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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Undergraduate Research

biology department

Matthew Evans '15

About Undergraduate Research

In today’s fast moving environment of scientific breakthrough and innovation, the modern STEM student needs more than just book-smarts, they need hands-on experience with research. The type of experiences that yield a fully formed young investigator who is competent in hypothesizing, designing and trouble-shooting experimental studies. Importantly, once data are obtained, the scientist must be able to effectively interpret the results and communicate them in a way that moves the entire field forward.

The Biology department at Boston College provides an environment that offers undergraduates the opportunity to fully participate in federally- and privately-funded research activities under the guidance of our full-time faculty. This research experience also connects our undergraduates to a larger scientific community, one including graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and research professionals. Undergraduate students have multiple opportunities to become involved in research: Advanced Lab Courses, research in a faculty lab, or off-campus research. For more information about these opportunities please see below.


Advanced Lab Courses

As students approach their senior year, they have the opportunity to take an Advanced Experience Lab. These labs are taught at ratios of 12:1. The nature of these small courses allows quick adaptability by both the instructor and department to ensure a cutting-edge, high impact research experience.

Students in these classes focus on a specific research theme and work together to develop a research proposal and design experiments to test their hypotheses. The ultimate goal of these classes is to publish student results in a research publication. With the help of funding from the National Science Foundation, these classes have been designed to give students an experience similar to that of a research lab.

Some examples of recent laboratory courses include:

  • BIOL 4810 Research in Molecular Microbiology Lab
  • BIOL 4830 Research in Molecular Biology Lab
  • BIOL 4870 Research in Molecular Genetics Lab
  • BIOL 4880 Research in Biomechanics Lab
  • BIOL 4890 Investigations in Cellular Re-Programming
  • BIOL 5450 Advanced Lab in Cellular Imaging

Research Opportunities with BC Faculty Members

Students may work directly with a faculty member in BC laboratories on a range of research projects, many of which are supported by grants from federal agencies or private research foundations. Undergraduate research projects require significant commitment from both students and faculty.

In order to apply for one of these positions, students are urged to contact individual faculty members who are conducting research in their areas of interest. Before applying, students are urged to investigate the research of faculty members by looking at the papers that faculty have recently published. View listing of faculty members.

In order to receive biology major credit for the advanced experience requirement students must be enrolled in undergraduate research for two semesters. Students who get involved in undergraduate research early, often work in the lab for four or more semesters.

Students who perform Undergraduate Research will also participate in the Biology department's annual Undergraduate Research Day, which is held in May of each academic year.


Off-Campus Research

Students are also encouraged to take advantage of the many research opportunities that are available off-campus in biomedical institutions around the Boston area.

Students conducting research off-campus may be eligible to receive course credit for their research if they meet the following guidelines:

  • The student must be working in a biological laboratory.
  • The student must be assigned to a particular project in the laboratory with proper supervision.
  • The student is expected to be working in the laboratory for a minimum of 10-12 hours per week.
  • The student is expected to contribute to the research decisions, including the presentation of data, and be a viable member of the research team.
  • The student cannot receive payment for work during the school year if he/she is receiving course credit.

Students who meet these guidelines and wish to pursue research for credit in an off-campus laboratory should contact Megan Barry, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Program in the Biology office, Higgins 355 for next steps.