Department of Biology

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

When should I join a research lab? How do I join a research lab? Can I join a lab if I don’t already have any research experience?

Read this to find answers to your questions!

If you aspire to do scientific research as an undergraduate, there are several steps to take before getting started (see below). Although most students start research sometime during their sophomore or junior year, there is never a bad time to get into research!

What to do?  

  1. Think carefully about what sort of research questions interest you, are relevant to your major and to your postgraduate and professional goals.
  2. Think, too, about what type of research interests you: bench research, field research, computational research, clinical trials, epidemiology, molecular biology, microscopy, animal models, etc…
  3. Spend time browsing the research descriptions and websites of the faculty members around campus. There are well over 100 labs available! The list of links below will direct you to the research labs. The lab websites often list recent publications from the lab, and perusing these is the best way to find out what sort of work you might take part in. It is recommended that you come up with 5-10 prospective faculty research mentors whose research interests align with your own (from #1 and #2 above). Casting a wide net ensures you’re able to land a spot, as many faculty members may not be able to take a student at the time of your inquiry. Please note that Research Tutorial and RISE can be done with any faculty member from the department of Biology or across campus (e.g. GU Medical Center), provided the research aims are relevant to your major.

Useful links to faculty research pages:

  1. Describe why you’re interested in their laboratory.
  2. Attach a current resume.
  3. Include the name of a professor who would be willing to recommend you.
  4. Be clear about your available time commitment for the coming semester.
  1. Once you have a list of prospective faculty mentors, email them directly with a very polite, personalized letter. Before sending such inquiries, it is a good idea to show your email and list to your academic advisor for feedback.  
  2. If they respond positively, you can set up a time to discuss project possibilities and hopefully get going! If you are interested in a laboratory, but the timing isn’t right for you to starting doing laboratory work (like if you can’t fit it into your schedule or if the faculty mentor can’t fit you into their schedule), it can still be beneficial to attend their lab meetings. This offers a way to get to know the folks in the laboratory and start to become familiarized with the science.
  3. If your research mentor does not have a primary appointment in the department of Biology, you will need a Biology co-mentor if you are going to be doing the research for credit (BIOL-340, 341, 342). The Biology co-mentor can be your academic advisor or a professor in the department with relevant expertise. Your Biology co-mentor will work with you and your research mentor to review syllabi and help facilitate other programmatic aspects of Biology undergraduate research (e.g. issue grades, review written documents as needed). If this applies to you, please register for Research Tutorial and RISE under the section number of your co-mentor.

Many undergraduate students conduct research as a part of their college experience. Students conduct research with faculty in the Department of Biology, with faculty in the medical center, or with scientists in the D.C. area (e.g., the NIH, Smithsonian, etc.). As described below, students can obtain course credit or support during the summer.

RISE (Research Intensive Senior Experience)

The RISE program is designed to allow students to have an opportunity to delve deeply into a research project over the course of a year. Students will develop a research project in conjunction with a faculty member mentor and will work on it over the course of the senior year. Research projects can be performed in the laboratory, in the field, in the classroom, on computers, or in conjunction with an internship. Many RISE projects are continuations of tutorial research projects (see below). The credits for RISE will be 3-cr in both the fall (BIOL 341) and spring (BIOL-342) terms. Enrolling requires using an Add/Drop form with the faculty member’s signature and filling out a RISE syllabus to describe the project and to detail expectations. See your advisor, research mentor or any Biology faculty member for additional information. 

Research Tutorial

Students who are interested in conducting research in biology and/or starting their RISE (Research Intensive Senior Experience) project before the senior year can enroll in the Research Tutorial (BIOL-340) for 3 credits. These 3-credits will be applied to any of the majors sponsored by the Department of Biology; see the program description from each major but generally, BIOL-340 is applied as major elective credit. Further research for credit can be taken by enrolling in BIOL-304; however, these credits will not count towards the major but instead will be applied towards the total credit count as college elective.  Students who are obtaining a minor in Biology may also conduct Tutorial Research. 

GUROP: Georgetown University Research Opportunities Program

Georgetown Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (GUROP) offers motivated students the opportunity to learn the discipline and experience the rewards of scholarly research by working with faculty on their research projects.  Students spend a minimum of 70 hours per semester/summer working with a faculty mentor on that faculty member’s research. Students receive the transcript notation “Georgetown Undergraduate Research Assistant” for their work.  Participating students are also eligible to compete for a Summer Research Fellowship.

Zukowski-Kolleng Undergraduate Research Scholarship

In support of our departmental mission to enhance the undergraduate biology experience through research, the Biology Department is pleased to offer two undergraduate research fellowships:

Both Fellowships are open to Biology majors who are currently in their sophomore, junior and senior years and will provide a research award of  $4000, plus $1000 from the mentor.

Grant- or Fellowship-funded Research

Students may be able to obtain funding to support summer research through several funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and many research societies.  See your research mentor to discuss specific programs.

The Biology Undergraduate Research Presentation Awards

(and, therefore, the inelegant acronym of … BURPAS!)

The Biology Department has created a funding mechanism to augment the PURPAS funding recently piloted by the Office of the Provost. PURPAS provides funding to defray the costs incurred by undergraduate student researchers who travel to present their research at conferences and other scholarly venues beyond the Georgetown campus.

Due to our restricted funds and the desire to provide this opportunity to as many students as possible, the BURPAS awards will fund up to $250 per student.

Eligibility criteria:

Application materials:

Deadlines: We will consider applications on a rolling basis throughout the academic year and summer. We recognize that student travel may be contingent on earning funds to defray costs and want to be able to respond in a timely manner to meet the many external conference registration deadlines.

Contact: Prof. Shweta Bansal (