Research in Biology and Natural Resources and Environmental Management
Benefits of Performing Undergraduate Research
The top 10 responses from 249 students participating in undergraduate research (Lopatto 2003).
- Enhancement of professional or academic credentials.
- Clarification of a career path.
- Understanding the research process in your field.
- Learning a topic in depth.
- Developing a continuing relationship with a faculty member.
- Learning to work independently.
- Learning laboratory techniques.
- Tolerance for obstacles faced in the research process.
- Understanding how scientists think.
- Understanding how professionals work on real problems.
What are the Expectations of a Faculty Research Mentor?
Expectations will vary, but for new students, the characteristics described below would describe a valued student researcher. As you advance through your academic program, expectations may begin to include more skills specific to an area of research (e.g., sterile technique, use of a microscope, identifying tree species, use of a GPS unit…).
- A strong work ethic
- Good communication skills
- Highly reliable
- Honest and ethical
- Interest and enthusiasm about the research project
- Not afraid to ask questions or identify possible problems
How Do I Get Involved in Research?
- Identify potential research mentors. You can learn about faculty research interests on the Faculty and Staff page. Depending on your interests, you may also want to look at the research interests of faculty from Cell and Molecular Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, or any other discipline fitting your interests and career aspirations.
- Contact faculty whose research interests you. Inquire about any research opportunities they may have, or be aware of, by email or in person. Not all faculty members will be able to mentor students, so you should consider multiple faculty members. Faculty will respond best to well-crafted, professional emails and requests for appointments to discuss research opportunities.
- Be realistic about your time commitments. Part of any discussion with a faculty member should be about the time required for any research experience. Presumably, you have course work, family and friends, work, and other time commitments to consider and balance with any research commitment. You should discuss your other time commitments with any potential faculty mentor. It is far better to begin with a small time commitment and build a larger research project than to back out of a project, or to do less than your best work.
Enrolling for Research Credit
If you plan to have extensive involvement in a research experience, discuss the possibility of enrolling for credit in Research in Biology (BIO 499). Up to 5 hours of BIO 499 can count as elective credit toward the biology major. Generally, 40 hours of experience equals 1 credit hour. You arrange these in advance with a faculty member and a registration permit is required to enroll in this course. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in biology is required.
Summer Research Opportunities
The summer provides time for faculty to dedicate more time to research and some faculty are looking for interested students to participate in summer research. Grand Valley State University has many funding opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. Other summer research opportunities are available through programs like REU – Research Experiences for Undergraduates.
Presenting Your Research
After you have completed your research project, analyzed data, and written a final report you may want to present your work to others. Many of our students present posters or give oral presentations during Student Scholarship Day in the winter semester. Another local venue for student work is the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference. Faculty attend regional, national, and international meetings specific to their research interests. You should inquire about the possibility of attending these meetings with your faculty mentor.