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Undergraduate Research

FAQs

The Biology Department is home to a thriving program in undergraduate research. This program provides diverse opportunities for students to conduct scholarly research in the laboratory and field in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. In fact, a major portion of the research carried out in the department is done or aided by undergraduates. This opportunity to mentor undergraduate students in research is one of the reasons that many biology faculty chose to come to the College of Charleston.

See also, below: 



Why should I do research as an undergraduate?


Becoming involved in a research laboratory can be one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of your education. The potential long-term rewards are many: 

  • establishing a professional relationship with a faculty member 
  • gaining insight into the process of doing science 
  • participating in the generation of new knowledge 
  • learning about a field of interest in greater depth 
  • learning about the culture of academic research 
  • setting and reaching individual goals 
  • experiencing scientific collaboration as part of a research team 
  • participating in the publication of a scientific article 
  • creating a tangible record of achievement to support your applications for employment or further education


Are there any immediate rewards?


In addition to the benefits described above, in many cases students can enroll for course credit (see requirements for Biol 450/451) and in some cases, a stipend may be available. But even if you “volunteer” in a lab (see the “0 credit” option, Biol 397), the long-term benefits can exceed any short-term rewards many times over. 


What kinds of students participate?

Students include research experience in their undergraduate studies for several reasons. Some students are headed to professional or graduate schools, which tend to favor applicants that have demonstrated the interest and motivation to do research. Some have come to appreciate that science is a way of knowing as well as a body of knowledge, and want to experience the process of gaining knowledge first hand. Some are unsure of what to do after college, and want to see if a career or job involving research is a good fit. All of these and others are valid reasons for approaching a faculty member about doing research in his or her lab. 


What is the time commitment?

Research experience in a laboratory can range from providing occasional help to carrying out an intensive, independent research project. Such projects are usually developed in collaboration with a faculty or graduate student mentor--that is, you do not need to come with a research idea in order to do independent research. Many students start as assistants and work their way up to independent research. The time you would spend in the lab each week would depend on the depth of your involvement, as well as the number of hours for which you are receiving course credit (normally a minimum of 3-4 hours per week for every hour of credit). Research experiences can last for one to multiple semesters, again depending on the depth of interest and motivation. 


When do students normally carry out research?

You can become involved in research during academic semesters as well as during the summer. In fact, many labs are especially active in summer months. Many opportunities exist at the college, while some mentors provide opportunities for students to travel with them to distant field stations. In terms of the timing during your undergraduate years, some students get involved early, though many feel better prepared to make a choice of research area and to understand the literature after some course preparation. 


What do faculty get out of it?
 Many of our faculty were drawn to the Biology Department in part for the “teacher-scholar” model it promotes. In this model, faculty view their teaching and research as interrelated and equally important contributions to their fields. An important cornerstone of this model is the mentoring relationships that faculty can form with undergraduates while guiding them in research. In addition, students help to generate, analyze, and write about data that go into scientific publications produced by the lab. In these essential ways, students contribute to the productivity and career development of the faculty they work with. 


Do faculty advertise opportunities in their laboratories?

Sometimes. Faculty may announce opportunities in their classes or post fliers in hallways. But in many cases, faculty are eager to take on motivated students who seek them out even if they have not advertised a specific opportunity. It is up to you to contact faculty whose work interests you (see How do I get started? below). 


How would the expenses for my research be paid?

Funds are sometimes available for research expenses and stipends through grants awarded to a specific laboratory through CofC or external sources. In addition, students with well-defined projects—worked out in consultation with a faculty mentor—can apply for special awards from the College, including Major Academic Year Support (MAYS) and Summer Undergraduate Research Funding (SURF) awards. These awards are competitive and require the submission of a research proposal written by the student and mentor. They not only pay a stipend and expenses for carrying out the research, but are also in themselves a valuable form of recognition when applying for jobs or educational opportunities. 


Are there any special opportunities I should know about?

Several special research programs exist at the College.

  • In the summer, the College hosts an National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at CofC’s Grice Marine Laboratory (see this website and contact Dr. Lou Burnett [email] for more information). 
  • The INBRE program provides special funding to a few labs for students interested in biomedical research (see this website). 
  • CofC also recently received a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Science Education Program to develop research opportunities for undergraduates in the areas of chemical biology, computational biology, and neuroscience (see this website and the list of faculty therein for more information). One goal of all these programs is to improve participation of students from underrepresented minority groups. 
  • And, be sure to take a look at the Internships page.


