student seeking a research position should use the resources on this site to identify faculty with whom they have common areas of interest. Then approach those people and ask about joining their group. If you are interested in someone at our Medical School, faculty in the Biology Department can facilitate your connection there.

Many students wait until their senior year to begin research, but we encourage you to consider starting earlier, in your junior or even sophomore year.

The requirement for a research experience for the BS degree can be satisfied in one of two ways.  Students may take Bio 391 for credit, or undertake a research project at Wake Forest, or elsewhere, for which credit is not received. Credit can be received for Bio 391 from research performed in the Biology Department, at the School of Medicine, or in other relevant departments (Chemistry, Physics, Health and Exercise Science, Psychology, Bioinformatics; projects in other departments may be allowed if approved by Undergraduate Studies Committee.) A maximum of 4 hours of research in biology (Bio 391-392) may be applied toward the major, but an additional 4 hours (Bio 393 and/or 394) may be taken and applied towards graduation as elective hours.

Research carried out at Wake Forest through the Wake Forest Research Fellowship program, research experiences at other sites, such as a participation in a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, or other independent research, also satisfy the requirement. A student wishing to satisfy the research requirement through a mechanism other than Bio 391-392 must get approval for the project in advance from his or her major advisor. After completion of the project, the student must fill out a research equivalency form (see next page), which is submitted to and must be approved by the advisor. This will appear on the transcript, but no credit will be awarded. In order to qualify as a research experience, students must be actual participants in a research project. Shadowing a scientist or working as a technical assistant in a laboratory does not constitute a research experience.

Biology 391-394: Research in Biology:  Students may receive academic credit for work in any of the research laboratories in a science department on the Reynolda Campus or in one of a select group of laboratories at the WFU School of Medicine.  Credit for such work is received by registering for Research in Biology, Bio. 391 and/or 392, which are offered for 2 hours each.  A maximum of 4 hours of research in biology credits may be applied toward the major, but an additional 4 hours (Bio. 393 and/or 394) may be taken and applied towards graduation as elective credits.  Students who choose one or more of these courses are directed in their studies in the research laboratory of a faculty member, who, working with the student, designs an original research project for independent study by the student.  At the end of the semester, the student must write a paper on the experience, in the format of a scientific paper, which details the scientific question, describes the techniques used to address the question, and summarizes and discusses the results. The paper is submitted to the research advisor and will be used in calculating the student’s grade for the course.

To register for Bio 391, students need permission of instructor. It is best to speak to faculty and establish what lab you will be working in the semester prior to the one in which you plan to do research. Each lab has a finite number of research spots.If you are interested in doing research at the School of Medicine, speak to your academic advisor about how to select a lab and contact a faculty member there.

A number of opportunities exist to conduct research outside of the biology department, particularly in the summer. Several members of the department involve undergraduates in summer research programs for which the students can receive either credit or a stipend; however, students cannot receive both academic credit and a stipend. These programs include research sponsored through the Wake Forest Research Fellowship program, and programs in Australia and at field stations in Cocha Cashu, Peru and the Galápagos Islands.  Students may also arrange research internships through the Environmental Studies Program.  Students should also be aware of the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, funded by the National Science Foundation, and held at research sites throughout the US.   You may find a description of all REU programs at http://www.nsf.gov/index.jsp.

Many of our students have presented the results of their research projects at regional, and occasionally even national, scientific meetings.  In the past, Wake Forest undergraduates have been awarded prizes for excellence in research and presentation from these meetings.  A number of students have also published their research in scientific journals.