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Info session recording- Undergraduate research in Biology

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. The application deadlines vary according to which research program you are applying (293/395/495/692H). For more information on these opportunities, please explore the descriptions below.

BIOL 293: Internship in Biology

Prerequisites: Must have completed BIOL 201 or 202. Permission of the instructor (Dr. Lillian Zwemer) 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

Application form – BIOL 395/495

Prerequisites: Must have completed BIOL 201 or 202, 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 an upper-level course towards the major.

  • 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.
  • Biology majors/2nd majors taking their second semester of BIOL 395/395H will be required to prepare a research poster and abstract summarizing their research.  This takes the place of the 10-page paper.
    The Fall 2021 BIOL 395 Undergraduate Research Poster Session will be held on Thursday, November 18, 2021, from 12:30 – 1:30 PM in the Stone Center Hitchcock Room. Students will be at their poster to answer your questions about their research.
    Poster Session Director: Dr Laura Ott:
  • After six credit hours of BIOL 395/395H, students can continue doing research for credit by signing up for BIOL 495 (pass/fail and 10-page paper required).
  • Students must take 495 after taking 2 semesters of  395.
  • BIOL 395/495 is offered all semesters – Fall, Spring, Summer School I and Summer School 2. 395H is offered only during Fall and Spring.
  • 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.  Requests to register for 1-2 hours requires permission from Dr. Shemer.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    BIOL 692H

    Eligibility for the Biology Senior Honors Thesis:

    • An overall cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 (cannot be rounded up)
    • A Biology GPA of at least 3.3
    • In process or completion of 3 credit hours of BIOL 395
    • Statement answering five points regarding your research, to be submitted with your BIOL 692H application
    • Email from the faculty mentor, to (subject: “[student name] honors thesis mentoring attestation”), attesting to thesis mentoring agreements (see google form for details)

    Applications available online – 692H application form 

    • If you plan to take the course in the Fall semester, your application is due April 15 (usually around fall semester pre-registration).
      If you plan to take the course in the Spring semester, your application is due November 15 (usually around spring semester pre-registration).BIOL692H can be taken in your penultimate or your final semester.

Frequently Asked Questions - BIOL 395/395H/495

You must complete BIOL 201 OR 202.
Before you can register for BIOL 395/395H/495 you must find a lab and identify the type of biology-based research you will be doing. Contact the PI of the lab to see if they will allow you to do research for credit.

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 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.

UNC is one of the largest research institutions in the United States with labs that explore a vast range of questions spanning basic research and translational medicine. Labs in the Biology Department research strengths include Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Ecology, Evolution, Genetics & Molecular Biology, Neurobiology & Behavior, Organismal Biology, Plant Biology and Quantitative Biology . Interested in learning more about specific research projects? Check out our UNC Biology Research Community that features videos from current advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and post-docs explaining how they got into science and what they currently study.


Check out this publications page that features undergraduate biology researchers who co-authored scientific papers in the last year!

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.

Research for Credit

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

Overview of funding opportunities from the Office of Undergraduate Research

Searchable opportunities from Embark Carolina

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.

SMART Program
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.

Contact Us

Dr. Gidi Shemer
Director of Undergraduate Research
213A Coker Hall

Dr. Amy Shaub Maddox
Biology Honors Director
408 Fordham Hall

Summer Montgomery
Undergraduate Student Services Manager
213 Coker Hall