To receive credit, must I work with a faculty member in the Biology department?

No—you can work with someone outside the department (at MUSC, for example) and still receive course credit. However, you must be sponsored by a member of the Biology department, who will check on your progress and make sure you are meeting the expectations of research for credit in Biology. 


How will my hard work be recognized?

If you assist with research being done in the lab, your research mentor will likely acknowledge you in any publications that result. If you participate more extensively in the research and writing, you may be invited to co-author a professional publication or poster presentation. Such decisions are left to the judgment of the faculty member. In addition, there are opportunities to present your work during student poster sessions sponsored by the College and by the School of Science and Math. If you meet certain requirements, you may also choose during your senior year to write a Bachelor’s Essay based on your independent research project, which becomes part of your official college record (see Biol 499). Finally, positive experience with a faculty mentor often figures into special academic awards given by the department. 


How do I get started?
  1. Identify potential faculty research mentors. To learn about the research interests of faculty, read their research profiles on the Faculty & Staff page. Consider faculty you have had as teachers, as many faculty like to take on students they have had in classes. Choosing the right mentor will have a large impact on your experience and deserves serious effort and preparation on your part. You do not need to have a particular research project in mind, just the desire to do research.
  2. Contact faculty whose work interests you. It is never too early to contact faculty—by email, phone, or in person--to learn what kinds of opportunities are available in their labs. Students who eventually pursue independent research and receive course credit often begin earlier by helping in a lab. Be aware that not all faculty have the space, time, or resources to mentor every interested student. Therefore, you should consider multiple faculty members, start your search early, and be patient and persistent.
  3. Evaluate your schedule and availability. Engaging in research can require a serious commitment of your time, mental focus, and physical effort. Do not plan to take on more than you can handle, in order to avoid compromising your ability to meet your goals in your research or your coursework. Carefully discuss your other commitments with faculty you contact.
  4. Consider which credit option is appropriate for your level of involvement. The “zero credit” option (Biol 397) is open to all students regardless of course preparation, year standing, or GPA. It provides to you and your mentor official recognition for your commitment and effort. Course credit for research (Biol 450/451) requires at least junior standing, a minimum GPA, and a formal study plan. Biol 499 is appropriate if you will write a Bachelor’s Essay in your senior year. Talk with your faculty mentor about the best option and ask for the proper forms for enrollment in the Biology office (SSMB 231).

Questions not answered here? Feel free to email Dr. Bob Podolsky (podolskyr@cofc.edu) for more information or clarification.

INDEPENDENT STUDY INVOLVING RESEARCH

397 Research Experience in Biology (0 credit option, repeatable)
Laboratory/Field based research in biology. An excellent option for students interested in research who are not of Junior standing or do not have the minimum GPA required for 399 or 450/451. Specific projects/requirements vary by faculty member. Successful participation does appear on transcript. 
Requirements: permission of the instructor and Department Chair.

450/451 Problems in Biology/Marine Biology (1-4 credits, repeatable up to 4 credits maximum)
Literature and laboratory investigations of specific problems in biology and marine biology. The nature of the problem(s) are determined by the interests of the student during consultation with departmental faculty. Prerequisites: at least junior standing (60 semester hours), overall 3.0 GPA in all science courses [Biology, Chemistry, Physics], and a formal study plan. prior to the beginning of the semester in which the independent study is to be done. 
This study plan must be completed prior to the beginning of the semester, and requires the signature of the student, the faculty supervisor, and the Department Chair. Forms for completion of the study plan are available in the department office. 

499 Bachelor's Essay (6) Fall and Spring
A year-long research and writing project done during the senior year under the close supervision of a mentor from the department. The student must take the initiative in seeking a mentor to help in both the design and the supervision of the project. A project proposal must be submitted in writing and approved by the department prior to registering for the course. 
Prerequisite: Overall 3.0 GPA in Biology courses, Senior standing, permission of faculty mentor.

