Student Research | Department of Biology | The University of Vermont(title)

If you are pursuing a major or minor within the biology department, you can take biology research courses. In these courses, you may work with any faculty member on campus, and in some cases, off-campus. All biology research courses must involve biology research. Consider focusing on a topic covered in your BCOR 1400 and 1450 courses.

List of biology research courses

  • Biology BS major: Up to 6 credits of undergraduate research in any biological discipline may be applied toward the 26 credits of advanced electives. Only three of these can be taken for credit at the 2000-level, and these will be counted in the 8 credits allowed at the 2000-level.
  • Biology BA major: Research credits do not count toward the three 3000-level biology electives.
  • Zoology BS major: Up to 6 credits of undergraduate research (BIOL 2995, 3995, or HON 4996) count toward the 27 credits of advanced electives. Only 3 can be taken for credit at the 2000-level, and these will be counted in the 8 credits allowed at the 2000-level.
  • Zoology BA major: Research credits do not count toward the 15 credits of BIOL electives.
BIOL 2995 Undergraduate Research 1-18 Credits

Students step into an ongoing research program, working under the supervision of a faculty mentor, but perhaps helping a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. Often students do not have prior research experience and step into an ongoing project but are working independently by the end of the semester. Each credit requires a minimum of 40 hours. However, students typically put in even more time. Students may take BIOL 2995 during any semester, from their first year through Senior year.

Students who are Biology/Biological Science/Zoology/Environmental Sciences majors may work with either a Biology Department faculty member or a faculty member in another life science department. Students who are not majors within the biology department must work with a biology department faculty member. Students can enroll for multiple semesters.

BIOL 3995 Undergraduate Research 1-18 Credits

Students work closely with an experienced researcher who will aid in the identification and conduct of an original research project. Each credit requires a minimum of 40 hours. However, students typically put in even more time. Often students have prior research experience and are working at an advanced level having already taken Undergraduate Research (BIOL 2995), or have had a few 3000-level biology courses, at least one with laboratory. Students who are Biology/Biological Science/Zoology/A&S Environmental Sciences majors may work with either a biology department faculty member or a faculty member in another life science department. Students who are not majors within the Biology department must work with a Biology Department faculty member. Students can enroll for multiple semesters.

Research 2995 and 3995 Forms

Undergrad Research a Key to Medical Career

A student in a white shirt standing next to plants

Hailey Cray ’20 made profound connections with several different communities at the University of Vermont during her academic career, including the biology and women’s and gender studies departments, UVM’s Graduate School, and the Larner College of Medicine. She graduates this May with a B.A. in biology and is already halfway towards earning her master’s in public health at UVM. Now she’s preparing to begin a new job as a clinical research assistant at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

Cray, a native of Ferrisburgh, Vt., initially had her sights set on a traditional medical school path. Today, she jokingly calls herself a “reformed pre-med student.”

“When I first started at UVM I was pretty set on not going into research because I wanted to work with people,” she recalls. “It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that there’s a lot of research that focuses on people and their experiences.”

Cray found a home in the gender, sexuality and women studies program, a discipline at UVM that draws from social sciences, physical sciences, and humanities perspectives. “The program was a way to explore the challenges faced by women and other marginalized populations,” she said. “It’s a really close community of students and professors.”

Her interest in science and women’s studies came together through her Honors College thesis with co-investigator and advisor, Dr. Marjorie C. Meyer, who is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at the UVM Medical Center. (Cray notes that her connection with Meyer goes back to the very beginning—Meyer was the obstetrician who delivered Cray at Fletcher Allen Hospital).

Cray’s project examines retention rates in medication-assisted therapy centers of Vermont among women who have an opioid use disorder and are pregnant, or are parenting young children. She finds that young mothers with a history of Opioid use are often unable to continue treatment.

“These women face so many challenges through a lack of reliable housing, medical insurance and transportation. These problems can snowball, so we hope to find ways to improve retention in this particularly vulnerable population,” she notes.

At McLean Hospital, her research will focus on a challenge many older patients contend with—Alzheimer’s disease. Cray is intrigued by promising drug trials the hospital is conducting.

“The drug trials are pretty cool. They are experimenting with technology that patients and caregivers can both use to help monitor behaviors in patients with mild cognitive deficits.”

Raymond Looney '20 Investigates Viruses in Geese

A student working with animal

Raymond Looney’s summer break began with a trip to Townsville, Australia, to attend the 5th International Symposium on Ranaviruses, a genus of viruses that are infectious to amphibians and reptiles. The experts he met at the three-day symposium gave him valuable feedback on his summer research project, which investigates whether the Canada Goose might be a vector for the spread of ranaviruses in the northeast.

“I’d never been outside the U.S., so it was awesome to visit another country and talk with experts from around the world about my research interests,” he said. Another awesome thing about the trip: his travel was paid for in part by the UVM Suiter grant and an NSF funded travel grant. Likewise, Looney’s summer research project is supported by a Simon Family Public Research Fellowship. “I’m really grateful for the support,” Looney said. “The fellowship allows me to live in Burlington this summer and pay for living and research expenses.”

He discovered his academic path at UVM when he took Ecology and Evolution, a course taught by biology professor Nicholas Gotelli who is advising Looney’s project.

This summer, Looney is travelling to sites all around Vermont with researchers from the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department who are banding Canadian Geese found on freshwater lakes and ponds. Before releasing the birds, Looney swabs them for signs of viruses.

Ranavirus is believed to have caused several recent mortality events in amphibian populations. Looney is interested in building an outreach program through the Fish and Wildlife Department educating boat owners and researchers about ways to minimize spread, like cleaning their boats and gear.

