Research Opportunities for Undergraduates in Molecular Genetics
Undergraduate students in Molecular Genetics have many exciting career opportunities and doing research can help prepare you for these. Obtaining research experience in a faculty member’s laboratory not only gives a student exposure to cutting edge research techniques, but can additionally help a student determine which career option is right for them. Research experience can also enhance a student’s resume and/or applications for graduate or professional schools. A student’s experience in a research laboratory can also earn them academic credit; up to three semester hours of MG 4998/4998H (Undergraduate Research in Molecular Genetics) may be counted as elective credit toward the Molecular Genetics major and two semesters of credit can be used to waive the required laboratory class.
Students interested in independent research experience should read the research statements of faculty members found in the Faculty Directory, and then contact faculty members whose research is of greatest interest. However, students may also find it helpful to talk to their major advisor about their top selections.
Once a student has identified a faculty member who agrees to supervise their research, the student enrolls in MG 4998, Undergraduate Research in Molecular Genetics(or MG 4998H for honors students) to receive from one-to-four credit hours per semester for working in the laboratory (the student must obtain the appropriate course number, which is unique to each faculty member). One credit hour is given for each three-to-five hours per week spent in the lab over a semester.
The research experience differs depending on the individual faculty member, but typically involves an initial training period and mentorship from the faculty member as well as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the lab. Students who continue in the lab for several semesters can have the requirement for a laboratory course waived; this requires four semester hours of MG 4998/4998H spread over at least two semesters and approval of your major advisor (see Advising for more information).
- Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (REU)
- Plant Molecular Biology & Biotechnology Program Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)
Thesis Research Tracks in Molecular Genetics
Students who commit a significant effort to research have the option of completing a research project that culminates in a written thesis. This requires 4 semester hours of MG 4999/4999H, Thesis Research in Molecular Genetics (as discussed below this is typically in addition to, not in place of MG 4998/4998H). The Thesis Research option is available to students who maintain a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, while the Honors Thesis Research option is available to members of the honors program who maintain the minimum 3.4 GPA required for honors status.
Planning Ahead for Thesis Research
Students who wish to complete a thesis should contact their major advisor as soon as possible. Because none of the MG 4999/4999H hours used toward a thesis can be counted toward the 30 semester hours required for the major, a student who wishes to both waive the laboratory course requirement and write an honors thesis must typically take two semesters of MG 4998/4998H before enrolling in MG 4999/4999H. This requires that students begin their research well before their senior year, and students interested in this option should make initial contacts with potential research advisors by the end of their sophomore year. This allows ample time for the initial training period and gives the student the option of doing research over the summer between the junior and senior year.
The summer experience is especially important for students pursuing an honors thesis. A number of scholarships are available that provide summer support to undergraduate researchers.
Thesis Research in Molecular Genetics
In order to write a thesis and graduate with research distinction, a student must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, obtain 4 semester hours of credit in MG 4999, and file an application to graduate with research distinction with the ASC Advising Office at least two semesters before graduation (the necessary paperwork can be obtained from the ASC Advising Office or online at ascadvising.osu.edu/node/192). After successfully completing a thesis the student is eligible for “Graduation with Research Distinction in Molecular Genetics,” a mark of excellence that formally documents the student’s accomplishments in research.
Note that students who are not currently members of the honors program may petition to join the honors program in order to graduate with both honors and research distinction. However, this is typically very difficult given the need to satisfy the honors GE requirements.
Honors Thesis Research in Molecular Genetics
In order to write an honors thesis and graduate with honors and research distinction, a student must be a member of the honors program, maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.4, obtain 4 semester hours of credit in MG 4999H, and file an application to graduate with honors and research distinction with the ASC Honors Office at least two semesters before graduation (the necessary paperwork can be obtained from the ASC Honors Office or online at aschonors.osu.edu/honors/research-thesis). After successfully completing a thesis an honors student is eligible for “Graduation with Honors and Research Distinction in Molecular Genetics,” a mark of excellence that documents the student’s accomplishments in research in addition to the recognition of academic excellence.
