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Senior Individualized Project in Biology

All Kalamazoo College students do a Senior Individualized Project (SIP) as part of their college graduation requirement. Most biology majors elect to do their SIP in biology and research is normally done over a 10 week period during the summer before the senior year. Typically two units of academic credit are awarded, depending on the nature of the project. The biology department will accept for credit in the major a maximum of one unit from one of the following sources:

  • AP/IB credit (if score on Bioligy AP exam is 4 or 5, or score on IB exam is 5 or above)
  • Study Abroad course in biology
  • Dual enrollment or transfer course in biology
  • A SIP in biology

Archive of biology SIP theses and poster presentations (searchable; abstracts available to public)

What does a biology SIP entail?
The vast majority of biology majors do their SIP during the summer before the senior year. These projects involve moderately original work carried out with direction from scientists in academic, industrial, or government settings. Students usually work on a small part of an ongoing project in the laboratory or field, but they must be able to gather and analyze a reliable set of data in the ten-week period that they can then interpret and discuss. Long-term projects, involving the collection of data that cannot be interpreted until some future date, are not appropriate for the SIP. Upon returning to campus in the fall of the senior year, each biology student submits the results of their project as a written senior thesis that is reviewed by classmates and faculty in Biology. Many of these projects have resulted in publications with the students as coauthors. The SIP is a college graduation requirement and students may do their work in any area, but Biology majors are required to present their work, regardless of whether it was done in biology or not, as a seminar or as a poster during our annual Diebold Symposium in the spring quarter.

How do I find a SIP mentor?
There are many ways to find a SIP mentor and a suitable SIP. Some suggested avenues to pursue are listed below, followed by additional sources of funding.

  1. Dow bulletin boards: Research opportunities received by the biology department are posted on the bulletin boards on the 3rd floor of the Dow Science Center.
  2. Surf the web: Numerous institutions have paid summer internships in all areas of biology and most have web pages with information on their programs (including downloadable application materials, eligibility criteria, stipends, and deadlines for application).  To get started, check out the web page of internship sources maintained by the Kalamazoo College Biology Department.
  3. Ask a faculty member: Approach faculty members to inquire about research opportunities in their labs or to ask whether they know of any opportunities. Often they receive advertisements from other sources that may not make it to the general bulletin board, or they may have colleagues at other institutions that are looking for summer help.
  4. Contact researchers and institutions directly: Perhaps you know of a lab or project that is doing the type of research that you are particularly interested in, or you are fixed on the idea of being in a particular geographic location and want to look for something in that area. Initiative on your part is likely to be viewed positively so don't be shy about contacting the lab or project coordinator directly to express your interest in working with them.

NOTE: When applying for internships, there are usually a number of documents that you must assemble. These vary with the specific program to which you apply, but generally include:

  • an application form with biographical information, educational background and interests.
  • resume showing educational background and work experience
  • a written statement of research interests, career plans and goals (including why the program you are applying to would help you meet these goals)
  • an official copy of your undergraduate transcript
  • letters of reference (professors, employers, others)

Keep in mind that the registrar's office and faculty members need advance notice to prepare transcripts and letters of recommendations. Plan accordingly.  Visit the Center for Career & Professional Development (Dewing Hall- first floor) for assistance with resume writing, cover letter writing, and interviewing for a job.

Funding possibilities for Senior Individualized Projects
Before beginning the list of funding sources, it is important to point out that your SIP is meant to be a learning experience rather than an opportunity to make as much money as possible. If at all possible, try not to put income at the top of the list when choosing your SIP. It is, however, important to have enough money to cover your expenses while working on your SIP so that you don't have to work another job to feed yourself during those ten weeks. For this reason, we provide you with the following sources of support. It should be clear from this list that there are many opportunities available; it is up to you to initiate the search, and then to get whatever help you need to procure funds.

