Senior Project Information

Senior Project Schedule and Guidelines 2022-2023

FALL SEMESTER SENIOR YEAR (2022)

By Tuesday, August 30 Register for and attend the appropriate section of Biology 600.
By Friday, October 7 Submit a 5-12 page project proposal to your committee by 5 pm. (Failure to meet this deadline will result in a 1 letter grade penalty, plus an additional 2/3 letter grade penalty for each additional week past this date.)
By Friday, October 28 Complete your proposal meeting with your committee.
By Tuesday, December 13 Submit a progress report to your Senior Project Advisor.

SPRING SEMESTER SENIOR YEAR (2023)

By Tuesday, January 17 Register for and attend the appropriate section of Biology 610.
By Monday, April 3 Submit a final draft of your written thesis to each member of your committee by 5 pm. (Failure to meet this deadline will result in a 1 letter grade penalty, plus an additional 2/3 letter grade penalty for each additional week past this date.)
By Friday, April 21 Complete the oral defense of your senior project before your committee.
Monday-Wednesday,
April 24-26
Orally present your research at the Biology Senior Project Symposium.
By Tuesday, May 2 Step 1. Submit an electronic copy of your abstract via the Senior Project Abstract Submission Form to the department coordinator and by email to your advisor.
Step 2. Submit an electronic copy of your thesis to Pelletier Library.
Step 3. Submit a copy of your corrected thesis to your advisor in their preferred format (electronic or print copy). (Your grade cannot be submitted – and therefore you will not graduate – until Steps 1 through 3 have been completed to the satisfaction of your advisor.)

Biology Department Senior Project Guidelines

Students who successfully complete the two-semester senior project and seminar in the Department of Biology (senior projects advised by a Biology faculty member may also include Biochemistry, Neuroscience, or Double Senior Projects) will be able to:

  • Design and conduct independent laboratory or field research that is consistent with the highest standards and practices of research in the relevant biological sub-discipline;
  • Present the results of their independent research clearly and effectively in both written and oral forms.

A few key points about the Senior Project:

  • It is an independent project; you are expected to undertake the necessary steps discussed below without external prompting.
  • It is intended to help you begin to operate on your own as a biologist. You will be able to use this training in any career you pursue, academic or otherwise.
  • We want you to enjoy your senior project. It is your chance to become deeply involved with some aspect of biology that particularly interests you.

The senior project in the Biology Department requires a total of 6 credits–BIO 600 (2 credits, fall) and BIO 610 (4 credits, spring). You will meet both semesters once per week with your research advisor and the other students working with your advisor. These “Senior Seminar” meetings (the “Senior Seminar”) may involve:

  • Discussion of pertinent literature to identify proper experimental approaches, designs, techniques, and methods of data analysis;
  • Discussion of any problems you might be having with your research projects;
  • Data analysis and interpretation;
  • Various modes of presentation of research findings.

BIO 600 is worth 2 credits and includes writing a research proposal, discussing the proposed research with your senior project committee, and beginning the actual process of data collection and analysis. BIO 610 is worth 4 credits and includes continued experiments and data analyses, a final written report on the research project, an oral defense of the report with the senior project committee, and a formal presentation of your senior project at the annual Biology Department Senior Project Symposium.

OUTLINE OF SENIOR PROJECT PROCEDURES

Choosing a Senior Project Advisor

  • Each spring, the Biology Department holds a meeting to describe the senior project process and to give an overview on the research interests of Biology faculty. You should reach out to any faculty member you are considering as a potential senior project advisor to discuss potential projects.
  • Following the meeting, submit the electronic form with your choices for senior project advisor, in order of preference, AND your choices for second reader.
  • The department will match you with an advisor and second reader, attempting to assign first choices as often as is possible.
  • Consult with your assigned senior project advisor as soon as possible to further define your research plans.
  • Register for the appropriate section of BIO 600 (or BCHEM 600 or DBL 600 or NEURO 600, as appropriate; signature permission will be granted by the faculty member) by the end of all-college registration.
  • Once a senior project advisor is finalized, changing of advisors will not be permitted.

