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BIOL 395/492/495: Undergraduate research

» Department of Biology

The basics

Biology students work with faculty

This trio of classes - BIOL 395, 492 and 495 represent a tiered approach to offering for-credit undergraduate research experiences to VCU Biology majors/minors and general science majors. Students have an option to register for three different research course which are tiered in intensity.

Biology 395 - Directed Study
BIOL 395 offers students a low level introduction to a research lab. A pass/fail course that provides some hands-on work in a mentored environment, there is little expectation that the students will be asked to reflect on their learning and integrate their experience with the greater natural world.

Biology 492 - Independent Study
In the BIOL 492 course, students embark on a research project under the mentorship of a VCU research faculty mentor. Students are often paired with a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow as their day-to-day mentor, and work with them to prepare a research plan and a final paper. These projects outline their results and conclusions, and how their research integrates with larger research questions.

Biology 495 - Research and Thesis
A year-long course, BIOL 495 takes students on a deep dive into a research project under the direction of a VCU research faculty mentor. Students use the data generated over the course of the year to prepare a mini master's thesis. BIOL 495 students also present their work at the VCU Research Week Poster Symposium, and defend their thesis in an oral presentation to their mentors and other members of the VCU faculty. Student work is often combined with other findings in the lab, and submitted for publication.


In short, partnerships are what make this program work. Research faculty across the university support and engage with these students. In addition to the College of Humanities and Sciences, faculty from all departments and divisions in the schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, the Massey Cancer Center, the College of Engineering, VCU Life Sciences, the VA Institute of Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

What makes BIOL 395/492/495 stand out

Reflection — a core value of REAL — plays a key role in making these courses invaluable experiences for students. Most research faculty within the Department of Biology had their first research experience as an undergraduate, and recognize how that work shaped them into who they are today. Their experiences help create a culture that values undergraduate research both around these courses and in VCU Biology as a whole.

The series of three courses also offers consistent, long-term research experiences for students, allowing them to be more productive and develop stronger relationships with their mentors and VCU faculty members.


To learn more about BIOL 395, 492 and 495, contact Dr. Sarah Golding at