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Undergraduate Research


The Department strongly encourages undergraduates to pursue independent research. In addition to the high value placed on research by medical and graduate school admissions committees, an undergraduate research experience serves to consolidate all your Genetics training into a single keystone experience.

The easiest way to get research experience is to take GENE 4960R (and continue in GENE 4970R and GENE 4980R). Students who complete these three courses in research under a single faculty mentor fulfill the major lab requirement. Students may also pursue a thesis (GENE 4990R).

You shouldn't wait until your senior year to start in a lab—faculty are generally most enthusiastic about a student who spends several semesters (even years!) in the lab. Those longer-term research experiences will be particularly beneficial as your faculty mentor will be especially committed to your training and further education. Some faculty are happy to mentor you for a single semester, while others prefer a longer commitment. A great way to start a research project is to begin during the summer and continue through the fall.

How do you become involved in undergraduate genetics research?

The easiest way is to contact a faculty member whose work interests you (see a summary of all our faculty research interests). Look at individual faculty web sites; for those who look especially interesting, you might read a few of their recent papers. Contact the faculty member by e-mail and ask if that professor is interested in having an undergraduate doing research in the lab. If so, arrange to meet with the faculty member to discuss the possibilities. It is best to try to line up a meeting in the semester prior to the one in which you want to get started.


Applications for Research Course Approval

You must obtain the permission of the Department to sign up for all research courses, even if you sign up for genetics research in another department. Here are the forms you will need to get that permission:

Research Course Forms:

If your research is with a Genetics or adjunct Genetics faculty member, use this form:

GENE4960R, GENE 4970R, GENE 4980R form (Genetics Faculty)

If your research is with a faculty member outside of the Department of Genetics use this form:

GENE4960R, GENE 4970R, GENE 4980R form (Non-Genetics Faculty)

Guidelines for Research Course Reports

Students must complete a written report describing the semester’s research activities in order to fulfill the requirements for a research course. Here are guidelines for the written report, as well as a rubric that faculty mentors should use to assess the final report.

Report Guidelines

Report Grading Rubric (download this file and complete it using Acrobat)

Katelyn Chandler Memorial Undergraduate Research Award

The purpose of the Katelyn Chandler Memorial Award is to provide research funds to an outstanding undergraduate student working on the genetics of natural populations. 

From the Chandler Family:

"The Chandler Family established this fund to honor Katelyn Chandler and her love for learning. Katelyn was a very intelligent, creative, adventurous and caring young lady. She had a passion for genetics and research. She would always say 'I’m going to solve it Mom' and her mother would respond, 'Go out and be your brilliant self.' This fund will help deserving students become their brilliant selves."

Applications are solicited twice a year, in the spring and fall.

The criteria for this Award are detailed at this link.



Students may choose to complete a 3 semester research experience by writing a thesis. Writing a thesis is the ultimate way of bringing together all you have learned in research into a single synthetic product. Any student interested in writing a thesis should consult with the research mentor about whether a thesis is an appropriate pathway. At minimum, a thesis will require 2 semesters of additional research beyond GENE 4960R (GENE 4970R and 4980R). Some faculty may have additional requirements for students who wish to complete the thesis.

Students wishing to register for GENE 4990R, or any thesis course counting for Genetics, must obtain permission for the Department of Genetics to do so. Here is the form:

GENE4990R form

The grading rubric for the thesis can be found here. (download this file and complete it using Acrobat)

Thesis Writing Guidelines

Any student wishing to complete a thesis is encouraged to contact Dr. Jonathan Eggenschwiler ( Dr. Eggenschwiler can help you at all stages of the thesis, including deciding if writing a thesis is the right choice for you and with all the mechanics of preparing your thesis.

The final format of your thesis is determined solely in consultation with your faculty thesis adviser. Dr. Eggenschwiler has prepared the following guidelines for preparing a thesis in Genetics. These are only guidelines, not requirements.

Thesis Guidelines

You can find examples of outstanding undergraduate theses by looking at the winners of our annual Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis Award.

When turning in your thesis, you may create your own cover sheet or use the signed one provided here:

Thesis Cover Sheet

If you create your own, you must still have the appropriate signatures listed on your sheet.



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