Independent Study in the Biological Foundations of Behavior Program

 

Undergraduate research experiences are sought for a number of reasons from a passion for discovery to a good means for “testing the waters” before graduate school. Students typically begin their research experiences at very different points in their undergraduate career — some as early as their freshman year, others in their final semester or two at F&M. We have developed the following guidelines to assist you in deciding how and when to begin your undergraduate research experience.

Curious about what research is like?

The Hackman Scholars program (a 10-week summer research program at F&M), an Internship for Credit in a lab outside of F&M, or an advanced research course in BFB may be for you. See your advisor for details about these programs/courses. Any of these options will allow you to explore what it is like to be a part of a team working on a novel long-term research project (as opposed to a pre-determined 4-hr laboratory exercise).

Notes on fulfilling the Advanced Research Requirement for the BFB major – BFB majors typically pursue one of the following to satisfy the Advanced Research requirement for the major:

1) BFB 390 or BFB 490 – see descriptions below.
2) BIO or PSY 390 or 490 please see the BFB Chair for approval.
3) A BIO "W" elective or BFB/PSY Advanced Empirical Research Course (e.g., BFB 341 -

Neurochemistry; PSY 487 Collaborative Research in Biopsychology).

I’ve had some research experience, but would like to learn more and do more.

BFB 390 Research in Neuroscience/Animal Behavior may be the right choice for you. BFB 390 may be taken for one semester or two for 0.5-1 credit/semester of research conducted. See your advisor for details. Research in a BFB 390 will allow you to develop steps towards independence in the scientific process that may include building skills such as background literature research, research protocol development, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of research results in written and/or oral form while working as part of a research team in a faculty member’s laboratory. Prerequisites and specific outcomes to be determined by the individual research advisor.

I enjoy research and would like to work on a project more independently.

If you would like to act as a lead investigator, BFB 490 Independent Research in Neuroscience/Animal Behavior may be the right choice for you. As a 490 student, you will be expected to demonstrate your ability to work independently by taking primary responsibility for an empirical study in your advisor’s lab. Your advisor will provide you with support and guidance, but you will be ultimately responsible for the success of your project by accomplishing milestones like developing a research proposal, designing a research protocol, passing ethics review, collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting results using relevant literature. You’ll disseminate your results in written and, if you wish to be considered for honors†, oral form at the end of the 490 period (usually 2 semesters, although this is negotiable with your research advisor).

Students who pursue BFB 490 research should have successfully completed a significant research experience like:

A BFB 390
• An Advanced or Empirical Research class in BFB, Psychology, or Biology
A summer research experience, including a paid fellowship (e.g., REU, Hackman, Puff, Eyler, etc.), a research-based Internship for Credit (IFC), or significant volunteer work in a scientific lab

Please see your prospective research advisor the semester before you hope to pursue a 490 to discuss whether your prior research experience is an appropriate prerequisite for a BFB 490 in their lab.

† see Honors in BFB section below

Advisor Selection for BFB 390/490

Given a limited number of research advisors, access to BFB 390/490 is not guaranteed. Please meet with your prospective primary research advisor during the semester prior to enrolling in BFB 390/490 to discuss your options.

Soon after your primary advisor has agreed to mentor your research experience in their lab (but no later than the fourth week of the semester), you should select a secondary advisor. Your secondary advisor should act as another expert to assist you in building your research skills and clearing your research hurdles. The secondary advisor need not be an expert in your specific question or model per se, but should instead be chosen to provide complimentary expertise or support to that of your primary advisor. You should speak with your primary advisor about how to choose a suitable secondary advisor and speak to your prospective secondary advisor for his/her input. If you are enrolled in a BFB 490 and after consultation with your primary and secondary advisors you decide to pursue honors, you may then add faculty to complete your oral defense committee (ODC†).

† for a description of the ODC and deadlines see Honors in BFB section below. Details of the Project

You should consult with your primary and secondary advisors for all decisions concerning the project. This includes:

(a) (b) (c)

(d)

(e) (f) (g) (h)

Final selection of the research question and goals. Steps in writing the research proposal and protocol.

Decision about the subject population and completion of appropriate forms for safeguarding the rights and safety of subjects.

The application for a college grant (e.g., COG, Dean’s Office) or grant from other sources (e.g, PsiChi, Berkshire Fund) for money to support your research (e.g., apparatus, supplies, travel, subject payment, etc.).

Apparatus needs (including purchases and construction).

