There are many reasons why students get involved in undergraduate research in biology. First and foremost, biology is a discipline that seeks to better understand the fundamental questions of life through observation and experimentation. If this is your primary motivation, then research is probably for you. Maybe you are thinking about pursuing a graduate degree in the biological sciences, and you would like to see what it might be like? That's another great reason to pursue an undergraduate research opportunity. Whatever your reason, opportunities to get involved in research exist in a variety of places.
To help you explore options, please read through this webpage, or you can schedule an appointment with the Biology Department's Undergraduate Research Advisor, Dr. Amy Wiles, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opportunities for Undergraduate Research
The biology department incorporates independent research opportunities in many of our laboratory courses. Students often work in laboratory groups to design and carryout experimental observations to address a biological question related to the course. This is a great way to get a sense of what research is about, without having to commit time outside of course expectations. Courses that have elements undergraduate research span from the Introductory Biology sequence, through 300-level classes, and into 400-level classes. At least half of the semester in all 400-level Biology lab courses consists of independent research.
Faculty-led research for credit (BIO 299/499)
Most biology faculty maintain an active research program with undergraduates. You can find out more about their research by visiting their individual webpages (Biology Faculty). Students that are invited to participate by an individual professor enroll in either BIO 299 or BIO 499 (Course Descriptions) for one or two hours of academic credit. Typically, students work in the laboratory with their research mentor for at least three to four hours per week for one hour of credit, but often it requires more time outside of the lab. Specific requirements (time commitments, reading and writing assignments, etc.) are determined by each individual professor. Most decisions made regarding research for credit is made immediately before advising for the next semester’s registration. The best time to talk with a professor about working with them for the upcoming Fall is in late February to March, and for the upcoming Spring is late September to October. While there is no GPA requirement, a GPA above 3.0 in the sciences will increase your chances of finding a successful position. Research is a great opportunity to put your skills in practice, but your main priority should still be academic success in your courses.
Unfortunately, due to limited space and resources, these opportunities are insufficient to meet the growing demand for one-on-one research with a faculty mentor in the department. Priority will be given to Biology majors and majors of related interdisciplinary majors, such as Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Neuroscience, and Computational Science. In addition, some spots are available to Mercer undergraduates at Mercer Medical School.
To apply for a research position, please download the following application and email it to the professor with whom you are interested in working: download here! In addition, you can schedule an appointment with the Biology Department's Undergraduate Research Advisor, Dr. Amy Wiles (email@example.com), to help you through the process.
Additional research opportunities
NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs)
The National Science Foundation provides financial support for students to work with scientists based at external universities. REUs provide an excellent opportunity for young scholars to assist in cutting-edge research and gain exposure to ideas that may form the basis of post-graduate training. Interested students should contact potential host universities directly for more information. Click here for more information on REUs, as well as a searchable database of colleges and universities supported by this program.
Mercer Undergraduate Biomedical Scholars Training Program (MUBS)
This training initiative is designed solely for Mercer undergraduates. Faculty from multiple Mercer campuses participate, and students who are selected will work under a Mercer faculty member full time for 10 weeks during the summer, conducting original research. Click here for more information.
If you can't find a research position immediately, you have several options available to you. You can enroll in a course where undergraduate research projects are an active focus. You can also apply for research positions in the Medical School, or other institutions during the summer break. Make sure that your grades are kept relatively high, because most professors will prefer you focus on your courses if your GPA is below 3.0. Lastly, show some initiative. If you are interested in a particular topic, read the primary literature on the subject, and design an experimental plan. Volunteer in a prospective lab to wash dishes, make media, or sit in on laboratory meetings. You just might be able to find a professor willing to take a chance on you with space and time to work in their laboratory, if you demonstrate how important a research experience is to you.