Strategies for Finding an Independent Study

In seeking a suitable laboratory for independent study research, keep in mind that, in addition to research opportunities in the Biology department itself, biological research is conducted in several hundred laboratories in other departments, schools, and hospitals within the University community. These laboratories provide a tremendous resource. As noted above, however, if you are considering working with a supervisor in a laboratory outside the Biology department, you are strongly advised to discuss this with your departmental advisor as early as possible to ensure that you are likely to gain a valuable research experience (not all labs provide an ideal environment for research training) and to facilitate identifying a suitable department co-sponsor.

 Students might consider taking Biol 425, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Superlab, to develop their research skills before enrolling in Biol 399. Each semester, students in Biol 425 explore a new research question in association with a Penn research lab. In some cases, students may be able to continue a Biol 425 project as Biol 399. Research projects can also be found by asking a faculty member teaching a course you enjoy about positions available in their labs. If they do not have space in their lab, they may suggest a faculty sponsor in the Medical School or elsewhere in the University. If you have already worked in a lab as a work-study student, you may be able to develop a related project for independent study research in this lab. You are also welcome to contact your Biology department advisor for suggestions. Other students may also be able to provide advice.

Many laboratories at Penn occasionally take on bright, motivated students who are interested in gaining some laboratory research experience as volunteers. You need not restrict your search to advertised openings. In addition, you should prepare yourself before contacting your prospective supervisor. Look into what kind of research is conducted in the laboratory, and be prepared to explain why this work is of interest to you; have a clear idea of your goals and the time that you are willing to commit to a research project (normally 10-20 hours/week for a Biol 399 or 499).

The following sources may be useful for students interested in finding a research position with a University of Pennsylvania faculty member, as a volunteer, work-study or independent study

In addition, notices of work-study positions in biological and medical research are frequently posted on the bulletin boards in Leidy Lab.  Students with a strong interest in research may also wish to investigate the University Scholars program.