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Biology Research Opportunities for First Year Students

Getting involved in research as a first year is not as hard as it seems and is very common here at Ursinus.

As fall open houses continue, the Biology Department would like to shed some light on how easy it is for incoming students to be involved in research on campus during their first semester here. Coming into college most students do not know exactly what they are interested in researching within in their major. In fact, students do not declare a major formally until their second semester. As a new college student, it can seem like an intimidating task to be a part of something like independent research on campus. However, the process is as simple going onto the Biology Department’s website and selecting the Faculty and Staff subheading in the red box labeled as Biology. There you can get the information for the professors, all of whom carry out research in collaboration with students. Simply sending an email asking if they are looking for new research students will set you up in the right place. With that one email you are now involving yourself in the Biology Department and setting yourself up for an immersive dive into the future here at Ursinus.

This is not just a process for juniors of seniors at the college. A unique part to Ursinus is the ability to be involved in research as early as your first semester on campus. Between three and thirteen first year students a year participate in research with a Biology professor. Few colleges can offer that type of experiential learning so early in a students’ education. Dr. Ellen Dawley, a Professor of Biology here at Ursinus, often has first year students in her lab since she teaches Bio 101. She shared that, “everyone starts by shadowing (basically, watching) a specific team of research students who are working on a particular project. These student researchers very soon let the new students learn and carry out aspects of the project and often count on the new researchers as part of their team entrusted to complete steps in the project.” First year students are not only observing research, but they get to participate and serious contributions to the work. Regardless of which lab an Ursinus student may join, new techniques and experiences can be used for the rest of their time here with the biology department.

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