Directed Study Syllabus – BIOL395 or BIOZ395 option

*****UPDATED July 1 2020: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation research activity at VCU has been limited. As state restrictions and VCU policy allow we are bringing students back to the labs. Please note. At this time Undergraduates are not scheduled to return to research labs until the fall semester starts. Even then research labs will have restrictions and need plans to more quickly to remote instruction. Therefore, we will only be approving requests for a traditional BIOL/Z395 where the mentor has a plan for a transition to a virtual experience for Fall 2020. Fall 2020 requests will be approved the week of August 10th. ******

PLEASE NOTE: To register for this class you must request an override using the form below. Overrides will not be released until after Dec 1st for Fall/May 1st for Spring/Summer and mentor confirmation is received.

Semester course; variable hours. Variable credit. Maximum of 2 credits per semester not repeatable; a maximum total of 6 credits for all independent study courses will count towards Biology Major (Directed Study BIOL395, Independent Study BIOL492 and/or Research and Thesis BIOL495). A minimum of 2 credits is required for the course to count as a laboratory experience. Prerequisite a minimum grade of C in BIOZ151, BIOZ152, permission of the Department of Biology and research mentor. Mentors are not limited to faculty members within the Department of Biology, but the context of the research study must be applicable to the Biological Sciences as determined by the Department of Biology. Studies should include directed readings and directed experimentation, training in field and/or laboratory techniques all under the direct supervision of a faculty member. A minimum of three hours of supervised activity per week per credit hour is required. Graded as pass/fail.

Course Expectations for Students:
Directed study in the Biological sciences will provide introductory exposure to discipline-specific research procedures. Students may begin to explore a biological problem through directed readings, literature searches, and laboratory and/or field experimentation. Students are required to find their own research mentors and secure a place in their labs to conduct the study. It is suggested that this relationship is fostered in the semester preceding registration so that both student and mentor are clear of expectations and the Dept of Biology has time to issue overrides. Registration for BIOL/Z395 is by override only. Prior to registration approval, students must complete the online Directed Study Registration Form. In addition, mentors must provide their approval by email to Dr. Golding Applications for Directed Study approval will be given priority before May 1st for Summer and Fall registration and Dec 1st for Spring semester studies but registration will continue through add/drop.

VCU REAL (Relevant Experiential and Applied Learning).

This course has been approved by the REAL Council as a: REAL Research Experience Level 2

To learn more about the requirements for REAL course designations please see the REAL website:

This course offers:

Hands-on learning in a research laboratory that engages the student in applying or exploring disciplinary knowledge in real-world or simulated contexts

Mentored experiences wherein the research faculty member responds regularly to student work, supports student reflection and integration of learning throughout the activity and encourages goal-setting for future learning

Course Goals:
Students will leave this course with a taste of how research is conducted in an academic setting.

Course expectations for Mentors:

It is expected that mentors ensure that students achieve the following learning outcomes:
To enable the student to demonstrate an ability to;

  • Search the literature relevant to the topic
  • Differentiate between primary, secondary and tertiary sources of information
  • Produce a critical review of the literature relevant to the topic to be studied
  • Perform data collection specific to the area of study
  • Gain insight into data organization, analysis, and presentation
  • BIOZ – Perform specific laboratory and/or field techniques relevant to the discipline (skills may range from wet lab molecular, cellular, and microscopic techniques, to field collection, animal handling, or software and statistical analysis and or programming.

Mentors are required to edit and proofread all assignments before submission to Dr. Golding. Dr. Golding will issue the final grades. If mentors have any worries regarding the quality and quantity of work their mentees are producing they should contact Dr. Golding

Course Coordinator:

Sarah Golding                    email:              Office: LFSCB 314

Enrollment: By override after approval by the Department of Biology. Please direct all questions to Dr. Golding.

Prerequisites: Prerequisite a minimum grade of C in BIOZ151, BIOZ152, permission of the Department of Biology and research mentor.

Textbook:           No textbook is used in the class

Grading:              Pass/Fail/Incomplete 

To receive a passing grade in this course students must dedicate 3-4 hrs per credit hour per week to hands-on data gathering, experimentation or scientific exploration.  This time will be monitored by the research mentor. Students must also work with their mentors to complete all required assignments outlined in the syllabus. Students must ensure that mentors have read and approved the final product before submission to Dr. Golding.

PLEASE NOTE: Students cannot be paid for the hours they work in the lab while registered in this class. If students are being paid to work they must work additional unpaid hours to receive credit for this class.

Dr. Golding will review the grade in comparison to other submissions. Any grade disagreements will be resolved in a Biology faculty meeting. At any time should a mentor feel that a student’s contribution is insufficient they must contact Dr. Golding as soon as possible.
A grade of “incomplete” should only be given on the students request and after consultation with the student/mentor and Dr. Golding. All incomplete work must be completed within 30 days of the next semester.

Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement: All students registering for this class must complete the responsible conduct of research training (RCR). BIOL392 completes this requirement. Students who have not completed BIOL392 must take an online course hosted by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) and can be found at At this site, select “Register”, enter your organization (VCU), create an account or log in with SSO (VCU eID), and then select ‘general RCR training’. Training is free but requires a account.  Students must take a screenshot to confirm they have completed this requirement and upload to the Bb page for this class.

ALL assignments must be proofread, edited and approved by the supervising faculty member prior to submission to Dr. Golding.

Annotated Bibliography or Project outline:
Due dates Feb 15th for spring semester, June 15th for the summer semester, and September 15th for fall semester.
Example Annotated Bibliography

Students will submit an annotated bibliography of 5 primary literature sources or a Project outline directed by the research mentor ( must contain primary references)

Final report or Alternative Product:
Final Report
Due dates May 1st for spring semester, July 20th for the summer semester, and December 1st for fall semester. This deadline is enforced by your mentor. Dr. Golding offers an automatic 10 day grace period.

Students will submit a solid background of the research study. Students should also share the protocol for the methods they have learned including how those methods can be used to answer a research question and must include In-text citations (at least 5). Citation guidelines

Alternative final product
Due the wide array of project types in this class, not all projects fit well into a traditional final report. Other final products such as; websites, digital media, teaching materials, etc are approved on a case by case basis by the course coordinator in communication with the Faculty mentor and student.

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