Independent Study Guidelines

Additional Guidelines


If not conducted in a lab in the biology department, all independent study courses require a co-sponsor who is a faculty member in the Biology department.  


It is recommended that a co-sponsor for an independent study is familiar with the work of the main sponsor and/or the proposed research project lies within the co-sponsor’s area of expertise. It is advisable to discuss your proposed independent study with potential Biology department co-sponsors as soon as possible.


A Biology department faculty member who has agreed to co-sponsor an independent study project is committed to monitor the student’s progress and to evaluate and grade the final report. Biology faculty are under no obligation to co-sponsor independent study research, although most are willing to do so. 


A final written report is required for all independent study courses. This report is generally done in the format of an article to be published in a scientific journal. If you want to learn more about the kinds of research projects carried out by previous Biology majors, you can reach out the Academic Office to request access to honors theses written by previous Biology majors.


Permission to enroll in an independent study course must always be obtained in advance. Course section numbers are only issued after completion of the application for registration.


Students may only enroll in one BIOL1999 study course.  BIOL 1999 may count toward the "four additional courses” requirement of the major with the caveat that students may count a maximum of 2 CU of independent study towards the major. Students counting BIOL 199 as one of the four “additional” courses cannot count BIOL 1110 or BIOL 1604.


If a BIOL 3999 student has spent most of the semester working out methodological problems, it is appropriate that the paper consists primarily of Introduction and Methods, with very limited Results and Discussion sections.


Once a student has completed BIOL 3999 he or she may take BIOL 4999, which must build on the research project begun in BIOL 3999. In rare cases, a student may switch to a different lab for BIOL 4999. Reasons for the proposed switch should be explained in writing as well as how previous experience will allow the student to complete a new research project at a level appropriate for BIOL 4999.


BIOL 3999/4999 usually involves work in a lab or in the field. However, in rare cases and with permission from the Undergraduate Chair, a Biology faculty member may agree to sponsor a thoughtful synthesis of a biological topic as a research project.


Both BIOL 3999 and 4999 can be counted toward the "four additional courses" requirement of the major, provided that the other two courses satisfying this requirement are both Biology department courses. If a student wishes to count courses from outside the department toward this requirement, then he or she may only count BIOL 3999 toward the major and BIOL 4999 as a college elective.