Independent Research & URSI
Research is an important element in education in the biological sciences. Many students take the opportunity to conduct research with faculty members either during the year or during the summer through the URSI program. We encourage all students to consider independent research as a way to get a broad education in biology and as an important first step in preparing for future graduate school opportunities. In many cases research with faculty members has resulted in students becoming coauthors with faculty members on poster or oral presentations made at regional and national meetings of scientific societies such as the Ecological Society of America, the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, and International Dictyostelium Conference. Additionally, a number of students are coauthors with faculty members on publications in leading journals in the field, such as: American Journal of Botany; Behavioral Ecology; Brain Research; Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology; Development, Genes, and Evolution; Evolution; Heredity; Journal of Experimental Biology; Journal of Neurophysiology; Journal of Plant Sciences; Oecologia; Oikos; and Nucleic Acids Research [see publications on faculty pages to see citations of specific papers published with students].
Students have a variety of ways to conduct independent research in the Biology Department. Independent research through the courses BIOL 178, BIOL 298, BIOL 399, and BIOL 303 can be elected during any semester. Students must first consult with faculty members about their availability to take on students in their research labs for a particular semester. Usually this is best done at least one or two semesters before the proposed research might be performed. Typically faculty members take on students to work on ongoing projects in their laboratories. Therefore, it is a good idea to learn about the faculty member's research by reading their papers. For more information on Biology 303, please consult the Biology Major's Handbook, available for download on this website.
Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI)
Since 1986, the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI) has shown hundreds of students the wonders of scientific discovery through high-level research with faculty supervisors. Each summer, students and faculty collaborate in an intensive ten-week program, designing and shaping their views of the world with exciting explorations, rigorous experiments, and critical analyses. Among the nation's oldest undergraduate scientific research programs, URSI continues to be powered by Vassar faculty and students. Weekly URSI events such as student presentations and social gatherings supported the rigorous daily work of each group. In the end the creative results displayed at the annual URSI Symposium are the culmination of the most wonderful experiences students and faculty can have, namely, working side-by-side on new ideas.
The faculty are very active in URSI. Each year more than 12 biology students have the opportunity to work with faculty on research projects. This rich research experience includes designing, performing, analyzing, and presenting experiments. View Biology Projects on the URSI site for abstracts of past projects and more information about the institute.