Preparing the Senior Project Proposal

  • All senior project proposals should be initiated in the context of a discussion with the senior project advisor and will normally be closely related to the advisor’s research area.
  • Students may conduct projects based on proposals written during the junior seminar, and should consult with the appropriate faculty member about that project
  • Students who are proposing new projects will consult with one or more potential advisors to agree on an acceptable topic before registering for BIO 600.
  • The research proposal is based on a current review of the primary literature relevant to the proposed research. This review should place the proposed research in context, and demonstrate that you understand that context. The proposal should be well organized, with good syntax and grammar.
  • The proposal should contain: 1) an introduction to the topic that includes a literature review of background information; 2) a statement of the objectives and/or hypothesis(es) to be tested; 3) methods, including a detailed experimental design; 4) a budget; 5) a timetable for completing the project; and 6) literature cited.
  • The experimental design is expected to include appropriate controls and replications (if necessary) and statistical analyses (if appropriate) to be used. Methods should be explained in the detail appropriate for the subdiscipline.
  • The timetable should include a list of expectations for the work that you complete during both semesters.
  • Provide each committee member with a copy of your final proposal by Friday, October 7, 2022. Failure to meet this deadline will result in a penalty of 1 letter grade on the proposal, plus an additional 2/3 letter grade penalty for each additional week past this date.

Proposal meeting with the committee

  • Complete the scheduling availability form when instructed.
  • Based on availability, you will be assigned a time for a committee meeting, to be held by Friday, October 28, 2022.
  • The meeting will include you and your readers and is scheduled for ~30 minutes.
  • Your committee will ask questions to help evaluate your proposal and identify areas for clarification and improvement.
  • Once your proposal is approved at this meeting, you may begin working on the project. If your proposal is NOT approved, you must rework your proposal with your first reader until it is approved by your committee. Only then will you be able to begin your project.

Senior Project research work

  • All seniors must complete safety training before beginning experimental work on their senior project. Training sessions will be held early in the fall semester.
  • All seniors also are required to complete training in research ethics before embarking on experiments. 
  • If you will use vertebrate animals in any part of your project, you must submit an approval form to the Animal Research Committee (ARC). If you plan to use humans in any part of your project, you must submit a proposal to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). In addition, you will be required to complete CITI training to certify you for these types of work.
  • No work on your project can proceed until approval(s) by the appropriate committee(s) have been received. The approval process may take a few weeks, so it is important that you submit your forms for approval as soon as possible.
  • START WORKING! The spring due date for the final paper will come much sooner than you think!

First-semester progress report

  • Submit a progress report to your senior project advisor by Tuesday, December 13, 2022.
  • The progress report should contain: a description of the work done on the project during the first semester, including:
    • a summary of any relevant data collected
    • a discussion of problems and/or modifications of the proposed experimental design suggested by the preliminary experiments
    • revised timetables, expectations, and “plan of action” for the spring semester.

Second-semester guidelines

  • You must receive a passing grade in Senior Project I (600) to be allowed to register for BIO 610 (or BCHEM 610, DBL 610, NEURO 610) by the Add/Drop deadline.
  • Complete rough drafts of sections and full thesis according to your advisor’s deadlines.
  • Submit the final unbound written thesis to each committee member by 5:00 pm Monday, April 3, 2023. This is the version of your thesis that will be graded. Failure to meet this deadline will result in one letter grade penalty, plus an additional 2/3 letter grade penalty for each additional week past this date.
  • Complete the scheduling availability form for your oral defense meeting when instructed.
  • You will be assigned a time for your oral defense meeting, to be held by Friday, April 21, 2023.
  • Make any changes in the written thesis as requested by your committee.
  • Submit an electronic copy of your abstract via the Biology Senior Project Abstract Submission Form no later than Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
  • Upload an electronic copy of your thesis to Pelletier Library no later than Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
  • Submit a copy of your corrected thesis to your advisor in their preferred format (electronic or bound) no later than Tuesday, May 2, 2023. Failure to meet this deadline will result in 1/3 letter grade penalty, and failure to submit the final thesis by 10 pm May 9, 2023 will result in an incomplete (and no graduation).
  • To ensure that students properly clean up the cultures, organisms, and equipment they have used in their senior project, all clean-up must be completed to the satisfaction of your advisor and all keys must be returned before the final grade will be submitted.

Grading

Fall Semester (2 credits)
35% Written proposal (including committee meeting)
35% Progress made on the project during first semester
15% Attendance and participation in senior seminar
15% Progress report (due last day of classes)
100%

Spring Semester (4 credits)
40% Written thesis
15% Oral defense with committee
15% Senior symposium presentation
10% Attendance and participation in senior seminar
20% Level of scientific scholarship displayed during the research
100%

BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT POLICY ON SENIOR PROJECTS PERFORMED OFF-CAMPUS

Research projects designed, directed, and conducted away from Allegheny College typically will not be permitted for use as a senior project in the Biology Department. The senior project is a capstone to the work done at Allegheny, as well as a valuable learning and growing experience. As such, biology faculty should be directly involved in those projects from beginning to end, to assist our students and to assess the intellectual investment of our students in those projects.

This policy specifically does not preclude students working off-campus to collect data. For instance, a student may collect data at sites away from campus. Nevertheless, the project still must be designed in consultation with, and under the ongoing direction of, an Allegheny faculty member.

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