Biology Undergraduate Research
The Department of Biology encourages side-by-side research with faculty, postdoctoral associates, and graduate students. Conducting hands-on research in one of our laboratories will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the biological sciences, and will better prepare you for graduate school. Most of the students will engage in research through the BIOL 395 credit, but there are also other options (293//495/692H). The application deadlines and the relevant links vary according to which research program you are applying. For more information on these opportunities, please explore the descriptions below.
Biology research for credit is restricted to BIO majors only.
Please note, if you plan to volunteer (not get paid or get credit) in a lab, there is a time limit for that. Check the “Volunteering” section below for more details.
BIOL 293: Internship in Biology
Prerequisites: Must have completed BIOL 201 or 202 (old curriculum) or one of the core classes (new curriculum). Permission of the instructor (Dr. Corey Johnson) required.
Credit Hours: 3
Counts as: Experiential Education credit. This course does NOT count towards the major.
The purpose of Biology 293 is to allow students to obtain experience in biological sciences resulting from off campus work. The experience in Biology can be in a research laboratory or field station or a company such as a pharmaceutical company which carries out biological research, or it can be in an educational setting such as a museum or national or state park or forest where the emphasis would be on how to communicate information about biology to the public or to students. If appropriate, the student can be paid for the work. Students must identify a place in which to carry out the internship get permission for Dr. Zwemer in advance (by early November for the spring semester and by early April for the summer or fall semester). In general, the project should involve hands-on work by the student and not simply observation of someone else doing the work. The student will need to spend at least 135 hours on the project. At the end of the project the student will write a 10 page paper describing the work on the project in a format to be determined by the sponsor and the course director. The paper will be approved by the sponsor and the course director. The course grade will be determined by the course director. A BIOL 293 internship application is available from our Biology Registrar, Summer Montgomery in the Student Services office (213 Coker Hall), and is due by the first day of classes. The form requires the signature of the research supervisor and a short description of your internship. After you have returned the completed form to Dr Zwemer and she has approved your internship, the department will register you.
BIOL 395/395H & 495: Undergraduate Research in Biology
BIOL 395 is relevant for research projects that are done at UNC. For research performed n other universities, see BIOL 293. 395 applies only to a biology hypothesis-driven projects. It does not work for mere technician tasks (e.g. if your job this semester is to extract DNA from samples and you are not involved in analysis and conclusions, this is not a ful hypothesis-driven project). It is also not a good fit for clinical research projects (e.g. asking whether a diet affects the incidence of cancers in a given population). It should be a project that focuses on Biology.
The purpose of BIOL 395 is to provide students with research experience while working on a question of current biological interest. Students will learn how science is practiced in a particular area of scientific endeavor, and will also make new discoveries. Dr. Gidi Shemer in 213A Coker Hall is the director of the 395/495 program. He reviews all research applications and makes the final approval. Research is done under the supervision of a full-time faculty member in the Department of Biology or in another department on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus (for example in a medical school department or some other department that does biological research). Students may enroll for 1-3 credit hours of BIOL 395 in any one semester. Each credit hour represents 3-4 hours of research per week, on average, during the Fall or Spring semester, so that students enrolled for 3 credit hours should spend 10-12 hours or more on the research per week. During one summer school semester, 1 credit hour is equal to 45 hours of research, 2 credits = 90 hours of research and 3 credits = 135 hours of research. Normally, students should take BIOL 395 for 3 credit hours.
Students must identify a faculty member in the Department of Biology or in another department on the UNC-CH campus who has agreed to supervise the student’s research. If that person is outside the Department of Biology, the research must address a biological question, and a faculty sponsor from within the department must agree to monitor the student’s research experience. This is done by meeting with the student once per month during the course of the research to discuss the project and the student’s progress. Your sponsor can be a full-time Biology faculty member you have taken a class from or who has some knowledge of the area your research will be about. It is advisable to secure these supervisors well in advance.
Prerequisites: Must have completed BIOL 201 or 202 (old curriculum) or one of the core classes (new curriculum), and have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher
Credit Hours: Variable (1-3)
Counts as: Experiential Education credit. 3-5 credit hours of research may be counted as one lecture course toward fulfillment of major requirements; 6 credit hours may be counted as one lecture course with laboratory toward fulfillment of major requirements. BIOL 495 does NOT count as a biology elective towards the major.
– First semester of full credit (3 hrs) BIOL 395 or any semester of full credit 495- submission of a 10-page paper at the end of the semester (guideline will be given in the beginning of the semester).
– Second semester of full credit BIOL 395- a poster presentation during the biology poster symposium as well as submission of an abstract.
– Partial credit (1 or 2 hrs) of either 395 or 495- submission of a 395 mini grant proposal.
- BIOL 395/395H may be taken for no more than six graded academic credits. Additional semesters of research are taken as Biol 495, which is taken pass/fail. Additional hours of research course credit will be counted as elective hours toward graduation.
- A research application has to be done for each semester of research. Submit this application/transcript when you are preregistering for classes prior to the start of the semester.
- BIOL 395/495 is offered all semesters – Fall, Spring, Summer School I and Summer School 2. 395H is offered only during Fall and Spring.
