Involvement in undergraduate research can be one the highlights of your college career, increasing your chances of reaching your career goals and helping you get into graduate and professional schools. Students who have conducted research with biology faculty have travelled globally, have presented their work at local, regional, national, and international meetings, and have led to student coauthored publications in such prestigious journals.
Undergraduate research is not like other courses. Typically, students are working on research projects in which the faculty member has a vested interest, and thus selection is competitive and not guaranteed. Faculty members look for students who are motivated, interested in the subject matter, punctual, and well-organized. Some faculty members look at the performance of the students in their biology classes. Many faculty members give preference to students who are staying at Penn State Altoona for four years and/or who are willing to do research for more than one semester. Students who perform undergraduate research in biology typically sign up for Biol 296 or Biol 496 (Independent Study).
To learn more about research opportunities in biology, visit the biology faculty page to examine the research interests of biology faculty members and qualifications needed for working in their labs. Once you have identified with whom you hope to work, make an appointment with the faculty member to discuss your interests. Keep in mind that opportunities are limited.
Summer research is also a possibility. The Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences offers Summer Undergraduate Research Grants of up to $1500. To obtain one of these grants, students must submit a proposal with a faculty member, usually in March.
The expectations for students that are chosen for undergraduate research vary and should be discussed with the faculty member. In most cases, 3-4 hours of work in the lab are expected per week for each credit hour.
Undergraduate research is also possible external to Penn State Altoona. Many institutions offer undergraduate research and internship opportunities, especially in the summer. Of special note are Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) opportunities funded by the National Science Foundation. These opportunities can be found at institutions across the country and admission is competitive.