Diebold Research Fellowships: These fellowships are open to any Biology major and provide support up to $1500 for the 10-week SIP term in Biology. Funds may be used for a research stipend, travel, or supplies. Awards are based on the strength of the proposed research and financial need. The number of awards granted each year will vary depending on the return on the endowment, the number of eligible students, and their individual needs. Priority is given to those projects carried out in conjunction with faculty members of the Kalamazoo College Biology Department.

Applications should be made in the form of a letter to the Chair of the Biology Department. The letter should include the following:

  1. A summary of academic preparation for the SIP, including courses in the major and other specific courses that may apply directly to your proposed project.
  2. A summary of prior research experience, including your Career Development Internship(s).
  3. An outline of the project to be done during your SIP quarter(s).
  4. A detailed budget showing how the Diebold funds will be used. You should also include a projection of other funds available to support your SIP, including grants and other sources of income, such as stipends, salary, parental support, etc.
  5. A statement of future career plans and goals.

Deadline: Application letters must be received by the Department Chair by Friday of 7th week of spring quarter. Awards will be announced by Friday of 8th week.

Center for Career & Professional Development: The Field Experience Program (FEP) offers structure and CCPD staff support to students engaged in summer internships of at least six weeks in duration. Apply to the Independent Internship program if you are seeking funding for a research opportunity that you secured independently of the CCPD.  Applications are due Week 3, Spring Quarter.

Center for International Programs (CIP): Beeler and Collins Grants and Fellowships provide funding for student projects abroad. Applications are due April 14, 2014. Additional information on funding education abroad can be found here.

Funded Summer Internship Programs: Many institutions receive funding to develop undergraduate summer research programs.  See our Research Opportunities web page for listings of databases and selected individual programs.

Your SIP Institution: Many Kalamazoo College seniors have received stipends for fellowships from their host institution or from their mentor's research grants. Your SIP mentor should be able to guide you to information on these opportunities.

 

What steps are involved in processing my SIP?
The standard procedure for processing a SIP is as follows:

a. Obtain departmental approval of the proposed SIP by filling out a copy of the SIP contract and have it signed by the Biology faculty member that is acting as the SIP coordinator as soon as possible, and no later than Monday of 9th week of junior spring quarter.
b. Register for 2 units of Biology 593 in the summer.
c. Carry out the project and write the thesis following the guidelines provided by the Biology Department in the Handbook for Juniors and Seniors.
d. Have your manuscript (i.e., the draft of your thesis) reviewed and edited by your SIP supervisor before leaving the research facility where the work was done. Also have your SIP supervisor sign the title page of the manuscript before you leave.
e. Submit an initial, but complete copy of your manuscript for preliminary review to the SIP coordinator in the Biology Department by the end of the second week of the fall quarter of your senior year. Your SIP supervisor should have signed the copy that you turn in, indicating that the thesis meets with their approval.
f. The thesis is given a preliminary review by a faculty member and, if not satisfactory, will be returned for additional revision before further action is taken. If satisfactory, the thesis will be reviewed by a thesis review team of peers and a faculty member during fall quarter of senior year.
g. Prepare the final version of your SIP thesis, incorporating comments from your thesis review team.
h. Submit the final draft of your SIP thesis to the SIP coordinator by Friday of the first week of Winter quarter. Consult the Biology Department's Handbook for Juniors and Seniors for details on formatting and binding the thesis.
i. Your SIP thesis is reviewed and graded by members of the Kalamazoo College Biology faculty.
j. The thesis will be returned to the SIP coordinator who will record the grade awarded by the biology faculty readers. This is your grade for BIOL 593 (your SIP).

THE SIP THESIS MUST BE SUBMITTED INITIALLY BY THE END OF THE SECOND WEEK OF FALL QUARTER AT THE LATEST . ANY SIP THESIS NOT SUBMITTED BY THIS TIME AUTOMATICALLY WILL RECEIVE A GRADE OF "F". Under such circumstances the student must register again for the SIP at a later time.

 

SIP Presentation
The SIP is also presented orally either as a seminar or as a poster presentation during the department's annual Diebold Symposium. This presentation counts toward your grade in BIOL 490. For information on preparing your presentation, click here.