requiring undergraduate research

mmphillips at mmphillips at
Mon Apr 16 08:53:02 EST 2001


What we require of our biology major is that they have some sort of hand-on,
'experiential' learning but this can be in the form of an internship or
research.  And the research does not have to be done within our department.  I
think this works very well to get them doing something out of the classroom and
pertinent to the field they may wish to pursue, and doesn't place the same
burden on faculty as your system.  This way, I only get students who really want
to do research and who want to do it in my field.  The pre-med types can do an
internship in a clinic somewhere or try to sign up for a summer research program
at a nearby large university or medical school.

We have, at the same time, made more of a commitment to have independent
research projects a component of many of our classes -- so all our students do
get that experience.  We actually start it in our freshmen level General Biology
course, where we have them do semester-long projects of their own design.
Granted, these are group projects and may not be of the caliber that you'd like
to have in a senior project, but they get some exposure and encounter more
research projects in upper level courses.

I think the internship option has a lot of positives.  I  have many an advisee
that has seen the light after an internship experience -- it has helped some to
see that there is no way they could stand the day-to-day job in what ever field
it is they were interested in and it has helped others to know that, yes, this
is definitely what they want to pursue.  We have the advantage, also, of a
college-wide system for internships.   Our career development office sets the
criteria for things like how many hours of work for the number of credits,
requires a learning contract, and has developed a good system for working with
site supervisors to supervise and evaluate the intern.  This can be a good
alternative to the senior research option.

(We so have a senior seminar -- but it involves  a  library-based research
project and the aim is to further develop skills in reading scientific
literature, critically evaluating published work, doing oral presentations, and
writing a review paper)

Martha Phillips
Biology Department
The College of St. Catherine
St. Paul, MN


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