Looney says no current research points to birds as carriers, but waterfowl, because of their proximity to fish, amphibian, and reptile populations, could be a vector. He notes that ranavirus is found in the water and has the ability to be picked up by the feathers.

“The virus can survive anywhere its moist and warm,” he said. “The oil glands birds have near the base of their tails may help preserve the virus.”

When the banding season is over, Looney will spend his time in the lab analyzing samples. He sees this as a long-term project—he’s been accepted into the UVM accelerated masters in biology program which will allow him to earn a graduate degree one year after receiving his B.S. His current research will serve as the foundation of his graduate thesis.

For Emily Holt It's Personal: Seeking Treatments for MS

A student wearing white coat working in lab

"Everyone has a unique event that they can recall that got them interested in research. Maybe it is a particular professor, course, or lab experience, but for me it’s a bit more personal than that. When I was younger, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In order to understand what that truly meant, I searched around for any literature I could find about the disease, figuring that if I could learn about the disease then it might seem less intimidating. What I didn’t expect out of the whole process, however, was to find a true interest in research. It just so happened that right around this time I also got my first taste of the true experimental process through my high school biology class and it all snowballed from there. Needless to say, I came to UVM with the intention of joining a research lab, and as a result have had the privilege of working in the Mawe Lab on a Multiple Sclerosis related project for the past three years.

Currently I am working on my honors thesis in the lab examining the effects of mucosal serotonin (5-HT) signaling in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE), the mouse model of Multiple Sclerosis. 5-HT is a neurotransmitter that initiates, regulates, and modifies GI motility, secretion, and vasodilation and has been noted to be altered in inflammatory diseases. Although Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an inflammatory disease, the implications of 5-HT signaling have yet to be examined. That said, it is the aim of this work to test the hypothesis that there will be an increase in 5-HT expression in the EAE GI tract driven by a decrease in the 5-HT transporter SERT. Additionally, my project has recently adapted an additional component of examining the possibility that female mice respond to EAE in a similar manner to male mice in terms of GI dysmotility symptoms, as male mice have up until this point been the commonly used model in the lab. This exploration is based off of a recent finding in the lab that showed asymptomatic male mice can still present with GI dysfunction, leading to the hypothesis that female mice, which generally present asymptomatic, might also develop GI dysmotility and therefore could serve as equal models to their male counterparts. Once this work is complete and I have graduated in the spring, it is my plan to continue straight into graduate school in order to obtain a Ph.D. in neuroscience with the ultimate career goal of pursuing research full time."

Finding a Research Sponsor

Please contact the Office of Undergraduate Research, an excellent resource in helping students locate a lab. Also, consider talking to instructors you've had, especially graduate student lab instructors. Also, ask your friends who have worked, or are working in labs. Get more information on faculty research interests.

When you approach a faculty member about the possibility of doing research in their laboratories, it's a good idea for you to read about their work before contacting them. Start with the information found on their websites, and even try to read one or more of their scientific papers. After this, contact the faculty member expressing your interest in the research. Before the meeting, think of how you would answer the faculty member if you were posed the question, “What specifically about my work interests you the most?” If things go well you could ask the faculty member if there might be a position in the lab in order for you to participate in a research project.

Undergraduate Research & Funding Opportunities

"Learning by doing" is the best way to study life science, so hands-on-experience is an active part of the undergraduate biology program at UVM. Students receive credit for participating in research projects at every level from first year students to seniors. During the summer or academic year, undergraduates work with  faculty members to collect data that leads to publications in major scientific journals. In the summer, students can be paid from faculty grants or from stipends that are part of competitive awards.

Academic Programs for Learning and Engagement (APLE)

Please visit our InfoReady Portal to search for details about individual grants and awards.


Beckman Scholars Program

The University of Vermont is among 12 recipients selected for a prestigious 2014 Beckman Scholars Program award recognizing outstanding undergraduate research students in chemistry and biological sciences.

The award from the Beckman Foundation totals $130,000 for five Beckman Scholars, payable over the three-year term of the award beginning in the summer of 2014. It provides scholarship assistance in the amount of $21,000 per student for two summers and one academic year in support of a sustained, in-depth undergraduate research experience. Scholars are expected to perform research activities for 10 hours each week during the semester and 40 hours per week during summer research internships in 2014 and 2015. Beckman Scholars are expected to pursue an independent research project under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Read more about the Beckman Scholars Program.

Getting Credit for Research

During the academic year, many undergraduates carry out research and also often receive academic credit for this work. Students work with a faculty research advisor to design a project and submit the project description and a method for evaluation of the work to the department's advisor in charge of undergraduate research courses. Upon approval, students then enroll for research courses: Bio 098 Research Apprenticeship; Bio 193/194 Internships; Bio 198 or Bio 298 Undergraduate Research; Honors 208/209 Honors Research in biology. The apprenticeship is designed for students in the first or second year to become acquainted with research. Internships are designed for students who want an experience outside UVM where they might work with the Medical Examiner, State Forensic Lab, a law firm specializing in intellectual property, a biotechnology firm, as examples. There must be an academic component minimally with a research paper and data analysis. Bio 198 and Bio 298 are the courses students enroll in when they are carrying out research in their junior and senior years. As for the apprenticeship and internship, the undergraduate must work with a faculty research advisor to design a project and a method of evaluation before the student begins the work. Senior students who are taking College Honors enroll in Hon 208 Honors Research, which requires a formal proposal to the Honors Committee to describe the honors thesis research topic.