Research space.

Computer needs.

Difficulties that arise during data collection and have a bearing on the design, procedures, or data interpretation.

(i) Obtaining assistance from staff or other faculty members.

Adherence to Ethical Standards

If you plan to use animal subjects in your research, you must follow the College’s guidelines for conducting research with animals and must have approved an appropriate protocol with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee PRIOR to beginning the research (see your primary advisor). Likewise, students working with human subjects must follow the College’s guidelines for conducting research with human subjects and must have approved an appropriate protocol with the Institutional Review Board PRIOR to beginning research (see your primary advisor). 

Grade Determination

The determination of your grade is the responsibility of your primary advisor, who will seek advice from your secondary advisor (non-honors) or secondary advisor and ODC (honors). You should realize that the quality of your research activity throughout every phase of the project will affect your final grade. This includes such factors as:

• The conceptual and/or methodological sophistication of the project
• The quality of your proposal (as relevant)
• Your adherence to ethical standards
• The professional manner in which you conducted your research, including your interactions with your advisors/committee, staff and other faculty, and test subjects

• The extent to which you met the schedule of deadlines
• The quality of your research effort, including, but not limited to, preparation, testing, and analyses
• Your ability to troubleshoot problems and respond to setbacks
• The quality of your written and/or oral research dissemination (as relevant) and oral defense (honors only)

Honors in BFB

Honors in the Biological Foundations of Behavior Program is bestowed upon those students who demonstrate not only superior academic performance in the major, but who also become outstanding scholars as judged by the completion of a carefully conceived and well executed independent research project which they successfully defend in oral examination by faculty of the Program, the College-at-large, and by an external reviewer in the candidate’s area of research specialization.

Please review the College’s policy on Granting Departmental and Program Honors on in the current College Catalog.

Students interested in applying for honors in BFB should plan to complete no less than two semesters of independent research. Normally, prospective honors students will enroll in a two semester BFB 490. However, in some cases it may be appropriate for a prospective honors student to apply for candidacy following a Hackman Scholars research project, or a BFB 390 project, that was structured to develop the student’s independence in the laboratory. Such students would then enroll in BFB 490 to complete their independent research. Requests for such exceptions should be made to the BFB chair in consultation with the 490 research advisor.

Application for Honors Candidacy

BFB majors†† possessing a cumulative GPA in the major of 3.33 or greater††† who feel strongly that their independent research is worthy of Program Honors should, in consultation with their primary and secondary BFB 490 advisors, form an oral defense committee (ODC) no later than week four of the second semester of BFB 490 research (or equivalent as described above). The ODC should be composed as follows:

• two to three faculty members from BFB, Biology, and/or Psychology at F&M (including your primary and secondary advisors)

• one faculty member from outside of BFB, Biology, and Psychology at F&M
as availability permits, one faculty member with expertise in the prospective candidate’s area of research

specialization from outside of F&M. This individual will be selected by the BFB 490 research advisor and approved by the Program Chair in consultation with the Provost of the College.

†† Non BFB majors who wish to pursue honors candidacy in BFB must complete a series of four or more BFB courses, excluding BFB 390 or 490, designed in the spirit of the Exploration. That is, the four courses should allow the prospective candidate to develop depth in a particular area of neuroscience and/or animal behavior related to their independent research. Cumulative GPA in these BFB courses must be 3.33 or greater. Non- majors should consult with the BFB Program Chair for approval of these four courses prior to enrolling in BFB 490. 

††† The GPA requirement may be appealed, in exceptional cases, through written appeal to the BFB Program Chair. Successful appeal requires the strong support of the BFB 490 advisor. The BFB Chair will bring the appeal to the BFB Committee for consideration. The BFB Committee will report the results of their deliberations to the BFB Chair who will report the Committee’s decision to the BFB 490 student and his/her advisor.

The Final Report

Copies of the final report must be submitted to your ODC at least one week prior to your scheduled defense date. This final report should be a complete, formal scientific report of the project in the style appropriate to your sub- field and agreed upon by your ODC.

Should you be granted Honor’s, a final version of this report must be provided to the F&M Library, where all Honor’s Reports are archived. See your primary advisor before submission to ensure you’ve met the Library’s formatting requirements and completed the appropriate paperwork.

