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Undergraduate Program

Independent Research

Biological Sciences 395/395w Independent Research Courses

Our independent research courses allow undergraduates to gain research experience in the laboratories of biological science labs on the River Campus or at the Medical Center for academic credit during the fall and spring semesters.

Students have the ability to take this course for four, three, or two credits. Students in the four-credit course must work a minimum of ten hours per week (on average).

Students taking the course will need to:

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Find a Research Mentor

Before registering for the course, students will need to find a faculty mentor who works in their area of interest and will agree to instruct a research course. Once a research mentor is found, students will need to register for the course within the first two weeks of the semester.

The person who supervises the project must be a full-time member of the teaching faculty, or a visiting or adjunct faculty member designated by the department chair as qualified to do so.

Students are allowed to take no more than eight credits of independent studies courses with the same instructor unless approved by the instructor's department chair, which is normally granted for senior honors projects approved by the department chair.

The research used in these courses must be rooted within the biological sciences and be non-clinical in nature. Although clinical studies may inspire some scientific arguments, we expect that the proposed research will yield data from experimentation that involves laboratory and/or computational methods for further analysis.

Research is to be conducted under the supervision of a member of the University’s “teaching faculty.”

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Registration Process

Step 1: Develop a course description with a research mentor
  • Course prefix (determined instructor's primary appointment, i.e.:
    • BIOL: Biology
    • BCH: Biophysics and Biochemistry
    • MBI: Microbiology and Immunology
    • NSCI: Neuroscience
    • PHP: Pharmacology and Physiology
    • PTH: Pathology
    • INTD: Interdepartmental (departments that are affiliated with the University, but that do not offer courses through the College or the School of Medicine and Dentistry)
  • Credits and start date
    • Meeting times and schedules are at the discretion of the instructor
    • 4-credit courses require @10 contact hours per week during the semester
    • Contact hours involve actual lab time and academic work and activities completed outside of the lab, including but not limited to, literature reviews, lab meetings, presentations, and final reports.
      • For guidelines regarding contact hours and credits visit: UR credit hours policy 
      • See Deadlines for more information on course start dates and form submission deadlines
    • Faculty rules restrict students to one four-credit independent studies course per semester. Students can request a second independent study in the same semester through a petition to the Administrative Committee.
  • Course title (28 characters max including spaces)
  • Course objectives and learning outcomes (250 characters max)
  • Instructor Department (primary appointment)
  • Laboratory techniques* (250 characters max)
  • Criteria for how you will be graded (250 characters max)
  • Exposures to biohazards/note any safety training (250 characters max)
  • Final Report or poster requirement, and possibilities of adding an upper-level writing component to the course.  See Final Report Expectations of 395 and 395w courses for further details.
  • Clinical research cannot be registered as a 395 course. Clinical research is typically registered as a 391 course which does not need to go through the UPBM office.  Students should visit the online CCAS Independent Study Form to register for a 391 course.
Step 2:  Submit the UPBM Pre-registration Form 
  •  Upon submission, the pre-registration form automatically forwards to the student's major advisor and then to the UPBM co-director for review and approval.  After the approvals are complete, The UPBM office will send the student a PIN code that they will need to enter into the Independent Study Form (step 3).  See deadlines for further information on deadlines.

Step 3:  File an Independent Study (IS) Form with the College

  • After the pre-registration form is approved, students will need to file an independent study (IS) form with the college.  The IS form is administered by College Center for Advising Services (CCAS).  Students will need to use the information from the approved pre-registration form to enter into the IS form.  Use the UPBM pin code from the pre-registration received in the approval email to note in the pink field labeled "Department Code (UPBM only) located under the section entitled "Department Chair Information (If Required)."   Please note the course is subject to further approval from the College.

Deadlines for AY 2021-22 for BioScience ###395/395w Courses:  

Fall 2021 Deadlines:  Independent research courses may start after the fall semester begins on 08/25/2021 and will have until the following dates and times to submit a UPBM Pre-registration Form, Start the Course, and file an Independent Study(IS) Form.
CreditsUPBM Pre-registration Form Submissions Due byCourses should start and meet regularly byIndependent Study(IS) Form Due into the College by


Spring 2022 Deadlines:  Independent research courses may start after the Spring semester begins on 01/12/2022 and will have until the following dates and times to submit a UPBM Pre-registration Form, Start the Course, and file an Independent Study(IS) Form.
CreditsUPBM Pre-registration Form Submissions Due byCourses should start and meet regularly byIndependent Study(IS) Form Due into the College by


 Starting Courses After Deadlines:  Students who need to start their course after the deadline must have their instructors send an email to explain planned contact hours to justify course credits to the UPBM Directors' care of Marianne Arcoraci

Please note that contact hours involve academic work and activities completed outside of the lab, including but not limited to literature reviews, lab meetings, presentations, and final reports. 

Late Paperwork: Students who miss the deadline for pre-registration form submission will need to have their instructors send an email to the UPBM Directors' to verify the course started before the deadline and has been meeting regularly. Please have instructors send emails to the Directors' care of Marianne Arcoraci at


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Final Report or Poster Requirement & Expectations of 395 and 395w Courses : 

All Biological Science Independent Research Courses (395) students must write and submit a final scientific report or poster to the Biology Department by the end of the semester.

Final reports need to be a scientific paper that asks and attempts to answer a non-clinical scientific question through the research conducted throughout the semester. The formatting, length, and grading of the report are at the discretion of the supervising faculty.

Students who choose to construct posters may use presentation software such as PowerPoint or Keynote. However, please convert the file to a .pdf when uploading to Blackboard at the end of the semester. Please note that the presentation must fully explain the scientific question and the steps taken to answer it.  

The Final reports of independent research courses with "395w" designations require additional edits and rewrites under the mentorship of their supervising faculty. Ideally, these revisions should be done incrementally throughout the semester to benefit from the writing experience instead of waiting till the end of the semester and rushing the writing process.  

Please note that students who plan to use independent research courses to satisfy the upper-level writing requirements of UPBM majors will need to get their final report approved by their academic advisor. Students should specifically note their intentions to use the course for writing credit on their pre-registration form or talk with their advisors for further information.

Students with final reports that do not receive approval for writing credit for the major have a second opportunity to bring the writing up to standard through registering for BIO 396w Research Paper Writing in Biology in a subsequent semester.

Students must write final reports for independent research courses even when experimentation yields inconclusive results and for research courses registered for less than four credits.

Students will need to upload a copy of their final reports to Blackboard by the last day of exams. Access to Blackboard is usually available to students by the last month of the semester. Students unable to gain access should contact the UPBM Office.

Students who do not submit a final report will be unable to register for additional semesters of independent research.



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