Biology Research Opportunities

The Biology Department at St. John Fisher College strives to give all of our interested students the opportunity to conduct independent research under the guidance of a faculty research mentor (also known as the primary investigator or PI).

Working with that PI, students develop a research proposal that must be approved by the department chairperson. Upon approval, students work closely with their PI to conduct, analyze, and write-up their project.

All research projects must include a summarizing project that is often in the form of a written paper, but may also be fulfilled as a poster or oral presentation at a scientific meeting.

Please read this entire page, and download the Biology Student Research Guidelines [pdf] before starting the research application process.

Identifying a potential research mentor

Our faculty cover a wide range of fields within biology, and are excited to work with students in their research programs. On each faculty member's profile you will find a brief overview of their area of expertise and a more in-depth description of the ongoing projects. Some faculty have identified projects for which they are seeking a student collaborator. However, you should seek out your major interests first while keeping a second and third choice in mind. Talk to your classmates about their research experiences as well.

It is extremely important that you discuss potential research will all of the faculty that interest you. Go to office hours or make an appointment. Note that some faculty effectively have prerequisites for their research, e.g., you must have previously taken cell biology.

Things to keep in mind

  1. Don't wait until junior year to think about potential research. While most students conduct research as seniors, some researchers prefer to start students in their junior year. Additionally, it may take time to line up the necessary pieces to have a project commence (e.g., grants) so talking to a professor early may facilitate your project a year or more down the road.
  2. Start this process early in the semester before you intend to conduct your research (see deadlines below)
  3. Three credits of BIOL 498 may be used to fulfill one of your major elective requirements for your degree. Additional research credits will not count towards major elective credit.
  4. Working with vertebrate animals requires the permission of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Be sure to work with your advisor on the IACUC submission well in advance of your project; one month in advance should be sufficient.
  5. All undergraduate researchers are required to complete laboratory safety training before starting their research. This training is above and beyond the training given to laboratory classes and is absolutely required. See the laboratory safety page and Ms. Gantress for training.

How to register for Research

  1. Find a research mentor
    • Start looking for a mentor the semester before you want to do research. (see Identifying Potential A Research Mentor above) It is up to the student to contact the mentor and agree on a project.
    • The professor must agree to be your mentor. You may want to have several professors in mind as a backup plan.
    • NOTE: If you want to work with a mentor in a department other than biology, and get Biology credit, the project must be have a strong biological focus. The student must submit their research proposal at the same time as the intent form.
  2. Fill out the online intent form to get on the registration list. Your research mentor will provide you with the link for this form. You must do this by the end of registration week.
  3. Register for the course during registration week.
    • Laboratory or field research course credit is given as BIOL 498 or BIOL 499. Students may also take BIOL-496 (independent study), which may involve a literature search, writing a research proposal, and/or a lab/field study.
    • If registering for Biol496, you must fill out an independent study form.
    • If registering for Biol498, be sure to register for section 99. Doing this will ensure that the appropriate number of credits appear on your schedule. This is particularly important for students who need these credits in order to be considered a full time student. Section 99 is a placeholder course, which will be replaced by section 01, when you are officially registered.
  4. Write a research proposal. You should work closely with your research mentor while writing this proposal.
    • The research proposal is due by the end of the first full week of class. Therefore, it is recommended that you start writing this proposal before the semester begins.
    • Copy and paste the cover sheet at the beginning of the proposal. Fill out the cover sheet form, and follow the guidelines.
    • Send research proposals to the biology department undergraduate research coordinator, Dr. Collins (
  5. Take safety training before beginning work in the lab.

Who can participate in research?

(exceptions require approval of the bio department chair (Dr. Hurd)

  • All students are eligible for research. You don't have to be a science scholar. Science scholars follow a different set of procedures.
  • BIOL 498 and BIOL 499 are restricted to biology or adolescence education and biology majors.
  • BIOL 496 is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
  • BIOL 498 and 499 are restricted to students in their junior or senior year.
  • Many professors have their own criteria regarding grades and GPA, required skills, course prerequisites, and other qualifications for research.

How Many Credits of Research Should I Register For?

  • In order to use research as an elective for your biology major, you must take 3 credits of BIOL 498. Only students with a biology BS major may use research as an elective.
  • You are expected to spend around 3 hours per week for each credit you take. So you should be prepared to spend 9 hours each week if you register for a 3 credit research project.
  • Because of this time commitment, the department strongly recommends you take a maximum of 15 total credit hours (including the research) when conducting research Consult with your academic advisor regarding course loads if you are considering research.

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