The Oral Presentation and Examination

In the final weeks of the second semester of the BFB 490, typically during finals week, the ODC will convene to orally examine the candidate on his/her research project according to the rules laid forth in the College Catalog (p. 127; 2018-2019). The candidate will provide a formal research talk (typically 20-30 min in length) that is open to the F&M community. After the oral presentation, guests will leave and the ODC will begin their formal examination of the candidate.

Bear in mind that the candidate should not only be prepared to defend his/her specific research results and analysis, but should also be able to entertain questions about the literature and principles that form the foundation for that research (the “forest” that surrounds the “tree” the candidate has studied, so to speak). As a rule, the primary BFB 490 research advisor is censored during the oral presentation and defense and may answer only those questions directed to him/her by the ODC in the private deliberation session that follows the oral defense.

Following their deliberations, the ODC will make a recommendation of “Honors” or “No Honors” to the BFB Chair (or their designee). The BFB Chair (or their designee) will communicate the results of the deliberations to the Registrar. Under normal circumstances, the ODC will have final say in the granting of honors unless an appeal is made to the BFB Chair. In the event of an appeal, the BFB Chair will consult with the BFB Committee to hear the appeal and come to a final decision regarding the granting of honors.     

 

Timeline for BFB 390 – Directed Research 

Action                                                                                                                                     When?                                          

Meet with prospective Primary Advisor to discuss                              Ideally no later than 

potential research projects and details about enrolling                     preregistration during the semester   

in BFB 390                                                                                                                           prior to enrollment 

Receive Primary Advisor’s and BFB Chair’s permission                 By the first week of classes of the 

to formally apply for a BFB 390                                                                           semester in which you will enroll in 

                                                                                                                                                     BFB 390 

Acquire Application for Independent Study from                         Beginning of semester in which you

Registrar                                                                                                                              will enroll in BFB 390

Acquire Academic Advisor’s and BFB Chair’s                                         At least one day before Application 

signatures on Application for Independent Study                         is due to the Registrar 

Select Secondary Advisor for BFB 390 in consultation                     No later than week four of the 

with your Primary Advisor Notify the BFB Chair of your                semester

decision

Turn in your final paper (or other assessment as determined    No later than 9:00AM on the first day 

by your advisors)                                                                                                          of final exams or as arranged with 

                                                                                                                                                    advisor

 

Timeline for BFB 490 – Independent Research (2 semester plan) 

Action                                                                                                                                    When? 

Meet with prospective Primary Advisor to discuss                              Ideally no later than 

potential research projects and details about enrolling                     preregistration during the semester

in BFB 490                                                                                                                          prior to enrollment 

Receive Primary Advisor’s and BFB Chair’s permission                  By the first week of classes of the 

to formally apply for a BFB 490                                                                            semester in which you will enroll in

                                                                                                                                                      BFB 490

Acquire Application for Independent Study from                          Beginning of semester in which you

Registrar                                                                                                                               will enroll in BFB 490 

Acquire Academic Advisor’s and BFB Chair’s                                          At least one day before Application 

signatures on Application for Independent Study                         is due to the Registrar 

Select Secondary Advisor for BFB 390 in consultation                     No later than week four of the 

with your Primary Advisor Notify the BFB Chair of your                semester

decision

Turn in your interim paper (or other assessment as                            No later than 9:00AM on the first day 

determined by your advisors)                                                                               of final exams of the first semester or 

                                                                                                                                                    as arranged with advisor)   

If you are not pursuing honors

Turn in your final paper (or other assessment as determined    No later than 9:00AM on the first day 

by your advisors)                                                                                                          of final exams during the second 

                                                                                                                                                   semester of the BFB 490

If you are pursuing honors 

Select Oral Defense Committee in consultation with                      No later than week four of the 

your Primary and Secondary Advisors Notify the BFB                  second semester of the BFB 490

Chair of your decision 

Schedule your oral defense with your ODC and arrange               No later than four weeks before 

room reservations through the PSY or BIO Department              the end of second semester of the 

Coordinator Notify the BFB Chair of your decision                         BFB 490

Turn in your final paper to the ODC                                                            At least one week prior to your oral

                                                                                                                                                defense

Oral presentation and defense                                                                         Finals week during the second 

                                                                                                                                                semester of the BFB 490

* 1 semester BFB 490 projects. The identification of the Secondary Advisor will occur in the fourth week of the only semester. See BFB Chair.

** 1 semester BFB 490 projects. The final paper (or assessment as determined by your advisors) will be due no later than 9:00AM on the first day of finals of that semester. See BFB Chair.