- In order to apply, you should fill out the online form on this link: Undergraduate research application form You can apply only after you found a lab. After your research has been approved by Dr. Shemer, the Biology Registrar will register you.
395H requires a GPA of 3.0 or above. Students in BIOL 395H pursue research in the lab, just like students in 395, but they also meet weekly to gain research-related-skills. During the weekly meetings the students analyze scientific papers, engage in scientific writing, and present their research.
Please see https://bio.unc.edu/undergraduate/research/honors-info/.
Click on Senior Honors Thesis in Biology – BIOL 692H
The link to the 692H application can be found here.
In order to volunteer in a biology research lab, apply through this link. Note that in that the application link include several forms that you need to complete.
During the academic year, full-time UNC undergraduate workers may volunteer for up to 3 hours per week without restriction.
Students working greater than 3 hours per week may only volunteer in a given laboratory for one semester before transitioning to a:
a. Paid position through a lab grant or other funding source.
b. Paid position through work study.
c. Paid position through a student-led grant (SURF, SMART, SURE, etc.).
d. Unpaid position where they are receiving course credit for their work (e.g. BIOL 395).
e. Unpaid volunteer position only if course options are exhausted or would overload a student’s course schedule.
In case students want tp appeal for an exception (i.e. to continue to volunteer in a lab after one semester), they should appeal through this link.
Frequently Asked Questions - BIOL 395/395H/495
The best first place to start is to explore the following website, to contact labs of your interest and to ask about an available position https://bbsp.unc.edu/research-and-faculty/research-areas/ on the Biology website.
If the faculty PI of the lab is not a full-time Biology faculty member, since it is a BIOL course, a Biology faculty member will need to consult with your PI and submit your grade. Please note that you will need to get original signatures from both the PI of the lab and the Biology sponsor on the application.
Undergraduate Research Resources
Office for Undergraduate Research
Key central location for resources related to undergraduate research across campus. Visit the site here.
Work Study Associated Research
For students who qualify for work-study awards, labs often hire students into positions that include exposure to research – if a FWS job listing sounds mundane, ask how much exposure you’ll get. FWS students in labs often work their way up to authentic, and even independent, research experiences over time. The most positions tend to be available at the very start of the fall semester each year. To express their intention and convey their engagement, applicants should indicate in their application an interest in doing research and the appeal of the subjects of that lab group. Applications are done through the JobX platform for the work study positions. Many but not all research-related positions can be found with the IRIS identifier when searching the work study positions listings (see below).
The Institutional Research Initiative for Students (IRIS)
IRIS is a partnership between the Office for Undergraduate Research and the Federal Work-Study Team at the Office of Scholarships and Student Aid to help work study students identify openings that include a research component. Current list of positions is posted on the work study webpage.
Faculty interested in posting research related work study positions for the IRIS program should visit the prospective supervisors page or contact the Federal Work-Study Team.
Biology 293 Internship in Biology
The purpose of Biology 293 is to allow students to obtain experience in biological sciences resulting from off campus work. The experience in Biology can be in a research laboratory, field station, in industry such as at a pharmaceutical company that carries out biological research, or in an educational setting such as a museum or national or state park or forest where the emphasis would be on how to communicate information about biology to the public or to students. Contact Dr. Lillian Zwemer for more information on how to enroll. Biol 293 credit does not count towards the major.
Biology 395 (and 395H) Undergraduate research in Biology
Students can do research for credit working with faculty in the Biology department or in other biological science labs on campus with a Biology sponsor (a member of the Biology Department faculty). Typically the student will sign up for 3 credits per semester and is expected to spend 10-12 hours per week on research. At the end of the first semester of 395/H research, the student will complete a paper, and for the second, a poster presentation. 395 can also be taken each Summer Session.
Interested students should contact potential mentors well in advance to see if there are opportunities available. For Biology faculty, see the research link on our departmental website; the multi-department graduate “umbrella” training program BBSP list is a centralized listing of many faculty outside of Biology.
Biology 692H Senior Honors Thesis
Seniors that have completed substantive undergraduate research (including at least one semester of 395) can take this course in their penultimate or last semester. While continuing lab research, students in this course write their thesis and develop and present a formal symposium presentation of their research. Honors in Biology can be obtained by taking this course (acceptance depends on GPA).
Summer Fellowship Opportunities at UNC
SURF Fellowship at UNC
Funds students to do undergraduate research during the summer. Expectation of 20 hours/week for at least 9 weeks with a stipend of $3000 (note: special award for Honors students available with a stipend of $4000).
There are also Botany specific awards for students interested in plant research.
Deadline is Feb. 1st for application.
Support for undergraduate research, scientific communication, peer mentoring and preparation for graduate school in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (a “STEM” discipline) through the Science and Math Achievement and Resourcefulness Track (SMART).
Students in the program do 9 weeks of research in a lab on campus and will receive a stipend of $3000. There are also weekly meetings with peers and the program director. Application deadline for 2021 is Feb. 16th.
The program typically includes students from two groups:
1. Underrepresented populations
2. Rising seniors who came to UNC as transfer students
Summer Award for Research-Intensive Courses
Award covers tuition for one 3 credit research course taken during a summer session (i.e. BIO 395) and a stipend of $1000 for student’s mentor.
Application deadline April 10th.