INDEPENDENT STUDY INVOLVING TUTORIAL

399 Tutorial (1-3 Credits, repeatable up to 3 total credits)
Individual tutorial instruction on a topic of special interest to the student, supervised by a faculty member during regularly scheduled meetings. 
Prerequisite: overall 3.0 GPA in Biology courses, Junior Standing, and permission of the instructor and Chair of the Biology Department.

PUBLISHED UNDERGRADUATES

Allen JD, Zakas C*, Podolsky RD. 2006. Effects of egg size reduction and larval feeding on juvenile performance in a sea urchin with facultative-feeding development. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 331:186-197.

Anderhag P*, Hepler PK, Lazzaro MD. 2000. Microtubules and microfilaments are both responsible for pollen tube elongation in the conifer Picea abies (Norway spruce). Protoplasma 214:141-157.

Andrews, JB*, Klein BM*, Bannan BA*, Nazario AE*, Jenkins TC*,Christensen KD*, Oprisan SA, Meyer-Bernstein EL. 2008. Phospholipase C beta 4 in mouse hepatocytes: Rhythmic expression and cellular distribution. Comparative Hepatology 7:8.

Ayme-Southgate A, Crowe M*, Southgate R. 2012. The NH2-terminal Ig domains of insect projectin could serve as protein elastic elements. J. Proteomics and Genome Research 1, 21-33.

Ayme-Southgate A, Philipp* RA, Southgate RJ.  2011. The projectin PEVK domain, splicing variants and domain structure in basal and derived insects. J. Insect Mol. Biol. 20(3):347-356. PubMed PMID: 21349121.

Bannan B*, Van Etten J*, Kohler JA*, Tsoi Y*, Hansen N*, Sigmon S*, Fowler E*, Williams TS*, Buff H, Ault JG, Glaser RL, Korey CA. 2008. TheDrosophila protein palmitoylome: Characterizing palmitoyl-thioesterases and DHHC palmitoyl-transferases. Fly 2(4):198-214.

Buff H* , Smith AS* , Korey CA. 2007. Genetic Modifiers of Palmitoyl-Protein Thioesterase 1 Induced Degeneration in Drosophila. Genetics 176: 209-20.

Burge EJ, Madigan DJ*, Burnett LE, Burnett KG. 2007. Lysozyme gene expression by hemocytes of Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei, after injection with Vibrio. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 22:327-339.

Burnett LE, Holman JD*, Jorgensen DD, Ikerd JL, Burnett KG. 2006. Immune defense reduces respiratory fitness in Callinectes sapidus, the Atlantic blue crab. Biological Bulletin 211:50-57.

Busby T*, Plante C. 2007 Deposit feeding during tidal emersion by the suspension-feeding polychaete, Mesochaetopterus taylori Potts. Southeastern Naturalist 6:351-358.

Castro DA*, Podolsky RD.  2012.  Holding on to a shifting substrate: Plasticity of egg mass tethers and tethering forces in soft sediment for an intertidal gastropod.  Biological Bulletin 223(3):300-311.

Crickenberger S*. Sotka EE (2009) Temporal shifts of fouling communities in Charleston Harbor with reports of Perna viridis. Journal of the North Carolina Academy of Sciences 125(2).

Deary, A.*, Moret-Ferguson, S., Engels, M., Zettler, E., Jaroslow, G. and Sancho, G. 2015. Influence of Central Pacific Oceanographic conditions on the potential vertical habitat of four tropical tuna species. Pacific Science 69(4): 461-475.

Dellis S, *Strickland KC, McCrary WJ, *Patel A, *Stocum E, Wright CF. Protein interactions among the vaccinia virus late transcription factors. Virology Nov 24, 2004;329(2):328-36.

Dillon RT, Reed AJ*. 2002. A survey of genetic variation at allozyme loci among Goniobasis populations inhabiting Atlantic drainages of the Carolinas. Malacologia 44: 23-31.

Dillon RT, Wethington AR, Rhett JM*. Smith TP*. 2002. Populations of the European freshwater pulmonate Physa acuta are not reproductively isolated from American Physa heterostropha or Physa integra. Invertebrate Biology 121: 226-234.

Dillon RT, Earnhardt CE*, Smith TP*. 2004. Reproductive isolation between Physa acuta and Physa gyrina in joint culture. American Malacological Bulletin 19: 63 - 68.

