Biochemistry Major Undergraduate Research
The undergraduate independent research experience can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of a student’s education. Independent faculty-sponsored undergraduate research allows students to explore their scientific interests and move beyond the knowledge and techniques acquired in their previous courses. Students develop independent research projects under the supervision of a faculty member, prepare oral and written reports, and have the opportunity to present the results of their research at the annual Stony Brook undergraduate research symposium. Advanced students also have opportunities to participate in regional and national scientific meetings.
Entering research workshop
In order to facilitate independent research opportunities for students in the life sciences the Undergraduate Biology Program offers an entering research workshop every semester.
What must I do before I start working in the lab?
All undergraduate researchers at Stony Brook must complete training in ethics and safety. Completing these training courses prior to contacting potential faculty sponsors, may help you to secure a faculty sponsor as it demonstrates your commitment and serious interest in undergraduate research. Be sure to include the training in your resume and cover letters!
Students participating in independent research are required to complete the CITI training module on the Responsible Conduct of Research (see:https://www.citiprogram.org/Default.asp?). Nearly all students doing BIO Research will also be required to complete the Laboratory Safety Chemical Hazards (ELS 002) and Laboratory Safety Biological Hazards (ELS 003) courses offered through Environmental Health and Safety (see: http://www.stonybrook.edu/ehs/training/courses.shtml). Additional training modules may also be required depending upon the reagents and techniques that are used in the sponsor’s laboratory.
When to find a research sponsor?
The sophomore and junior years are usually the best time to find a faculty sponsor and begin research. In the freshman year, it is important for students to adjust to college life, get good grades, and develop organizational and study skills. Once you have achieved these goals, we encourage students to begin looking for a faculty sponsor. Ideally, students will participate in research beginning in their sophomore or junior year. Because it takes several months of training to learn the lab procedures and become productive, it is generally not a good time to begin looking for a faculty sponsor in the senior year, unless you will be continuing in the Biochemistry Master’s program. Independent research does not require prior experience; however, good organizational skills and dedication are essential for success! It is also important that you carefully consider how much time you have to devote to experimental research. If you are overcommitted, you will not be successful in any of your endeavors.
How to find a faculty research sponsor?
Faculty sponsors are associated with all Departments in the Life Sciences Complex, other Departments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as in the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Information on faculty who sponsor independent research can be found on the Division of Undergraduate Biology research page. There, you will be able to search for faculty by department, research interests, or name.
Begin by looking over the list of faculty sponsors, and identify 4-5 faculty whose research topics might interest you. Then, learn more about a faculty member’s current research by visiting their websites and reading one or two recently published papers from their lab. A reference librarian in the Melville or Health Science Library will be happy to assist with online literature database searches and identification of electronic journal articles.
Next, contact the faculty members to find out if they have current or future openings in their laboratory for an undergraduate research assistant. It is usually less disruptive to contact potential research advisors via email. Since emails are easily deleted, it is always prudent to mail or deliver a back up paper application! Alternatively, if you were a student in their class, you could also meet with them during office hours. When you contact a professor, include a cover letter and resume. Your cover letter should be brief (1 page) and tailored to each investigator. You may need to contact several faculty members before you are successful. Be persistent and good luck!
In your cover letter outline:
1) Why you are interested in gaining research experience and how this fits into your future goals.
2) What you find interesting about the faculty’s research.
3) Background about yourself, emphasizing why you believe you will be an asset to the sponsor’s research program, GPA, research or work experience.
4) Estimation of your availability during the academic year and in the summer.
In your resume include (but not limited to these):
1) Name and contact information
2) Research goals
3) Education background – GPA and relevant courses with grades
4) Research experience or techniques that you mastered in undergraduate lab courses
5) Work experience
6) Computer skills
7) Publications, Awards, and Honors
How do I register for independent research?
Once you have identified a faculty sponsor, all students participating in independent research must register for 0-6 credits. Your sponsor will help determine how many research credits to register for. Research courses are available in: Neurobiology and Behavior (BIO 486); Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (BIO 487); and Ecology and Evolution (BIO 489). These research courses are all graded on an S/U basis. To register, students should complete the Permission form for BIO Research, and submit the signed and completed form to the Division of Undergraduate Biology main office (110 CMM/BLL; 631-632-8530) no later than the end of the first week of classes. Upon approval, the Biology office staff will enter permission and if possible register the student on SOLAR.
Helpful links for Undergraduate Research
URECA (Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities)