BIOL 4990 – Introduction to Research


Supervised work in research projects based in the lab or field.


One (1) to three (3).


(1) Faculty approval.

(2) Completion of the BIOL 4990 form found here, including signatures from you and the professor, and its return to Ms. Shai Diaz in the Department of Biology.


This course offers undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research in Biology under the mentorship of faculty and graduate students. The student will put in practice the theoretical knowledge gained in the courses and gain an appreciation of how scientific research is done by getting involved in research projects.


Faculty with diverse interests participate in this program. They include our own faculty, as well as others from Natural Sciences, the Medical School and the Caribbean University. A complete list of faculty and researchers can be found found here.

Contact information

Dr. Carlos Gonzalez  –Coordinator BIOL 4990

Students’ Frequently Asked Questions

Who should take this course?

Students finishing up their degree in Biology and that want to pursue graduate studies should definitively take this course. We highly recommend this course to students interested in following a professional career in Medical Sciences. The curriculum of these professional careers emphasizes de importance of research techniques and critical thinking in the development of their students.

When can I take this course?

We recommend students to take this course during their second and third years in school. In general faculty prefer students that have already learned the foundations of Biology and that can commit at least one year to work in the lab of choice.

How many credits can I take?

You can take between 1 to 3 credits per semester. If you are a Biology student you can earn up to six (6) credits of this course and they will count toward fulfilling your elective credits in Biology courses. If you are a student in the General Science program you can earn a maximum of four (4) credits and they will count toward fulfilling your elective credits in Science courses.

How many hours count for a credit in BIOL 4990?
The rull of thumb is that for each credit you have to invest 5 hours. Therefore 1cr = 5hrs; 2crs = 10hrs; 3crs = 15hrs during the semester. During the summer: 1cr = 13.5hrs; 2crs = 27hrs; 3crs = 40hrs.

What kind of activities will I develop while participating in a research project?

The student has to participate in the weekly lab meetings, and this includes reading the assigned papers, making presentations, and contributing to the discussions. The student should meet at least once every month to discuss the progress of the work. In addition to data collection, the student will have to read the relevant literature and spend time analyzing data and writing a final report. If you have done a serious work, the most likely thing is that you will be able to present your work at a scientific meeting. Do not miss this opportunity to travel and learn about others work.

How much time do I have to invest in this course?

A minimum of five (5) hours of work per registered credit should be invested every week. This may vary, however, depending on the research project and type of work to be undertaken. The most important thing is to discuss a working plan with the professor that will serve as your mentor, and the expectations that both of you have for this course.

What is the maximum number of credits that I can register for?
You can register for a maximum of 6 credits for graduation purposes. These will count towards your Directed or Free Elective Courses.

Can I take this course during the Summer?

Yes you can but remember that during the Summer the number of hours invested in this course increases. During Summer time you have to invest a minimum of 13.5 hours per registered credit.

What should I do to register the course?

Once you have identified a topic of your interest, identify the faculty doing things that match your interests, and make an appointment to discuss possibilities. Share your CV with the faculty and transmit to him or her your excitement about participating in his/her ongoing research. If the two of you agree to work together the next step is to fill out a form , have it signed by the professor, and then turn it in to Ms. Sonia Amaro in the Department of Biology. She will get the approval from the Department Chair and register you for this course.

I am registered in BIOL 4990 and want to change from research, can I do this?
YES, you can change but you have to wait until the next semester. As a matter of courtesy talk first to the professor that you have been working with, and explain to him or her your reasons. They will be able to provide you with further advice.

I want to register BIOL 4990 to work with a professor that is not listed among the professors participating in this program. Can I register with him?

NOT IMMEDIATELY. First, the faculty that you are interested in working with needs to talk to the course coordinator (check our web page every semester to see who this person is) in order to express his or her willingness to take the student (see below). Second, the course coordinator has to evaluate and approve the request.

Faculty Frequently Asked Questions

How can I participate in this course?

Faculty that maintain an active research program in areas of interest to our students are welcome to participate. This faculty clearly needs to be publishing, submitting grants, and very importantly have the desire to mentor undergraduate students. Interested faculty should send a letter to the Department Chair indicating their interest, a curriculum vitae, and a short description (<20 words) of their area of research and contact information, including e-mail.

What is my responsibility in this course?

Your responsibility is to guide students through this hand-on learning experience. In particular, the student should learn about the scientific method, how You should discuss with the student your mutual interests and come up with a working plan for the semester. We suggest meeting regularly with the student to evaluate the progress reached so far and define future lines of action. Remember that even the brightest students needs guidance and mentorship!

How are students graded?

You will grade the student (A, B, C, D, F) based on their participation in lab activities and the accomplishment of the goals set up in the working plan. By the middle of the semester your will receive a letter from the department verifying the number of students that register with you. Verify the information and send it back to the department with the necessary changes. By the end of the semester you will receive a second letter requesting the grade for the students taking the course with you. No replying to this letter may result in the assignment of an IF (incomplete F) to the student. It will be your responsibility to remove this grade within the next six months.

Please refer to key accomplishments of the students, such as articles published, papers presented at meetings, fellowships, and other indications of the marvelous work that both of you developed during the semester.

For more infomation contact:

Dr. Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar, Course coordinator
Phone: (878) 764-0000 X 1-4848