Biology X490 Independent Study

Why take X490: Independent Study?

Introductory experience to a research program. Students who wish to become acquainted with professional-level research activities frequently develop an arrangement with a faculty member which permits the undergraduate student to participate in various aspects of a faculty member’s research program.

Intensive inquiry into a field of study. Students desiring more knowledge about a subject area than is covered by formal lecture or laboratory courses may enroll in X490 for the purpose of expanding their knowledge about a discipline or specific topic.

Preparation for postgraduate study. Students planning to continue their education beyond the B.A./B.S. level often enroll in X490 to prepare themselves for the rigor and routine of laboratory/field/library research activities which occupy the professional scholar.

Fulfillment of Honors Degree requirements. X490 research DOES NOT fulfill an upper-level lab requirement for the biology degree UNLESS it is earned with Biology Departmental Honors. (NOTE: X490 cannot fulfill the Intensive Writing Requirement. A student earning X490 credit in a SPEA lab CANNOT convert that research to a Biology upper level lab, nor will research in a SPEA lab count for Biology Departmental Honors.)

Overall minimum GPA of 2.5 required.

Regular contact with either the faculty member, postdoc, or advanced graduate student in the advising faculty member’s lab who can closely supervise work.

Involvement with directed reading or creative research (not with dishwashing or other menial tasks).

Scope of X490 programs

X490 presents an opportunity for maximum flexibility in project selection. At one extreme, students might collaborate with a faculty member to perform a set of field observations or laboratory based experiments. At the other extreme, students may elect to carry out library research on a specific topic. The scope of an individual X490 program depends entirely on the agreement reached between the student and faculty advisor.

It should be emphasized that a student who desires to enroll in X490 need not have a project idea in mind before approaching a prospective faculty advisor. Frequently, faculty have X490 project ideas which are a part of a major, on-going research program. In some cases, faculty will offer students a choice of potential X490 projects.

To enroll in X490

Talk with prospective faculty advisors and determine with whom you will do Individual Study. Prior to registration for the semester in which you will begin X490, make arrangements with the faculty member concerning the following:

Pick up an X490 Application form from the Biology Advising Office, JH A115. Complete the form and have it approved and signed by the faculty advisor and return it to the advising office in exchange for an online authorization. You must have an X490 section authorization in order to actually register for X490.

Advantage of X490 enrollment

By enrolling in X490, students typically have a good opportunity to become acquainted with faculty on a one-to-one basis. Should an X490 student apply for admission to a graduate or professional school, the supervising faculty member will most likely be able to write a highly personal and effective letter of recommendation concerning the student’s abilities.

Relationship between X490 and the Honors degree

X490 is designed to provide students with experiences and knowledge which are not normally available through formal courses. The course might be taken only one semester, for a limited number of credit hours (e.g., one or two), in order to accomplish a specific goal. Alternatively, X490 might be considered an integral part of a student’s curriculum and be taken each semester for two or three years in order to broaden the normal scope of an undergraduate degree in Biology. Bachelor of Science students are permitted to count a total of 12 hours of X490 credit toward an undergraduate degree. Bachelor of Arts students are allowed 3 hours of X490 credit.

An Honors program provides a more intense, comprehensive, and demanding experience than an X490 course alone normally provides. As a major part of the X490 course, a prospective honors student works on a goal-oriented research program for at least two semesters and a minimum of 6 credit hours total. Writing a research report based upon the results of field observations or laboratory research is the ultimate goal of the X490 efforts.

In contrast to regular X490 work, the Honors Degree X490 project must include either laboratory or field research. X490 projects can be based entirely on library research. However, the Honors Degree project must include laboratory or field research.

In summary, although X490 is an integral part of an Honors program in Biology, the Honors Program encompasses more than the completion of two semesters of X490. For a complete list of the requirements for Departmental Honors, please email to request a copy of the Biology Department Honors Agreement.

Learn more about the Honors degree