A Biol 399 or 499 requires a sponsor or co-sponsor who is a faculty member in the Biology department. Biology faculty often supervise independent study course work directly. If a student works in a lab outside the Biology department, a Biology faculty member must serve as a co-sponsor for the project. A Biology faculty member will co-sponsor an independent study if the sponsor’s work is known to the co-sponsor and/or the proposed research project lies within the co-sponsor’s area of expertise. If the proposed sponsor is outside of the Biology department, 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 a Biol 399 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 student who is unable to find a co-sponsor within the Biology department may apply at The College for credit as College 99, but approval is rare and it does not count toward the Biology major.
A final written report is required for all Biol 399/499 courses. This report is generally expected to take the form of an article to be published in a scientific journal. If a Biol 399 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. Biol 399/499 usually involves work in a lab or in the field however, in rare cases 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. For further information on independent study requirements, please see the instructions on the Biol 399/499 application, which can be obtained from the Academic Office. If you want to learn more about the kinds of research projects carried out by previous Biology majors, browse through the file of honors theses written by previous Biology majors, available in the Biology Academic Office.
Permission to enroll in either Biol 399 or 499 must always be obtained in advance. Course section numbers are only issued after completion of the application for resgitration. Once a student has completed a Biol 399, he or she may take Biol 499, Advanced Independent Study, which requires that the student build on the research project begun in Biol 399 and, ideally, contribute to the experimental design. Biol 499 should be done in the same laboratory as 399. Only in rare cases, may a student switch to a different lab for Biol 499. The student should explain in writing the educational reasons for the proposed switch in labs and the previous experience that allows the student to complete a research project of his or her own design at a level appropriate for Biol 499. The student must obtain written approval from the Biology Department faculty member who serves as the sponsor or co-sponsor of the Biol 499 project.
Both Biol 399 and 499 can be counted toward the "four additional courses” requirement, provided that the student's other two courses for this requirement are both Biology department courses. If a student wishes to count courses from outside the department toward the “four additional courses” requirement, then the student may count Biol 399 toward the major and count Biol 499 as an elective.