Welcome to the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology!
I. Why should I be interested?
UC Davis is a big university, with a strong focus on research. Undergraduates can easily feel like they are lost in the crowd, and rarely get close mentorship from faculty or other research staff (how can you, when your classes have hundreds of students present?). And yet, some of the most important skills for research biologists cannot be taught in big lecture halls or even in lab courses; these skills, especially those linked to conducting cutting-edge research are best learned through close mentoring relationships with faculty, and through an opportunity to do research (try it, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and get it right the next time).
The Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology aims to provide undergraduates with a closely-mentored research experience in biology. Because insects can be used as model systems to explore virtually any area of biology (population biology; behavior and ecology; biodiversity and evolutionary ecology; agroecology; genetics and molecular biology; biochemistry and physiology; cell biology), faculty in the program can provide research opportunities across the full sweep of biology. The program’s goal is to provide academically strong and highly motivated undergraduates with a multi-year research experience that cultivates skills that will prepare them for a career in biological research.
II. What does the program involve?
• The program begins with students in their 1st and 2nd undergraduate years. Our goal is to develop a long-term mentoring relationship for students, to extend until the completion of the undergraduate program (usually 2 to 3 years).
• Students will be placed in a faculty mentor’s laboratory. Our goal will be to find a strong match between the student’s research interests and the research focus of the mentoring faculty member’s lab; no placement will be made without the enthusiastic approval from both the participating student and faculty mentor. Most students will participate in regular weekly meetings of the laboratory’s research staff.
• The time commitment for this program depends on the individual and the mentoring lab, but we've found that students that are able to spend more time in their labs generally do better and get more from the experience. Students should expect to spend at least 10 h focused on research in a typical week, though some students may choose to pursue research more intensively over the summer, and commit less time to research during the school year.
• During an initial academic retreat (at the beautiful Sagehen Creek Field Station in the Sierra Nevada mountains), students will be given instruction in the process of science, approaches to choosing research questions, and the core elements of experimental design.
• Students will be encouraged to take supporting coursework in insect biology (e.g., general entomology, insect physiology, insect ecology) to provide the most relevant foundational information for conducting research in insect biology.
• During their first year in the program, students will participate in a winter seminar that will teach skills for reading and understanding recent publications in insect biology though discussion and inquiry with top researchers in the field.
• Students in years 1-2 of their undergraduate studies will contribute as members of a collaborative research team. In years 3-4, students will transition to increasingly independent research. The program should culminate in an independent research project, with the goal of achieving publication-quality results. Students may receive either payment (undergraduate laboratory assistant) or course units for their research. We expect that for many participating students, there will be a natural transition from paid positions (when the student is contributing to a larger research effort) to course credits (when the student is pursuing his/her own independent research).
• Students will receive ongoing training and career guidance in conducting research, scientific writing, presentation of research results at professional scientific meetings, and all aspects of preparing applications for graduate or professional schools.