Guidelines for Undergraduate Neuroscience Research: How to Find a Neuroscience Research Lab
The goal of a neuroscience research experience for undergraduates is to build upon the basic neuroscience knowledge obtained in the introductory prerequisite courses. An appropriate research lab will allow a student to test a hypothesis, as well as develop investigative and critical thinking skills that will enable extension and modification of the hypothesis based on experimental results. The research experience should be synergistic with coursework: course knowledge will enable the student to understand the work in the lab more fully, whereas the lab work will make material presented in courses relevant and real.
Laboratories in which neuroscience research can be performed are listed here. Neuroscience-related research projects can also be found in other laboratories across campus. A student planning to perform a neuroscience research project in one of these laboratories should consult the Program Director as to the appropriateness of the project. Projects that involve observation of clinical procedures and collation of data from clinical trials are generally not appropriate for undergraduate neuroscience research.
With these guidelines in mind, the student should look for faculty who conduct basic research in areas of neuroscience that are of particular interest. Once a student has identified a list of possible research mentors, he/she should send an email to each one inquiring about research opportunities. This email should contain information about the student, including: the student's year at UVA, current accomplishments in UVA science classes, reasons for the student's interest in performing research, what it is about this faculty member's research that is of interest, and whether the student has relevant course and/or research experience. A copy of the student's transcript may also be attached.
Space in neuroscience research labs is competitive, so students should ensure that they contact multiple faculty members to increase the potential for securing a spot.
Regulatory Issues for Research Involving Animals or Human Subjects
These regulatory approvals can take considerable time to process; therefore, students must ensure that the lab initiates the approval process early enough to avoid delays.
Work with live animals requires Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) approval prior to initiating research. ‘Animals’ in this context includes all animals with a spine. For additional information, contact your research mentor and this link: http://www.virginia.edu/vpr/iacuc/
Human subject research requires specific Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals prior to initiating research. Human subject research includes research with living subjects and work with human-derived data that can potentially be identifiable. For more specifics, contact your research mentor and this link: http://www.virginia.edu/vpr/irb/hsr/activities_require_review.html
Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Courses:
NESC 3995: Research in Neuroscience. For Non-Neuroscience Majors.
NESC 3960 (3rd Year), 4960 (4th Year): Research in Neuroscience. For Neuroscience Majors.
NESC 4970, 4980: Distinguished Majors Thesis. For Neuroscience Distinguished Majors.
Scholarship and Fellowship Opportunities