The biology department is proud of the diversity and quality of opportunities for student research.
Since Holy Cross is an undergraduate institution, students do not compete with graduate students for equipment and guidance from their advising professors. Faculty are committed both to excellence in teaching and to being active scholars who train undergraduates in the ideas, methods, and ethics of scientific research.
In recent years, typically 20 to 25 students have been actively engaged in supervised independent research projects spanning biology. Examples include:
- studies of the mechanisms of mutagenesis
- cell-to-cell communication in cultured cell lines
- investigations into ion channel expression
- functions of Natural Killer Cells in the immune system and the phenomenon of autoimmunity
- pattern expression during the process of development
- investigations of how thermophilic bacteria are able to move between widely dispersed habitats
In the course of their work they have access to modern equipment that is appropriate to their area of research and is similar to what is found at first-rate research institutions and in industry.
Students are introduced to modern research techniques in course labs.
Supervised research opportunities are available under a number of different auspices. For instance, students may informally and for no credit ask to observe or to work in a faculty member's lab, in part to see if he or she would enjoy a more extensive exposure to research. However, more commonly students apply to specific programs, including independent student research opportunities at Holy Cross and the Summer Research Program at Holy Cross and other institutions (see below for more information on each). Other opportunities include the College Honors Program and the College Fenwick Scholar Program.
An Introduction to Research Projects in Class Labs
A major educational goal of the biology department is to introduce undergraduates to the excitement and methods of scientific research. All students are exposed to modern research techniques in course labs.
Courses as diverse as Cell Biology, Aquatic Ecology and Physiology feature multi-week supervised projects that students design and execute with guidance from their instructors. After completing and analyzing their work, the results are often reported to the other members of the class as if it were a scientific meeting.
In the late spring a daylong research symposium is held in which undergraduate research students have the opportunity to present their results in the form of poster or short talks. For some the opportunity is a requirement of their research program; for all it is a chance to summarize their experiences and learn those of others. Usually there is a luncheon for all participants. There is a similar symposium in the fall when students who did research over the summer present their results.