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Neuroscience 3860 Introduction to Research Guidelines


The broad objective of NSC 3860 is for the student to become familiar with the current projects, techniques, and publications of a neuroscience research 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 take part in a research project in the laboratory. The emphasis will be on scientific reading and writing, and on obtaining sufficient practical experience to comprehend the process of development of scientific ideas as well as the problems and difficulties involved in research.


All undergraduate students conducting research in Neuroscience must complete the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training online.

  • Click here for training requirements and information. When taking the online RCR training, enroll in the Bio/Physical Sciences (VUBPS) course – unless you are working in Wilson Hall with human subjects, in which case, you can select the Psychological Sciences (VUPSY) course as an alternate.
  • Once online training is completed, you will receive a completion report via email. Once online training is completed, you will receive a completion report via email. You will upload this certificate to the REDCap survey when initiating your research contract.

Selecting a Research Mentor

In order to register for NSC 3860, 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 that are currently approved to sponsor students for NSC 3861 and NSC 3862. If you are interested in working with a faculty member that is not already approved to mentor students but conducts Neuroscience research, you must first get permission from the Director of Independent Studies. The faculty member must then agree that they are willing to direct a student’s research for these courses. It is left to your initiative to determine what area of research you wish to pursue.

Application and Registration

  • Read the “course structure and requirements” (below)
  • Research Contract: Initiate your research proposal HERE.
    • Complete the above REDCap survey in its entirety. This will serve as your research contract. Once submitted, the information will require two approvals: first by your mentor and secondly by our Director of Independent Studies (DIS). If approved by both parties, the information will be routed to the Program Office for registration. You will be notified after each step is completed and will also be notified once enrolled.
    • Inform your mentor that a REDCap link will be sent to their email and will require action.

A new contract is required for each semester you register and you will not be able to register yourself. If after following all guidelines you still have questions, contact the Program Office.

**IMPORTANT: The link to initiate a research contract will close at the end of the Open Enrollment period. Contact the Program Office to request the link after this date.**

Course Structure and Requirements

Once a student has been admitted to NSC 3860, his or her primary interactions during the semester will be with the faculty sponsor and members of the sponsor’s laboratory. Students are expected to spend 4-5 hours per week in laboratory or library work for this course. The goal of the research component of this course is not research achievement. That would be impractical in the time available. Rather, the student will use the time spent on a research project to become familiar with the research process. Reading and understanding the relevant research literature and discussions with the mentor and other members of the laboratory are important components of the course.

Final Report

This is an 7 to 10 page report. It should contain background information, a description of the research project(s) on which the student worked, a section in which future directions of research are discussed, and a short reference list. In addition, your report should include a specific section regarding the neuroscience background and significance of the work. The references do not have to fit into the page limit. For the final report, the mentor is encouraged to comment on a first draft of this report.


The paper is due on the last day of class. There will be a deduction of 1 letter grade on papers received after the deadline. Copies should be submitted to the program through Brightspace AND to the student’s faculty mentor. The paper is to be graded by the faculty mentor who should submit a recommendation for a final grade to the Program Office within one week of the due date.