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BIO 398: Research and Writing in Biology

BIO 398: Research and Writing in Biology, is a variable credit course for the advanced biology student wishing to gain experience in research and scientific writing. This course fulfills the written component of the GCCR, and is an outstanding opportunity for students to expand their horizons and deepen appreciation of contemporary biological research, whatever their career goals. Unlike BIO 395, for BIO 398 a minimum portion of the student's grade MUST be determined by one or more writing assignment(s) for a total of 4,500 words, with an opportunity to revise and turn in subsequent version(s). BIO 398 works well for students who are continuing a project into another semester and therefore have good working knowledge within that particular research topic. 

Fall or Spring of the junior year are good times to initiate a research project but involvement in research at any point is very beneficial. However, faculty prefer to take juniors so that projects can be continued over several semesters. BIO 398 needs to be taken only once to earn credit for the written portion of the GCCR requirement. It is generally not a good idea to count on taking one semester of BIO 398 during your last semester, as you may have trouble finding a lab to join. Those wanting to take BIO 398 need to have confirmed a project with a faculty mentor well ahead of the semester when they will start their research.

** Please note that only 6 TOTAL hours of BIO 394, BIO 395, BIO 397, or BIO 398 can be counted towards Biology upper-level electives.**

Student instructions

1. Go through the list of faculty in Biology and read about their research to identify one or a few research mentors you would like tow ork with. You may also work with research mentors from other departments across campus whose research is biological, as long as they are willing to let you register for BIO 395 credit for the research (some mentors might want you tore gister for research credit from their department). Use the non-Biology Mentor List to find potential non-Biology mentors whose research interests you. This list is NOT comprehensive; there are many other acceptable mentors.You may work with someone not on this list as long as the research is biological and the contract you submit is approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

If you work with a mentor in the Biology department you should consider applying for a Ribble Undergraduate Research Scholarship. Ribble Scholarships are worth $2,000 per year. Ribble scholars must be Kentucky residents and must do their research in a Biology department faculty member’s laboratory. Further criteria are: junior or senior status when the research begins, excellent achievement and promise in biology, potential for a productive research experience as exemplified by the written research plan, and need for the scholarship to enhance your education.

2. Contact potential mentors during the semester before you want to do research to determine if they are interested in accepting BIO 398 students and if you are eligible to join their lab, or more likely, continue a BIO 395 project under the BIO 398 title. Potential mentors may ask about what courses you have completed, your GPA, your time commitment, etc. (Lab Hours to Credit Hours Conversions)

3. Set up a meeting with the faculty member to discuss potential projects.

4. In consultation with your mentor, complete the BIO 398 Contract (click here for web form). This webform is the student portion of the contract. The contract will ask you to complete three main questions (besides pertinent personal details such as student number, email address, etc.):

  1. What is the main question your project will address? What is your hypothesis or driving principle?
  2. What types of experiments will you perform? Include brief technical details.
  3. What might the results of your experiments be? How could these results support or refute your hypothesis or contribute to knowledge in the field?

Please answer these questions after discussing your research plan with your mentor. You must write it in your own words. If you are continuing a project with the same faculty mentor and all the grading criteria are the same, you don't have to answer the project questions again. 

5. Once the student portion is completed and submitted, an email with the information you entered will be sent to your research mentor to approve. The email will also contain a link for the faculty portion of the contract. Once completed and submitted by your faculty mentor, your contract will be received by the Biology Department. 

6.  You will receive email confirmation and instructions for registration if your project is approved. At that time, you will need to register for the course in myUK. If the contract is not approved, we will contact you or your research mentor.

independent research steps