Undergraduate Neuroscience Research


Guidelines for Undergraduate Neuroscience Research:

UVA is a Research University, meaning that faculty both teach and conduct research. These activities are synergistic both for faculty and students. For students, participation in research provides real world applications for knowledge gained in courses, making courses more relevant and interesting. Reciprocally, meaningful involvement in research is only possible having attained basic knowledge from courses.

Research is an integral part of the Neuroscience Program. Students thinking of applying to the DMP should get involved with reseach as early in their UVA careers as feasible, either by participating in NESC 3995 prior to joining the Neuroscience Program, or NESC 3960 after declaring the major. However, research can also contribute significantly even to NESC BA students who aren’t planning to apply to the DMP.

An appropriate research lab will allow a student to test a hypothesis, as well as to develop investigative and critical thinking skills in a supportive environment. Laboratories that are associated with the Neuroscience Program are listed here. But 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 Neuroscience 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 interesting areas of neuroscience. 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 courses, 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

Please visit the Center for Undergraduate Excellence's page for opportunities for Scholarships and Fellowships or their Undergraduate Research page for grants and research opportunities.