Lab Research

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) majors can earn academic credits and gain important real-life experience doing independent study (IS) research. A typical campus research lab has a Principal Investigator (PI), a professor who writes the grant proposals to obtain funding to support the lab, supervises the research, and supervises the writing of research manuscripts for publication. The lab members may include postdoctoral fellows (postdocs) who are recent PhD graduates, PhD or MS graduate students, other undergraduate students, and technicians. All work closely together on a particular research problem, with each member pursuing an agreed-upon, but independent, role in the project. Students can join a research team at any point during their undergraduate career.

Finding a Research Lab

We recommend visiting the Office of Undergraduate Research & Studies (OURS) for help finding undergraduate research opportunities on and off campus. OURS has peer advisors who will help you identify labs and develop your approach to faculty. Check out their YouTube video to learn more! OURS has also created a short Research Readiness Moodle course that provides information about getting involved in research and guides you on ways to turn your interests into research projects.

Identify several faculty with whom you may want to work.

Contact individual faculty members by email.

  • Include your major, class year, career goals and interests, and express why you are interested in their lab.
  • Provide a resume. The CNS Career and Professional Development Center holds resume workshops and has staff and peer advisors who can work with you on your resume.
  • Request an appointment to discuss a possible research project. Provide your general availability over a two-week time frame.
  • Allow adequate time for the faculty to respond. If necessary, send a friendly follow-up email to the PI. Be persistent and patient.

Arrange to meet with each PI, and be prepared!

  • Learn the basic information about the PI’s research from their webpage.
  • Prepare questions to ask the PI about the research, and specifically inquire about projects available for undergraduates.
  • Think about how much time you have available to work in the lab each semester, taking into account your other time commitments when you consider the number of academic credits you want to earn each semester.

Enrolling in an Independent Study

Enrollment in IS sections is by instructor consent. As with other courses, students can only be enrolled in IS sections before the end of Add/Drop. Consider volunteering in the lab during your first semester if you are unable to find a research lab before the Add/Drop deadline.

Obtain the appropriate form:

  • For non-Honors IS, students should complete the BMB Independent Study Form online. Students can enroll in a Biochem IS course regardless of which department their PI is from.
  • For Honors IS, students who are members of CHC should complete an Honors Independent Research Form through CHC PATHS. Proposal requirements can be found by clicking on the "ISH Proposal Creation" link on your PATHS dashboard.

Both of these forms require detailed information on the work you will be doing in the lab. Please work with your PI or your graduate student supervisor to get all of the necessary information before submitting your form.

IS courses taken at the 300- and 400-level will count toward the required 8 credits of advanced electives. These form submissions will be carefully reviewed to ensure that the work you are doing in the lab is rigorous enough to count as an advanced elective.

BMB majors who are members of CHC are encouraged to do their Departmental Honors Thesis work in BMB labs, if possible (Biochem 499Y and 499T). However, in the case where an Honors student pursues work in a lab outside BMB, they must get approval from one of the BMB Honors Program Directors and have a BMB faculty member serving on the thesis committee. The Honors Program Director must sign their approval of the Honors Research Contract and accompanying preliminary proposal before enrollment in Biochem 499Y/T. See the CHC webpage describing the requirements for the individually contracted Honors Thesis proposal.

Questions about IS enrollment can be directed to @email.

Tips for Working in a Lab