Student examining a specimen in a microscope

Research Guide

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

One of the unique opportunities available for biology majors is the ability to participate in the research process.  For B.S. biology majors, this experience is in the form of our BIOL X99 series of courses.  Although the minimum requirement for B.S. or B.A. biology majors is a senior capstone experience of BIOL 498 or BIOL 490/499, some students are interested in more in-depth research experiences that take place over a number of semesters. To accommodate these students we offer three research courses which allow the student to obtain either elective credit (BIOL 199 Biological Research I and BIOL 299 Biological Research II) or major credit (BIOL 399 Biological Research III) towards the biology degree. USC Aiken Biology faculty members have expertise in a wide range of areas that include behavioral biology, botany, developmental biology, environmental toxicology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, parasitology, plant genetics, virology, and wetland/upland ecology. USC Aiken Geology faculty members have expertise in mountain building processes, heavy mineral sand deposits, sedimentology, and environmental geology.

Students wishing to participate in undergraduate research at any level may do so at any time during their college career.  However, this process is of critical importance to seniors who wait until the last moment to plan for their senior research. In many cases those who fail to take time to plan for their senior research experience are disappointed in the results.

The following guide may be useful in planning the undergraduate research experience:

Determine the general area of biology that most interests you. Ask yourself "What in biology most interests me?

The answer to this question is your guide to find the right research experience for you. Often the answer to this  question comes from coursework you have completed. You may also initiate this conversation with your academic advisor.

Determine which member(s) of the biology faculty have research interests most aligned with your interests.

This information can be found by reading the research posters hanging in the Science Building or talking to other students about their research experiences.  Students are also encouraged to speak with their professors and their academic advisor about research opportunities in the department.

Make an appointment to speak with the specific faculty member(s) whose research you find interesting.

This is your opportunity to talk directly about your interests and get a feel for the projects available in the respective faculty member's lab.  As you discuss research projects, be aware that there will be few projects that exactly fit your initial ideas.  Instead examine the proposed options broadly to determine those that best fit your interests. 

Limited laboratory space or broad personal interests may require you to meet with multiple faculty members.

The earlier you begin this process the more likely you are to be successful in obtaining a project with the faculty member of your choice.

Once you have been given a project, it is incumbent on you to ensure that all of the proper paperwork has been completed.

Research courses require a completed Independent Study contract. The contract must be completed by the research mentor and signed by the student, research mentor, academic advisor, and department chair. The completed form must be taken to the Registrar's Office to complete the registration process.

Those who successfully complete this process should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are my long-terms goals and how does working in Dr. _____s' laboratory prepare me for this goal?
  • What are the most interesting reasons to work in Dr. _____'s laboratory?
  • What can I expect to gain from completing a research project with Dr. _____?