Student Research FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
What research opportunities are available?
When can I start working in a lab?
How do I find a lab to work in?
How far in advance should I contact faculty about research opportunities?
How many students conduct research in the Biology Department?
What are the faculty expectations of students engaged in research?
What if I want to do research during the summer, but can’t do it at Bryn Mawr?
Students can conduct research in the Bryn Mawr Biology Department on a part-time basis during the academic year or full-time during the summer.
- During the academic year, students who enroll in BIOL 403 (sophomores and juniors) or BIOL 400 (seniors) are expected to work in the lab for 10 hours each week, and receive one course credit per semester.
- During the summer, students receive a stipend to work 35-40 hours a week for 10 weeks, generally starting in late May and ending in early August.
Students are encouraged to join research labs as early as they want, as long as their schedule permits the 10 hour/week commitment. Your major adviser can help you schedule research into your course plan. Generally, lab research is conducted by juniors and seniors, but all motivated students will be considered for research positions. You can receive course credit for more than two semesters of laboratory research!
You should look at the faculty research profiles to determine which of the faculty research programs interest you the most. Then, contact the individual faculty member(s) about research opportunities in their labs. If your first choice isn’t able to accommodate you, contact the next person on your list.
As soon as you think you want to work in a lab, contact someone! They may not be able to accommodate you immediately, but your interest will be appreciated and kept in mind when positions become available in the future.
The number of students conducting research varies from year to year. During the academic year, an average of 20 students conduct research in the Biology Department. During the summer, there are usually around 8-12 students conducting biology research on campus. Please keep in mind that the more students there are conducting research, the more vibrant the research community at the College will be! Participating in a research program will allow you to get to know the faculty and other student researchers better, and will provide a lively forum for intellectual accomplishment in the Park Science Building.
To receive an accurate answer to this question, you should speak to the individual faculty member about his or her specific expectations. In general, the Biology Department is looking for students who are excited about the process of scientific inquiry and the privilege of working in a lab. We want students who are committed to exploring the questions we are asking via our research and who are motivated to work both independently and as part of a team to further the basic knowledge of the biology research community.
The Biology Department has information about research programs at other institutions and members of the faculty will be happy to talk to you about opportunities elsewhere.
Research During the Academic Year
During the academic year, faculty do more than teach courses; they also run their research labs. To keep the research programs active, the labs are primarily staffed by undergraduate research assistants.
If you are interested in doing research during the academic year, you must first contact a member of the faculty and arrange to work in his or her laboratory. Sophomores or juniors conducting research enroll in one credit of BIOL 403 and should expect to work in the laboratory 10 hours during each week of the semester. Seniors conducting research enroll in BIOL 400 Senior Research, two semesters of which can be used to satisfy the senior capstone requirement, and should similarly expect to work 10 hours per week in the laboratory.
If you decide to work in a research lab during the academic year, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- You are expected to work in the lab 10 hours/week. We recommend that you schedule your time in the lab as you would any other course: plan to be there on specific days at specific times. Students rarely have a productive research experience if they attempt to squeeze their research time in around their other commitments.
- You should talk to your research adviser about his/her expectations for you as a research assistant. Find out how to keep a lab notebook and whether there will be any written work expected from you. Each faculty member runs his/her lab differently, so it is important that you speak to your adviser about these issues rather than your friends who are working in other labs.
- You are expected to attend Biology Department seminars. These seminars are held periodically during the semester on Monday afternoons at 4 p.m. Seminar notices are posted around the department in advance of the event and e-mail notifications will be sent out to all Biology majors.
- You are expected to present your research to the Biology Department. Senior research presentations are generally held on the first Tuesday in May as part of BIOL 400 Senior Research.
Summer is a great time to experience what working in a laboratory is really like! If you are considering a career in research, it is important to find out how research scientists spend their days – sometimes frantically running from one experiment to the next; other times impatiently reading primary literature while waiting for an incubation to end. Students who work in the lab during the summer are astonished at how much more they can accomplish than is possible during the academic year. It is also an excellent time for student-faculty interaction, since the faculty are not as distracted by courses and committee meetings. More students means more fun in the department over the summer, and we encourage you to consider spending your summer at the bench!
Applications for summer research positions are generally available in early February. You must have a faculty sponsor to apply for a summer research position. Summer research stipends are $3800 for 10 weeks of full-time work. The summer research season usually begins the Tuesday after Memorial Day and continues for 10 weeks, generally through the first week in August. Students who conduct research during the summer are expected to write an abstract about their proposed research at the beginning of the summer and to present their research at a science-wide Summer Research Poster Session at the beginning of the following academic year.
Professional Meetings, Publications and Undergraduate Research Presentations
The most important thing to keep in mind as a scientist: there are no guarantees! We can’t promise you that an experiment will work, that data obtained will be interesting to the scientific community or that you work will be published in a prestigious journal such as Science or Nature. We can promise you an opportunity to present your work at an undergraduate research symposium. In addition, you should speak to your faculty adviser about opportunities to attend professional meetings.