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Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

There are opportunities for undergraduate students to become involved in research under the guidance of a faculty member or grad student. Students are encouraged to get research experience if they plan on being a research scientist (going on for an M.S. or Ph.D.) or working in a research laboratory with a B.S. terminal degree. Such experience can also be valuable in obtaining admission to medical school and other health-related professional programs and training.

Undergraduate research doesn't require long hours in all cases. Your schedule for working in the lab or at the field site will be determined between you and your research adviser. Research experience is valuable for learning new skills, interacting with others doing things you are interested in, developing career opportunities and building your resume/curriculum vita. 

There are also several opportunities for interested undergraduate students to present their research such as at the Biology Department's Tri-Beta Research Colloquium (typically held in February), Honors College Undergraduate Research Conference, and the Women in Science and Engineering Conference.

Research can be a fun and rewarding experience. Get involved! See the Q&A section below for more information.

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  • When you conduct research as an undergraduate student, you might be working closely with a faculty member or one of their graduate students. But it also might mean that you are working somewhat independently depending on the particular project and preferences of the faculty member.

  • The best way to get involved in research is to simply contact a faculty member whose research area or specialty seems interesting to you. This does not have to be a faculty member that you’ve taken a course from. You could also inquire directly with graduate students that you might know or have heard about. Most faculty in the Biology Department are very eager for undergraduate students to participate in their research programs. However, you must be serious and committed about this. Simply volunteering to work a few hours in a lab for a few weekends or volunteering to go on a single day-long outing with one of our field biologists may not be worth the time and effort of the faculty member, particularly if she or he has invested time in training you in data collection. By definition of “volunteering”, your involvement in research will not be a job. However, the best volunteers are hard-working, dependable, punctual, and responsible.

  • First, look at their main website to read more about the research that the faculty member does. Then see if they have specific information for undergraduate students that want to join the lab. If so, read that information first and then contact the faculty member. Note that the websites for some faculty members do not have specific instructions for how students can join the lab, nonetheless these faculty members might still be interested in having undergrad students participate in research. If you are currently taking a course with a faculty member and want to be involved in his or her research then perhaps chat with them after class or during office hours. If the faculty member is someone you don’t know then send a brief email introducing yourself and state why you are interested in being involved in research. What do you hope to gain? You do not have to go into great detail in your email message (100 words or less is probably sufficient) but do not be vague. A well thought-out email message will get the faculty member’s attention.

  • Yes, some faculty have information on their websites concerning opportunities for undergraduates to become involved in research. Also, you may occasionally see flyers posted in Supple and Freeman. The advertised positions may be volunteer or paid; typically if the position is paid then the ad will say so. Another way to learn about research opportunities is to become involved with any of the student groups that are based in the Biology Department (e.g., Aquatic Biology Club, Microbiology Club, Botany Club, Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Ornithology Club). When particular research opportunities arise, faculty usually announce these to these student groups.

  • You can do either. Typically a stand-alone project would be done if you are doing research as part of a course (BIO 4299) that you are taking. Even then, the faculty member that is overseeing the project (and giving you your course grade) will be very involved in helping you plan and design the project. However, it will be up to you to actually do the research, particularly data collection. An alternative to doing research for course credit, is to simply volunteer to assist a faculty member and/or their graduate students on research that is already up and running.

  • No, you do not have to plan and design the research project all by yourself, even if you are doing the research as part of a course that you are taking. The faculty member (instructor) will assist you in this task. Although, it’s a good idea to read some recent or relevant research articles by the faculty member.

  • There’s no single and easy answer to this question. The extent to which you’ll need funding will depend on the project and the resources currently available in the faculty member’s lab. The faculty member might have funding for the project and/or know of funding sources. The latter would involve writing a formal proposal or solicitation to obtain funds – this should almost always be done with oversight and close involvement from the faculty member. As you discuss a project with a faculty member, it will become clear whether the project is going to require some funds. Note that you should not be expected to incur any out-of-pocket expenses except perhaps in very unusual circumstances.

  • Discuss this with the faculty member overseeing the project. There are various organizations that provide small amounts of funding (typically $100 - $1,000) on a competitive basis. These will often require a formal application and research proposal. The Biology Department also has a few funding awards available to undergraduate students. To learn more about these sources of funding, browse around on the department website. Funding is also available through the university’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. Dr. Caitlin Gabor maintains a list of funding sources on her website, check those out.

  • Yes, there are opportunities on-campus and occasionally off-campus for students to publicly present their research as a talk or poster. On-campus opportunities include Tri-Beta Research Colloquium, Honors College Undergraduate Research Conference, and the Women in Science and Engineering Conference. The faculty member supervising your research may also know of opportunities off-campus such as at scientific meetings and conferences. Whether or not a student is expected to present research depends on the faculty member, details of the research, student’s level of involvement in the research, any agreement between student and faculty member. If a student is doing a stand-alone research project (and has received department or university monetary support for the research) then a public presentation might be expected. Otherwise, if you are just volunteering your time and assisting in research activities in a general way then a public presentation likely is not expected.

  • You can take BIO 4299, a course known as “Undergraduate Research”. According to the university course catalog, this is “supervised individual research projects in a mentor-student relationship with a biology professor. Available only to biology majors with junior standing and at least a “B” average. May be repeated once for credit. Prerequisites: BIO 2450 with a grade of “C” or better and consent of the supervising professor.” By taking BIO 4299 for two semesters, you can obtain elective credit. If you are in the Honors College, it might be possible to conduct a research project and get credit for HON4390A, 4390B, and 4391. Discuss this with the faculty member that will supervise your project and the appropriate advisors in the Honors College.

  • Definitely not. The most important criteria are being hard-working, dependable, and enthusiastic.

  • Texas State University has been recognized by the federal government as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) given the number of undergraduate students identifying as Hispanic. STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The HSI-STEM IMPACT program is a way for students to work closely with faculty in further developing the student’s career goals; it also provides an opportunity for students to become involved in research through SURE (STEM Research Experience). Consider looking into this program.

  • Work study is a form of financial aid that assists eligible students with the costs of their education and also provides employment opportunities and work experience, typically on-campus. It is possible for a work study student to be employed in such a way that they are actively engaged in activities that support the faculty member’s overall research program. If you are interested the first step is to confirm your eligibility with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Then look for advertised opportunities through the Office or on posted flyers. Sometimes faculty have open employment opportunities that are only eligible to work-study students. Also, if you are a work-study student, inquire with faculty members even if you don’t see advertised positions – it’s possible that an employment opportunity could exist nonetheless.