What is Independent Research?
Independent research is an opportunity to take an active role in studying what you enjoy! Students participate in a lab, field, or modeling project in which they themselves have a say in the design, implementation, and interpretation of experiments. It is expected that the student will meet regularly with his or her mentor as well as gain exposure to the scientific literature of the field.
Have you already found a mentor? Review the policies and complete the Independent Study Enrollment Request to receive authorization to register:
Finding a Research Project & Mentor
Exploring Your Interests
There are hundreds of biology-related research areas at U-M! The first step is to consider what really interests you and start to narrow down your possible research areas. Consider what you liked about certain classes, social issues that interest you, or journal articles or news items that sparked your interest. Explore the broad research areas of U-M Biological Sciences faculty.
Try to think broadly when you are looking for labs – don’t just look at the "cool-sounding" areas. Drill down to the faculty member’s name and specific lab and you will get a more detailed description of his or her research and contact information (email address). You can even go to their lab website for more detail about their research.
Contact faculty by email - one by one. Make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Use professional language. Do not call them by their first name, call them “Doctor” or “Professor." Ask to meet with them (give them a few times that are good times for you to meet). Be clear in your email message what you are looking for – paid position, volunteer, academic credit - and when you want to start. Let them know if you are considering an Honors thesis project, if you would like to work there multiple semesters, etc.
Do not get discouraged by rejections. Many faculty members have limited space and funding in their lab. You may have to contact at least 20 different labs to find the right fit.
Remember if you wish to receive credit toward your major for research done under the direction of a faculty member in another department or unit of the University, you must obtain approval from a faculty member in EEB or MCDB who agrees to serve as co-sponsor before beginning the project.
EEB RESEARCH spans the full range of biological diversity and includes understanding the diversity of organisms, discerning their history, accounting for their characteristics (evolutionary processes), analyzing the function of their features (functional organismal biology), and understanding how organisms affect and are affected by environmental factors. Take a look at the broad research areas of the faculty in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and check in to see which EEB faculty are accepting students!
MCDB RESEARCH strives to develop new knowledge through basic research about how living organisms function with a focus on the molecular and cellular levels of all branches of life—bacteria, plants, and animals. Areas of particular research strength are animal physiology and neurobiology, biochemistry, cell biology, developmental biology, microbiology, and plant molecular biology. If you are looking for a molecular or cellular lab, explore the broad areas of research in MCDB and the research themes of MCDB faculty.
THE PROGRAM IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES website is another resource for MCDB-related areas. This is a PhD program, but they do a good job of lisiting research areas and faculty! Note that this resource lists non-MCDB faculty as well, for which you would need an MCDB department faculty co-sponsor (see FAQs below).
UNDERGRAD. RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM (UROP) is open to 1st- and 2nd-year students only, but it's a great way to get connected with research and faculty in a variety of fields. Review their website for additional information and application.
Field Research Facilities
Our modern teaching and research laboratories house electron microscopes, controlled environment rooms, analytical and preparative centrifuges, spectrophotometers, and other tools essential for modern research in all areas of the biological sciences.
But in addition to classrooms and labs, students have access to a variety of other facilities: The Herbarium, the Museum of Paleontology, the Museum of Anthropology's Archaeobiology Laboratories, the Museum of Zoology, and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens supplement the instructional and research programs. University-owned research facilities in the vicinity of Ann Arbor include Saginaw Forest, Edwin S. George Reserve, Stinchfield Woods, and Mud Lake Bog!
Additionally, the Biological Station provides off-site facilities for instruction and research in Northern Michigan!