Note that students in the honors program do not need to complete a thesis in order to graduate with honors.
Why Undergraduate Research?
A frequently asked question is “Why should a student spend their time and effort on an undergraduate research project?” There are several important points that address this question:
A research experience helps the student to decide between career options. The undergraduate research option exposes the student to the real world of experimentation and inquiry. Many students will find research exciting and important preparation for future careers. Some will find it less interesting and may not continue in the lab, they will, however, have received a valuable experience (and research credit), which will help shape future career goals.
A research specialty is a mark of distinction. By taking advantage of research opportunities, the student becomes an attractive and competitive candidate for the best professional and graduate schools. These graduate and professional programs are fiercely competitive and entrance committees carefully look for evidence that the student has done more than merely attend classes and pass exams with high marks. Tangible signs of success -- such as the student’s name on a scientific publication or abstract, an honors thesis, or obtaining scholarships or awards for research -- are very attractive additions to an application. Even without these, the student's record will document their expertise in performing specialized techniques that could be listed on their resume. Finally, the student performs original research and finds it intellectually gratifying to make new findings in science.
Working in a laboratory allows the student to get to know the faculty and vice versa. It is very important to get to know any faculty members outside of the classroom. Our faculty members have national and international reputations in the scientific community. Their letters of recommendation are an important component of successful applications to graduate school or potential employers.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies tend to favor applicants with hands-on laboratory experience. Some graduates find work immediately as laboratory technicians. It is a well-known fact that it costs time and money to train new employees.
A WARNING ABOUT GRADES: It is absolutely essential that students perform to their best abilities in the classroom. On one hand, undergraduate research is an attractive part of the educational process; on the other hand, working in a lab takes one away from other endeavors, such as free time and study time. Because grades are important, we advocate that students with marginal grades (below a 3.0 GPA) spend their time improving their course performance rather that devoting the time to research.
- SiGuE: Success in Graduate Education
The goal of the SiGuE program is to increase the representation and competitiveness of historically underrepresented groups in basic sciences. SiGuE provides an opportunity to enhance the research experience of post-baccalaureate students needed to make students competitive for M.Sc. and Ph.D. programs nationwide. SiGuE will help reinforce academic training by providing an individualized student development plan in a productive research experience mentored by faculties with strong academic programs. SiGuE will strengthen professional skills that are needed to survive in a competitive science Ph.D. program.
The Thomas J Byers Memorial Scholarship Fund
The Thomas J Byers Memorial Scholarship Fund was established June 1, 2007 with gifts from family, friends, and colleagues in memory of Dr. Thomas Jones Byers; the fund is used to provide scholarship support for undergraduate students performing research in the Department of Molecular Genetics with the goal of pursuing a PhD degree in the life sciences.
Undergraduate Student Pelotonia Fellowship Program
The Pelotonia Fellowship Program provides one-year research fellowships to the best and brightest OSU undergraduate students who want to help cure cancer. Cancer is a complex disease and curing it will take a multidisciplinary effort. So, no matter what the field of study, from traditional scientific fields to fields like engineering, history and business, all OSU undergraduate students may apply.
Edward G. Mayers Scholarship
This scholarship supports undergraduate summer research in the natural and mathematical sciences. Application for this scholarship may be made through the Undergraduate Research Office.
Elizabeth Wagner Scholarship
The Elizabeth Wagner Scholarship was endowed in 2002 by her son, William Reed of Seattle, in her memory. It provides scholarships in the Department of Molecular Genetics, with preference given to women undergraduate students with interest in plant biology. Dr. Wagner earned her BA (1943), MA (1944) and PhD (1946) at Ohio State University. Dr. Wagner’s specialization was plant physiology. She authored or co-authored 40 publications, including a number on biological education, in which she was deeply involved. Please select this link to see Dr. Wagner's first published paper [pdf].
The application windows for these scholarships take place in January unless otherwise noted.
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