Research and Thesis course sequence syllabus – BIOL 489/490/495

PLEASE NOTE: To register for this course sequence you must request an override using the form below. Overrides will not be released until after May 1st for Summer and Fall registration and Dec 1st for Spring semester studies.

This class has pre-reqs of BIOL392 Introduction to Research and Co-reqs of BIOL489 (fall) and BIOL490 (Spring)

Research and Thesis

BIOL 495/489/490 –  Course Sequence

 Course  Sequence Expectations:

Research and Thesis is a 2-semester class series taken in the senior year (starting in Fall only). Students engage in an undergraduate research project and use their data to compile a senior thesis. To complete the Research and Thesis class series students will be expected to spend 3 h/per week/per BIOL 495 credit gathering  analyzing and reporting data appropriate to their research project (ie. 3 credits of BIOL495 = 9 hours in the lab) both fall and spring semesters. The course will culminate in the writing of a research thesis of substantial quality.  Students will also register for 1 credit BIOL 489 Communicating your research (Fall W-2pm) and 1 credit BIOL 490 Presenting Research Seminar (Spring W-2pm) which will support BIOL495 by using students laboratory experience as source material to aid students in writing research proposals, discussing data interpretations, preparation for oral and visual presentations, and the crafting and editing of a research thesis. The class will culminate in the oral presentation and defense of their thesis  during exam week of the Spring semester. Students will also present posters at Research Week (last week in April).

 Course Goals: 

Students will leave this course series having acquired knowledge and comprehension of the research process. They will have seen how to apply their knowledge to a scientific problem. They will have been instructed on how scientific findings are communicated to the greater scientific community via manuscript, poster, and oral presentation. They will feel confident enough about their scientific discoveries to discuss and defend their findings and how they related to the greater scientific community.

 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
  • Formulate a hypothesis
  • Carry out the investigations
  • Collect, collate and analyze data from their investigations
  • Draw valid conclusions from the analysis of the data
  • Discuss the relevance of the conclusions in the context of the literature relating to that topic
  • Report the findings of the investigation by all of the following media:
    • Manuscript (thesis)
    • Oral presentation
    • Poster
  • Pose suggestions for further work based on the findings of the investigation
  • Orally describe, discuss and defend their work

Sarah Golding           email:

 Structure of course:

BIOL 489  1 credit  Communicating Research     Fall Semester
BIOL 490  1 credit  Presenting Research                 Spring Semester
BIOL 495  1-6 credits Research and Thesis   Fall and Spring semester

BIOL495 requires students to spend 3-4 hours per credit hour designing experiments, collecting or analyzing research data under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor, or preparing data for presentation (in manuscript, poster, and oral presentation),  over 2 semesters.

Enrollment: 15 max, Biology majors only

Prerequisites: UNIV 200, LFSC301 or BIOL392 co/pre-requisite (offered Fall only), Co-requisite BIOL 495, existing relationship with laboratory mentor, and permission of laboratory mentor.

If you are a senior and would like to use this course to fulfill your senior capstone requirement, you will need to be co-registered for BIOL 477. Registration for BIOL 477 requires that you first receive an override from the biology department and then register for the course via eservices using the provided CRN. Please e-mail with your V-number to request this override. You will receive an e-mail notification once you are able to add BIOL 477 to your schedule. You must register for BIOL 477 prior to the end of add/drop to receive capstone credit. Credit cannot be awarded after the fact.

Textbook: No one text is used in this course.


20%        Coursework
40%        Final Thesis
20%        Poster
20%        Oral presentation and Defense

To request an override for the Research and Thesis class sequence please complete the Research-based courses override request form

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. If you have completed this previously you do not need to repeat but please provide proof. CITI Human subjects training can not be substituted.

Honors in biology
Biology majors may graduate with honors in biology. To qualify,
students must have overall and biology GPAs of at least 3.5 and must complete the following courses in this sequence: BIOL 392
Introduction to Research (At this time we are also substituting LFSC301 for BIOL392 to complete the honors sequence), at least four credits of BIOL 495 Research and Thesis and BIOL 490 Research Seminar. Grades of A or B must be earned in each of the listed courses. Students who qualify will have the notation “Honors in Biology” placed on their transcript. Students must meet all Department of Biology requirements for graduation. Students should consult with their academic advisers to create a program suitable to their particular needs and interests.


Individual Course Descriptions:

BIOL 495 Research and Thesis

BIOL 495. Research and Thesis. 1-4 Hours.
Semester course; 1-4 research hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL 392, permission of the supervising faculty member and a research proposal acceptable to the departmental chair. Corequisite: BIOL 489 or BIOL 490. May be repeated for a maximum of eight credits. Students may take a maximum of four credits per semester; maximum total of six credits for all research and internship courses (BIOL 395BIOL 451BIOL 453BIOL 492BIOL 493BIOL 495 and/or BIOZ 395) may be applied to the 40 credits of biology required for the major. Additional credits from these courses may be applied to upper-level and open elective credits toward the degree. A minimum of two credits is required for the course to count as a laboratory experience. A minimum of four credits is required for honors in biology. Activities include field and/or laboratory research under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor. A minimum of three hours of supervised activity per week per credit hour is required. Research projects must include experimental design and analysis of data. This course must be taken for two consecutive semesters starting in the fall. A written thesis of substantial quality is required upon completion of the research.

BIOL 489 Communicating Research
Semester Course; 1 credit. Prerequisites: Completion of the Biocore with minimum grades of C. Pre- or co-requisites: BIOL 495, senior standing. An opportunity for students to develop skills necessary for effective communication of their research in writing. Activities include a variety of seminar discussions and activities including preparation of figures for publication and the crafting of a research paper with correct usage of the primary literature. Students will use this as an opportunity to aid the writing of their thesis for BIOL 495.

BIOL 490 Presenting Research
Semester course; 1 credit. Prerequisites: Completion of the Biocore with minimum grades of C. Pre- or corequisites: BIOL 492 or 495, and senior standing. Opportunity for students to develop skills necessary for the effective oral presentation of their research work. Activities include a variety of seminar discussions and activities such as preparation of visual materials and statistical analysis of data. Students will make several oral presentations directly related to their specific BIOL 492 or 495 projects.

Please note seniors: If during the duration of your biology degree you have registered for more than 6 credits of Directed Study, Independent Study, Biology of Cancer, or Research and Thesis degree works may not slot your credits correctly. Please bring this up with your biology advisor.

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