Skip to main content

BSCI 3860: Research Internship

Skip to: Prerequisites/Requirements  Selection of a Research Mentor  Application/Registration  Grading

Please note that you cannot register for this course through YES. You must send in the application and be registered by the departmental administrator. The application process must be completed during the registration period, prior to the beginning of the semester.

Course Objective

The broad objective of BSCI 3860 is for students to be familiar with the principal current projects and publications of a research laboratory (in the case of a large laboratory, the focus may be on a part of the laboratory). In order to do this, the student will need to become familiar with the most important current literature that is significant for the work in the laboratory, and perhaps take part in a research project in the laboratory.

The emphasis of the course will be on scientific reading and obtaining sufficient practical experience to comprehend the process of development of scientific ideas, as well as the problems and difficulties involved in research. This usually entails reading primary literature papers from the lab and from other labs doing similar research. The student should learn about the aims and projects of the lab, the organism being studied, the significance and importance of the research, how it fits with other research in the field, what methods and techniques are used to address the questions being examined, and the current status of what is known and what is unknown in the field. By the end of the semester, the student should be able to describe the work of the laboratory in terms readily comprehensible to scientists in related but different fields.

Students may also participate in a limited and highly directed project, such as assisting other workers in the lab. This might focus on learning particular methodologies and techniques that will be used in the student’s research project for BSCI 3861 and 3961.

BSCI 3860 is considered an entry course to Directed Research (BSCI 3861) and subsequent courses (Independent Research (BSCI 3961), Honors Research (BSCI 4999), or it may be a self-contained research experience.


Prerequisite: BSCI 1510, Prerequisite or Corequisite: 1511


Research effort: The goal of the research component of this course is not research achievement. Rather, the student will use the time to become familiar with the research process and the work being done in the lab. Reading and understanding relevant research literature and discussions with the mentor and other members of the laboratory are important components of the course.

Final report: This is a six to ten page report due on the last day of class. There is no particular format that is required. The student should consult with their mentor as to how the paper should be written and what it should contain. One suggested format is of a literature review that reviews the work being carried out in the lab, based on the various papers that were read during the semester. It might contain background information, a description of current projects, the significance of the research, a section in which future directions of research are discussed, and a reference list of the papers that were read. References should be given in the text by author (use the form “et al.” for references with more than two authors) and listed alphabetically at the end of the report in the style of the Journal of Molecular Biology, Journal of Cell Biology, or similar. The reference list should include titles as well as beginning and ending page numbers. Figures and tables are permitted but not required. The page length includes figure legends, but not figures, tables, or the reference list.

It is fine to have the mentor comment on an initial draft before finalizing the paper. A copy of the final paper should be given to the mentor and sent to the instructor on record prior to 4pm on the last day of classes.

Back to Top


  1. Read the course requirements (above).
  2. Select a research mentor (see below). Note: if your research mentor is not a part of the faculty of Biological Sciences (BSCI), then you must find a co-mentor who is a part of the BSCI faculty. Both the mentor and co-mentor will sign the application form.
  3. Complete the application form and follow the instructions.

Please note: your application must be complete with all information including your research project title. Also, please make sure that your research hours fit into the total of 18 possible hours that you are allowed to have each semester. Attempting to register for a number that would put you over 18 will delay the registration process.

You will be notified when you’re enrolled in the research course.

Back to Top

Selection of a Research Mentor

Choosing a research mentor is an important decision that should be primarily driven by the student’s interest in the faculty research project. The process can be taken in consultation with the Faculty Advisor, often begins with a careful survey of faculty research interests that are embedded within Vanderbilt University of Vanderbilt University Medical Center departmental and/or programmatic web pages. For example, BSCI faculty interests’ range across an array of disciplines, including biochemistry; molecular and cellular biologyneuroscience; evolution; genomics; microbiology; and ecology, evolution, and organismal biology.

Once students identify research projects that appeal to them, they should reach out to those faculty members (typically via email) introducing themselves and expressing an interest in exploring undergraduate research in their laboratories.  This will allow faculty to assess whether or not they can take on new students at that time as well as potentially present the research projects currently underway in their laboratories. Applications for BSCI 3860 can only be completed after the student and faculty member mutually agree to proceed forward.

Faculty from departments other than biological sciences are eligible to serve as research mentors only if they play an active role in teaching of BSCI majors or if they agree to serve along with a co-mentor from the biological sciences faculty. Research proposals are subject to approval by the research course coordinator and will typically address fundamental questions in biological sciences using experimental and/or theoretical/computational approaches.

Back to Top


The course coordinator, in consultation with the research mentor, will determine the student’s final grade in the course based primarily on their performance during the semester and on the final paper.