Dillon RT, Robinson JD, Smith TP*, Wethington AR. 2005. No reproductive isolation between freshwater pulmonate snails Physa virgata and P. acuta. The Southwestern Naturalist 50: 415 - 422.

Dillon RT, McCullough TE*, Earnhardt CE *. 2005. Estimates of natural allosperm storage capacity and self-fertilization rate in the hermaphroditic freshwater pulmonate snail, Physa acuta. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 47: 111-115.

Dillon RT, Wethington AR*. 1992. The inheritance of albinism in a freshwater snail, Physa heterostropha. Journal of Heredity 83:208-210.

Easley J*, Hymel S, Plante C. 2005. Temporal patterns of benthic microalgal migration on a semi-protected beach. Estuarine, Coastal & Shelf Science 64: 486-496.

Ferguson, L.*, Sancho, G., Rutter, M.T. and Murren, C.J. 2016. Root architecture, plant size and soil nutrient variation in natural populations of Arabidopsis thalianaEvolutionary Ecology 30(1): 155-171

Habrun CA* and Sancho G. 2012. Spawning ascent durations of pelagic spawning reef fishes. Current Zoology 58(1): 92-99.

Holman JD*, Burnett KG, Burnett LE. 2004. Effects of hypercapnic hypoxia on the clearance of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in the Atlantic blue crab,Callinectes sapidus. Biological Bulletin 206:188-196.

Hughes M, Anderson R, Searcy WA, Bottensek LM*, Nowicki S. 2007. Song type sharing and territory tenure in eastern song sparrows: implications for the evolution of song repertoires. Animal Behaviour 73:701-710.

Jenkins TC*, Andrews JB*, Meyer-Bernstein EL. 2007. Daily oscillation of phospholipase C β4 in the mouse suprachiasmatic nucleus. Brain Research 1178:83-91

Justus CD*, Anderhag P*, Goins JL*, Lazzaro MD. 2004. Microtubules and microfilaments coordinate to direct a fountain streaming pattern in elongating conifer pollen tube tips. Planta 219:103-109.

Lazzaro MD, Cardenas L, Bhatt AP*, Justus CD*, Phillips MS*, Holdaway-Clarke TL, Hepler PK. 2005. Calcium Calcium gradients in conifer pollen tubes; dynamic properties differ from those seen in angiosperms. Journal of Experimental Botany 56:2619-2628.

Lazzaro MD, Donohue JM*, Soodavar FM*. 2003. Disruption of cellulose synthesis by isoxaben causes tip swelling and disorganizes cortical microtubules in elongating conifer pollen tubes. Protoplasma 220:201-207.

Long JD JL Mitchell*, and EE Sotka. 2011. Local consumers induce resistance differentially between Spartina populations in the field.  Ecology 92:180-188.

Macey BM, Achilihu IO*, Burnett KG, Burnett LE. 2008. Effects of hypercapnic hypoxia on the inactivation and elimination of Vibrio campbellii in the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74:6077-6084.

Macey BM, Rathburn CK*, Thibodeaux LK, Burnett LE, Burnett KG. 2008. Clearance of Vibrio campbellii injected into the hemolymph of Callinectes sapidus, the Atlantic blue crab: The effects of prior exposure to bacteria and environmental hypoxia. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 25:718-730.

Malone MA*, Buck KM*, Moreno G. and Sancho G.  2011. Diet of three large pelagic fishes associated with drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (DFADs) in the Western equatorial Indian Ocean. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 34(2): 59-66.

McElroy EJ, Archambeau KL*, and McBrayer LD. 2012. The correlation between locomotor performance and hindlimb kinematics during burst locomotion in the Florida scrub lizard, Sceloporus woodi. Journal of Experimental Biology 215: 442-453.

Plante CJ, Busby T*. 2011. The influence of the facultative suspension-feeder Mesochaetopterus taylori on microbial community structure of sediments.  Bulletin of Marine Science 87: 377-393.

Plante CJ, Coe K*, Plante R. 2008. Isolation of surfactant-resistant bacteria from natural, surfactant-rich marine habitats. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74: 5093-5099.

