Independent Research

Our independent research courses allows students to gain academic credit and research proficiencies in biological science labs on River Campus or at the Medical Center during the fall and spring semesters.

BIOL/NSCI/CHEM/BCH* 395/395W: Independent Research courses are hypothesis-driven research experiences. Students work with University of Rochester teaching faculty to design a project that aligns faculty's overarching research goals of their laboratory.

*The course prefix is determined by the supervising faculty member’s appointment.

Projects are usually hands-on and non-clinical in nature. Students typically use laboratory and computational experimentation to gather and analyze primary data.   

At the end of the semester, students enrolled in must work with their instructors to write a final report or poster. In addition, students must upload a copy of the report or poster to Blackboard.

Before Registering

Before registering for a biology independent research course students will need to:

  1. Find a full-time faculty member who will agree to supervise an independent research course
  2. Meet with the instructor to come to an agreement on course details before the semester begins
  3. Learn how independent research courses apply to biology majors or other intended program of study
  4. To register, submit the online Biological Science Independent Research: Request to Register Form by the drop/add deadline line for the current semester
  5. Follow course rules and regulations
Differences between Non-Clinical (395/395W) and Clinical (391) Research

Students who want to earn academic credit for research involving clinical trials and patient studies need to follow a different registration process. Independent studies should be registered under the 391-course number instead of the 395-course number. Visit the CCAS independent studies page for more information on policies and instructions on how to register.

Important note: 391 clinical research courses do not apply to biological science tracks. Students should consult their advisor for further clarification if necessary.

Tips for Finding a Research Mentor

The key to finding a mentor is networking with faculty who work in your area of interest and will agree to mentor you.

Research mentors are typically members of the University teaching faculty, and should have a labs that’s located either on River Campus or in the Medical Center.

Searching for a research mentor can take several months. Therefore, students should start their search an entire semester before they plan to do research.

Tips on getting started:

More resources:

Final Report or Poster Requirement

All students enrolled in Biological Science Independent Research Courses, including 395 and 395W, must submit a final scientific paper at the end of the semester. Independent researchers taking BIO 395 courses without credit for upper-level writing have the option to submit a final report or a poster.

Final reports and posters should address the scientific question the undergraduate research attempts to answer and the means taken to answer it. The formatting, length, and grading of the report or poster are at the instructor's discretion.

Students who want to use an independent research courses to satisfy upper-level writing requirements for their major should consult their faculty advisors first, as applications vary.

Additionally, most biological science majors require students to send their advisors a copy of their final report for approval before they can apply it to their program of study.

Although students have the option to enroll in "395W" in the BIOL 395/395W Online Registration form, it is subject to advisor approval. BIOL 395w courses need to follow more rigorous writing standards. See Final Report Guidelines for BIOL 395 & 395w Courses page for more information.

At the end of the semester, the Department of Biology Undergraduate Office requires students to upload a copy of the report or poster to Blackboard by the last day of final exams.

Those who fail to submit a final report or poster may not register for another independent research course until they resolve the matter.

A report or poster must be submitted each semester a 395/395w course is taken. Each should reflect the individual research activities done in the semester taken.

Students who are approved for a second semester of independent research for upper-level writing credit (395W) may summarize the work from the previous semester; however, they must include at least six new pages of prose.

Changing Course Registration

Students who want to change their course registration from a 395 to a 395w or vice versa may do so by emailing to the Department of Biology Undergraduate Office requesting a registration revision.