The undergraduate research program begins in junior year fall semester with the advanced project-based laboratory course MOL 350-Laboratory in Molecular Biology, and the junior tutorials, in which students discuss papers from the primary literature. Students also participate in a selection process that matches them with a faculty adviser for their spring junior independent work and senior thesis research. During the spring semester, juniors carry out independent research under the guidance of the faculty adviser to write the Junior Paper in the form of proposal for their senior thesis project.
The fall junior tutorial provides a forum for students to learn to read and analyze critically the primary scientific literature in molecular biology. Students participate in small group tutorials in which they discuss research papers in current topic areas. Tutorials, led by postdoctoral instructors, are held once a week for 1.5 hours and are broken into two segments, each with a distinct topic area. At the end of each 4-week segment, students write a short critique of a relevant research paper assigned by the instructor.
In the spring term, students carry out independent work with a faculty adviser with whom they will eventually do their senior thesis research. Students who plan to do an experimental thesis may choose to begin laboratory research during the spring semester. Over the course of the semester, students will meet frequently with the adviser to analyze the relevant background literature, discuss experimental research if relevant, and formulate a research plan for their senior thesis. The independent work culminates in the submission of the Junior Paper, a formal research proposal that is modeled on a typical grant proposal.