Faculty commitment to meaningful research experiences for our students is a hallmark of the sciences at Goucher. Approximately one third of our majors elect to participate in directed research or independent research experiences, either with departmental faculty or research mentors at other institutions. The large number of research universities, medical schools, and biotechnology companies in the Baltimore area provide nearly unlimited opportunities for our students to gain research experience in virtually any discipline within the life sciences and related fields.
The biology faculty are actively-engaged in research and many have extramural support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other federal agencies and private foundations. The college also provides significant support for faculty-student research. Students present their research at national and international meetings and co-author a third of peer-reviewed faculty publications. About 40 percent of biology majors enter graduate programs. Over the past 15 years, 14.5 percent have earned doctorate degrees within 6 years of graduation, ranking this program in the top 20 percent among liberal arts colleges in the United States.
Students who are unsure whether they want to pursue an independent research experience may elect to take a directed research (BIO 291) course. In this course, students conduct laboratory or field research under the direction of a departmental faculty member. The project begins with the student writing a brief research plan, outlining major goals of the research project. Upon completion of the research, a written report, in the form of a journal article, is submitted to the faculty sponsor.
The course may be repeated once with the same, or a different, faculty member, but only two credits of directed research may be counted toward the 40-credit total for the biological sciences major. Sophomore standing or permission of the department is required to take BIO 291.
Students who wish to be considered for honors within the biological sciences major must complete an appropriate senior independent research course (BIO 390Y-399Y). Directed research does not meet these requirements.
Independent research provides an opportunity for students to pursue a research topic in their area of interest. Students considering graduate studies are especially encouraged to explore this possibility with a departmental faculty sponsor.
The student designs a two semester (or summer plus one semester) laboratory or field research project, under the guidance of a faculty sponsor. The faculty sponsor’s experience is helpful in establishing what can reasonably be accomplished given available resources and the limited duration of the project. Experimental work should begin no later than the fall semester of the senior year and, preferably, in the summer preceding the senior year. The research may take place on campus or at an off-campus location.
Goucher Summer Science Research Program
The Goucher Summer Science Research Program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on research projects. The program is designed for students who have taken relevant course(s) that pertain to faculty research and who want to learn more about the graduate or professional school experience and pursue a research career in science.
Funding from government and private research foundations, as well as generous donations from Goucher alumnae/i, allow students to participate in this research. Summer research at Goucher typically entails 10 weeks of full-time research and includes a stipend for living expenses. On-campus housing is substantially subsidized by the college.
The program fosters:
- hands-on experience in applying concepts learned in the classroom to a research project
- research skills and writing
- strategies for enhancing success in applying to graduate or professional schools or positions in industry
- opportunities for informal discussion with other students and faculty
- academic and professional career opportunities
- social activities
The research experience is typically supplemented by two student-faculty research talks. The first is in mid-June and serves to informally introduce students' research projects to fellow students and faculty. Students give a second oral presentation about their research at the end of the program in late July or early August. In the fall, students also hold a poster session, highlighting their summer research in the Goucher Student Research Symposium for Alumnae/i Weekend and Explore Goucher Day.
For further details about specific research opportunities and program requirements, refer to the research interests of individual faculty members by reading about them on the departmental websites and/or by contacting professors directly. The Hoffberger Conversations series is also a good venue for learning about faculty-student research that is going on at Goucher.
Off-Campus Independent Research
Occasionally, students demonstrate sufficient competence and maturity to pursue a program of scientific investigation in an off-campus research setting. Off-campus independent research is equivalent to Goucher-based independent study and earns 300-level biology credit. It requires both careful planning and approval by all three parties involved (student researcher, Department of Biological Sciences, and the off-campus sponsor). It is best to make appropriate arrangements well in advance. This research may also fulfill the off-campus experience requirement (BIO 290 internship).
Courses at Marine Biology Laboratories or Biological Field Stations
Most universities and some independent laboratories have programs during January term, or during the summer months, that emphasize studies of living organisms in their natural environments. Students who wish to meet the requirement for an off-campus experience through a scheduled program at a marine biology laboratory or a biological field station must obtain approval of the department. The Mary Derrickson McCurdy Fellowship provides support for marine biology research at field stations.