A major component of the undergraduate program is the senior project, which
involves two components:
The goals of the senior project are to develop specific experience and skills in scientific research and/or engineering design and development and to learn to present the results of such a study in all forms: written, oral, and visual. For most students, the senior project should be the culminating activity of their program in which they use skills acquired from numerous courses and previous laboratories and develop a whole new set of abilities in the science (and art) of organizing and presenting ideas.
Success in the senior project requires taking the following steps:
The program encourages all students to take advantage of opportunities to pursue a project in a research lab on the campus. Such projects are typically the basis for the data needed for the Senior Project course series but can also become a source of employment or the starting point of a research career.
A typical dialog with a student about pursuing research opportunities might go as follows:
Student: ``I have a few questions concerning the senior project that I am hoping you can help me with:
``Does my project need to be related to the molecular engineering track I chose? ``
Advisor: ``Heavens, no! Often the point of the project is to delve into some biological system or applications area that is new to you. Or to simply see how a lab operates.''
Student: ``Does the project need to be solely my own work or can I build my project off of previous research?''
Advisor: ``We always assume that senior projects are pieces of a larger project; most research we engage in is like this actually. The main thing is to be sure you understand the larger project and how your piece fits. You can make this context clear in your writing and your presentations.''
Student: ``Would you recommend using the design project as the senior project? What are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this option?''
Advisor: ``This is a path less traveled and so we are still gaining experience on how to make this work. We have perhaps 1 student per year who has decided on this option. I think all students benefit from a true lab experience, especially those considering medical or graduate school. The design experience also has value but all things about the specific project have to be just right for it to work out well as a senior project.''
Student: ``Are you aware of any lab openings within the bioengineering department that could help me get started on a project? If so, how is the best way to contact them?''
Advisor: ``We don't keep lists of openings but rather respond to students approaching us by creating projects such students could work on. Some faculty place limits on the number of UG students they have in the lab at any given time, while others are more flexible. So the best approach is to identify those faculty who pursue research that you find motivating and interesting. The department web site is a good place to start such a search, in the directory by research area section:
Once you have narrowed the search, contact some professors by email and ask them for an appointment to discuss possible senior projects they might have. It is helpful to come to the interview informed from reading some of the professor's papers, enough to at least have an idea of the research and some questions prepared. Then see what options emerge.''
Student: ``I am concerned that since it is the spring of my Junior year, I am behind in getting started on this, so I would appreciate any help you could give me in getting started.''
Advisor: ``If you start aggressively now with the plan of working over the summer on the project, then you should be fine. But do start NOW and feel free to contact me again with more questions or to get suggestions.''
If there are questions or uncertainty at any step in the process, the Major
Advisor will be available to help.