Neuroscience 292a and 292b Undergraduate Research Guidelines
The purpose of the Undergraduate Research course is to provide the student with an introduction to the intellectual and technical aspects of research in neuroscience. The student works in the laboratory of a member of the neuroscience faculty at Vanderbilt and, through both reading and hands-on laboratory experience, will learn how the research scientist identifies and attempts to solve important problems in understanding how the nervous system works.
Completion of either NSC 201 or NSC 190 is required as a pre-requisite for NSC 292a. Completion of NSC 292a is required as a pre-requisite for NSC 292b.
Selecting a Research Mentor
In order to register for NSC 292a or NSC 292b, a student must obtain an appropriate faculty sponsor and under his/her guidance develop a plan of study for the semester. The plan need not be exceptionally detailed, but should identify the primary goals that the sponsor and student hope to achieve during the semester.
To find a faculty sponsor, look first at the research opportunities available. You will find a short research description of the faculty involved in the Neuroscience Program. It is important to note that only faculty listed on this page are eligible to sponsor students for NSC 292a and NSC 292b. It is left to your initiative to determine what area of research you wish to pursue. Email the scientist whose research description interests you. In your email you should provide some background about yourself (list the relevant course work you have had, describe any research experience, and some mentors will also want to know your GPA in science courses) and ask whether you could meet with her/him about undertaking the research course in her/his lab. We suggest that you contact more than one lab since some researchers will tell you that they already have several students and cannot take any more.
- Read the “course structure and requirements” (below)
- Select a research mentor and decide on a project by agreement with a potential research mentor. A specific research proposal will be required.
- Download and complete the contract NSC-292a-Contract2 NSC-292b-Contract2. The application includes a written research proposal.
- E-mail the completed application form to your research mentor. Paper forms will not be accepted. Include a short text message to the effect that the contract is attached.
- Your research mentor should then forward the entire e-mail, including the attachment, to the Program Director, Terry Page and the Program Office will register the student. Confirmation of registration will be sent to both the student and the mentor by email. This process assures the department that the research mentor has seen and approved the proposal.
If after following all these guidelines you still have questions, contact the Program Office.
**In order to be registered on time, contracts MUST be emailed to Program Director, Terry Page no later than 24 hours before the end of the DROP/ADD period. ***
Course structure and requirements
Once a student has been admitted to NSC 292a or NSC 292b his or her primary interactions during the semester will be with the faculty sponsor and members of the sponsor’s laboratory. Students working on summer research are required to spend 12-15 hours/week in the lab for the full summer session.
NSC 292a: At the end of the semester, students will write a maximum two-page abstract describing their research accomplishments for the semester and their plans for future research (e.g., in NSC 292b). This abstract will be graded by their faculty mentor, and will be part of the student’s final grade. A copy of the graded abstract must be emailed to the Program Office by the date specified by the Program Office.
NSC 292b: All students are required to write a final paper that summarizes the research that was carried out during the NSC 292a and NSC 292b research experience. The paper should be modeled after a typical scientific journal article and include an Introduction/Background, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections. The document should be 10-15 double spaced pages with 1-inch margins, and 12 pt Times or equivalently clear font. Figures and tables should be embedded within the document and all figures must be accompanied by figure legends. A list of cited references should be included at the end of the paper. The expectation is that the student will have read previous papers on the topic of their research and understand the reasoning that led to their research effort. They should also express an understanding of the hypotheses and methods on which their lab efforts were based. If the results warrant statistical treatment, the analytic methods should be included or referenced. The discussion should be focused narrowly on the results and their interpretation. Please contact the Program Office if you have questions about the organization and style of the paper. The paper is to be graded by the faculty mentor and a copy must be emailed to the Program Office by the date specified by the Program Office. There will be a deduction of 1 letter grade for papers received after the deadline.
The final grade for the course will be assigned by the faculty sponsor with concurrence of the Director of Honors and Independent Study (DHIS). The grade will be based on the abstract and/or final paper of accomplishment along with a strong emphasis on the evaluation of the student’s performance in the laboratory of the faculty sponsor.