Plante CJ, Feipel S*, Wilkie J.* 2010. Disturbance effects of deposit feeding on microalgal community structure and mechanisms of recolonization. Journal of Phycology 46: 907-916.

Plante CJ, Frank E*, Roth P.  2011. Effects of biological and physical disturbances on benthic microalgal community structure and spatial patterns: Interactions between deposit feeding and tidal resuspension. Marine Ecology Progress Series 440: 53-65.

Plante CJ, Shriver A* 1998. Differential lysis of sedimentary bacteria by Arenicola marina: Examination of cell ultrastructure and exopolymeric capsules as correlates. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 229: 35-52.

Plante CJ, Shriver A* 1998. Patterns of differential digestion of bacteria in deposit feeders: A test of resource partitioning. Marine Ecology Progress Series 163: 253-258.

Plante CJ, Stinson SY* 2003. Recolonization and cues for bacterial migration into “mock” deposit-feeder fecal casts. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 33:107-115.

Pritchard SG, Strand AE, McCormack ML*, Davis MA, Oren R. 2008. Mycorrhizal and rhizomorph dynamics in a loblolly pine forest during five years of free-air-CO2-enrichment (FACE). Global Change Biology 14:1252-1264.

Pritchard SG, Strand AE, McCormack ML*, Davis MA, Finzi AC, Jackson RB, Matamala R, Rogers HH, Oren R. 2008. Fine root dynamics in a loblolly pine forest are influenced by Free-Air-CO2-Enrichment (FACE): a six year minirhizotron study. Global Change Biology 14:588-602.

Saja S*, Buff H, Smith AS, Williams TS*, Korey CA. 2010. Identifying Cellular Pathways Modulated by Drosophila Palmitoyl-protein Thioesterase 1 Function. Neurobiology of Disease 40: 135-145.

Scholtens BG, Reznik J*, Holland J. 2006. Factors affecting the distribution of the threatened Lake Huron Locust (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Journal of Orthoptera Research 14: 45-52.

Sotka, EE, McCarty A, Oakman N,* Monroe E, Van Dolah F. 2009. Benthic herbivores are not deterred by brevetoxins produced by the red tide dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. Journal of Chemical Ecology 38:851-859.

Sotka EE, McCarty A, Giddens HB* (2010) Are tropical herbivores more tolerant of chemically rich seaweeds than are temperate herbivores? A test of seaweed-herbivore coevolution. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium 280-284.

Sotka EE, Giddens HB*. 2009. Seawater temperature alters feeding discrimination by cold-temperate but not subtropical individuals of an ectothermic herbivore. Biological Bulletin 216:75-84.

Stocum E*, Plante C. 2006. The effect of artificial defaunation on the microbial community of intertidal sediments. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 337: 147-158.

Strand AE, Pritchard SG, McCormack ML*, Davis MA, Oren R. 2008 Irreconcilable differences: fine root lifespans and soil carbon persistence. Science 319:456-458.

Strand, AE, Niehaus JM*. 2007. kernelPop, a spatially-explicit population genetic simulation engine. Molecular Ecology Notes, 2007, 7, 969-973. <PDF>

Tanner CA*, Burnett LE, Burnett KG. 2006. The effects of hypoxia and pH on phenoloxidase activity in the Atlantic blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 144A:218-223.

Vickery R*, Hollowell K*, Hughes M. 2012. Why have long antennae? Exploring the function of antennal contact in snapping shrimp. Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology 45(3):161-176.

Wethington AR*, Dillon RT. 1991. Sperm storage and evidence for multiple insemination in a natural population of the freshwater snail, Physa. American Malacological Bulletin 9: 99-102.

Wethington, AR, Eastman ER*, Dillon RT. 2000. No premating reproductive isolation among populations of a simultaneous hermaphrodite, the freshwater snail Physa. Pp. 245 - 251 in Freshwater Mollusk Symposium Proceedings (Tankersley, Warmolts, Watters, Armitage, Johnson & Butler, eds.) Ohio Biological Survey, Columbus.

Yetsko, K.* and Sancho, G. 2015. Swimming performance of Fundulus majalis and Fundulus heteroclitus under different salinity regimes.  Journal of Fish Biology 86(2): 827–833

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