Undergraduate Research

Our lab specializes in undergraduate research experiences in ecology and biogeochemistry. By enrolling in the “Undergraduate Research” program, students can get credit for hands-on field research, data analysis, and manuscript creation work, mentored by faculty in the lab. Below, we outline the expectations and requirements for all undergraduate research activities in the lab, and especially students conducting research associated with their degrees:

1) All research students must attend weekly lab meetings where we organize lab logistics, make announcements, comment on scientific work, present data, give updates on project status, and set deadlines. Students who do not attend regular lab meetings can not expect academic credit for participation in the lab group.

2) Research students should expect to help each other on research projects. The great advantage to working in a diverse lab is the opportunity to interact with a community of other scientists and participate in diverse research experiences (beyond your own project). As such, we expect students will volunteer to help each other in the field, and in the review of  presentations and written work. Students should also ask each other for help with projects, and volunteer to let others come help and learn about their unique projects in the field.

3) Weekly written progress reports must be submitted to your mentoring faculty. Every week, research students need to write a brief e-mail summarizing their progress for the week working on their project. This should be done even if the activities were conducted alongside your mentor, since these weekly reports can help document what work was done when, and serve as a strong record of student progress. Reports need to be submitted to the faculty by Friday of each week.

4) An annotated bibliography needs to be kept and continuously updated by research students on a weekly basis. We expect you are reading and summarizing at least one new paper per week related to your research work, but you may be reading and summarizing as much as seven papers per week (one per day). You should keep a list of those papers, followed by a brief summary of the main hypotheses, methods, and findings of the paper

5) Each student should be making progress on their own research project(s) continuously throughout their experience. It is the responsibility of the students to recognize when they have hit a block, and need help figuring our what to do next. Students should proactively contact their faculty to address any potential problems. Although it doesn’t always seem like it, your faculty don’t mind being contacted all the time about your research project. It makes it easier for them to keep up, and offer course corrections at critical points that can save you and them a lot of time down the road. Treat them as partners in the work, not just judges of your success or failure. Waiting too long to contact them about problems or hang-ups can lead to disaster – time is precious!

6) Every student in the lab is required to be continuously working on a manuscript related to their research work. These manuscripts can start once the idea is hatched and the methods are determined, and the re-visioning and rewriting on the manuscript will continue long after the first full analysis of your data. Scientific writing is re-writing, and we expect you to always be writing something.

7) Presentations are an important part of communicating science! Research students should practice early and often presenting their work. All students are required to present their work professionally at some point in their research, and all students should continuously be working on creating professional presentations of their work. Their will be multiple opportunities to present at local, national, and even international meetings, and we encourage students to participate.

8) Archiving methods and data is an essential component of scientific work. This means that all data needs to be clearly archived on our lab server (\\orca\research\ecology or \\orca\research\eeon). Similarly, all methods should be clearly references either in your manuscript (above) or in metadata that is embedded with the archived data. We strongly encourage students to include metadata for all data sets.

9) Keeping the lab clean and orderly is part of good science and good community membership. Students are expected to pitch in, help out, and leave the lab more functional than when they found it.

10) Work on a longer term plan. We expect that all research students are continually thinking about how this research experience can contribute to their diverse future plans. Not all students will want to become professional researchers course! What do you want to after this experience? How can we use this experience to benefit you most. Think about these questions and continually re-evaluate them. Talk to your faculty to get help making your plans become a reality.

11) Have fun! Our community benefits most from being populated by people who are excited to be here! It’s exciting to find out new things about the world. Enjoy the experience and allow yourself to share your enthusiasm with others. Science is hard, but it’s less hard when it’s fun, so make it fun! Why not?!


A biogeochemistry and ecology research labratory at The Evergreen State College