Biology 491 - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What biological topics are available?
  2. What if I can’t think of a project?
  3. What if I can’t find a free advisor?
  4. Are advisors always from Biology or can one go "outside" of biology?
  5. Does the project have to relate to my area of specialization?
  6. Does the research need to be completely new or can it be modeled on work previously completed?
  7. How do I know if I can do my project in 1 year?
  8. Do I have to start in the summer?
  9. Can I change my project topic after I fill in the application form?
  10. Can I change the title of my project?
  11. How much time per week should I spend on my project?
  12. What is an average "reasonable" course load when doing the Biology 491 project?
  13. Does the advisor assign all project grades?
  14. What lab space is available for research?
  15. When is the undergraduate research lab accessible?
  16. Do I have to pay for research costs?
  17. How do I obtain the chemicals / supplies that I may need?
  18. Is it important or required for the end-product of the Biology 491 to be publishable?
  19. Who gets credits if the work is published?

1. What biological topics are available?

2. What if I can’t think of a project?

  • No worries. Talk to professors in your field of interest – they will help you find a project you like. Check past project titles on this website for examples.

3. What if I can’t find a free advisor?

  • Many faculty have overlapping fields of interest. We collaborate to ensure you can do your project of interest. You might end up with a principal advisor and one or more co-advisors.

4. Are advisors always from Biology or can one go "outside" of biology?

  • All students have a principal advisor in or affiliated with the Biology Department. The advisor is responsible for reviewing and grading most of your course delivarables.
  • You might end up with a principal advisor and one or more co-advisors inside or outside of the Biology Department.

5. Does the project have to relate to my area of specialization?

  • Not necessarily. The specialization courses taken typically reflect as student’s field of interest, and it is natural for a project to fit in that specialization. However, it may be possible to complete a project outside of your area of specialization.
  • Some projects may benefit from having completed the relevant specialization courses.

6. Does the research need to be completely new or can it be modeled on work previously completed?

  • Most research builds on acquired knowledge in the literature and/or previous research projects. Your project may be a continuation of work completed by previous Biology 491 students or testing an idea proposed in the literature. Inevitably, your project will contain some original insights aimed at expanding biological knowledge.

7. How do I know if I can do my project in 1 year?

  • Your advisor will help you define a workable project scope.

8. Do I have to start in the summer?

  • No! The Biology 491 program is entirely designed to be completed between September and April. For some seasonal projects (typically in Ecology), it may be better to start during summer.

9. Can I change my project topic after I fill in the application form?

  • Yes. You would need to discuss the change with your advisor for approval.

10. Can I change the title of my project?

  • Yes. Titles often change during the duration of the project to better reflect the actual project.

11. How much time per week should I spend on my project?

  • Consider Biology 491 like any 3-credit course in a semester, except there is no formal class time. Assume an average of 6-8 hours/week (equivalent to typical lecture/lab courses). Your time spent on this project may not be evenly spread out among weeks depending on your progress and project deadlines. Time management may be essential.

12. What is an average "reasonable" course load when doing the Biology 491 project?

  • The Biology 491 project is like any 3-credit course in a semester. It is designed to fit within a 5-course per semester degree plan.

13. Does the advisor assign all project grades?

  • Your advisor will assign your marks for the draft proposal, final proposal, progress report No. 1 and 2, and the draft report. See Grading Information.
  • The oral presentations of your proposal and report will be graded by all members of the Biology Department in attendance at the oral presentation events.
  • Your final report will be graded (with equal value) by your advisor and an external reviewer chosen among Biology faculty within your field of specialization.

14. What lab space is available for research?

  • Space is available in the undergraduate research lab (Room 201) and project room (Room 202).

15. When is the undergraduate research lab accessible?

  • Almost anytime. You will get a code to open the outside door. The Biology preparation / supply room is closed during evenings and weekends. Therefore, prior planning is essential!

16. Do I have to pay for research costs?

  • No! You pay 6-credits of tuition already. The Biology Department covers your research costs.

17. How do I obtain the chemicals / supplies that I may need?

  • Your advisor and a laboratory technician will assist you to order chemicals / supplies that you may need for your project.

18. Is it important or required for the end-product of the Biology 491 to be publishable?

  • Publication is not an expectation of Biology 491 projects. Your final mark in this course does not depend on whether the work is published or not. Plublication is a desirable objective, but not a requirement.

19. Who gets credits if the work is published?

  • Authorship of published course work would be discussed with your advisor, and it would depend on individual contributions to the published product.
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