Information on independent research projects

Can I get course credit for a research project with a professor?

Most Biology and Microbiology majors can apply upper division research coursework towards their degree. These courses are numbered Bio 497 and 499. In some rare cases for certain emphases, upper division research units from other departments may be used instead (summarized in the General Catalog).

You may also take a limited number of research units as Biology 299, but these will not count towards your degree or replace any SDSU requirements. Biology 299 is "extra".

Biology 299, 497, 499 (1-3 units per semester)

  • Biology 299, 497 and 499 are graded.
  • You may receive credit for a maximum of 9 units of courses numbered 299/499/599 across all departments at SDSU.
  • You may receive credit for a maximum of 4 units of Biology 299.
  • Off-campus projects may be approved in rare cases (see the Biology advisors).
  • You may apply up to 6 units of Biology 497/499 to the B.S. in Biology with or without an emphasis.
  • You may apply up to 6 units of Bio 497/499 to the B.S. in Microbiology.
  • You may apply up to 3 units of Bio 497/499 to the minor in Biology.
  • Special studies are generally not applicable towards the B.A. in Biology, B.A. in Microbiology, or the B.S. in Microbiology with CLS emphasis. Consult with the bioadvising office prior to starting any special studies project in these cases.
  • You may only register for Bio 497/499 if you meet the following prerequisites:
  1. Admission into the Biology major (all lower division courses completed).
  2. A minimum 2.7 GPA for Upper Division major courses (covering at least 9 UD units for the major). You may petition this grade requirement if your UD GPA is at least 2.5, but less than 2.7. Please see the Biology advising office for more information.

If you do not meet these requirements, you may enroll in Biology 299 Special Studies, but not 497 or 499.

Biology 490 (Undergraduate Honors Research) (one semester, 3 units)

  • Honors research projects are intended to be the third semester of upper division research in the same laboratory.
  • Prerequisites: GPA of at least 3.20, 4 or more units of Biology 497/499 completed, and approval of the Biology Advisor.
  • Consult with the bioadvising office immediately if considering Biology 490.
  • Biology 490 research students are typically treated like Master's students by their advisors, in terms of independence and research expectations. You will have a thesis committee of three faculty. At the end of the semester, you will write a thesis and present it orally (at an undergraduate research forum and/or before your committee).
  • Honors theses must be conducted with a SDSU faculty member, not off campus.
  • You do not need to be in the SDSU Honors Program to register for Biology 490. If you are in the Honors Program, Biology 490 may be used to complete your thesis requirement.
  • Biology 490 may be used as an Upper Division elective with prior approval from the Bioadvising Office.


How do I register?

  1. Contact professors with whom you might want to do research as soon as possible. 1-2 semesters before you register for Biology 299/497/499 is not too early. You can find out about what research they do in their lab by examining their websites and meeting with them in person.
  2. Ask whether they are accepting undergraduate research students, and what the requirements are. They may only accept you if you have completed a certain course with a high grade, or if you volunteer for a small amount of time in the semester prior to starting your project.
  3. If the research sounds interesting, find out exactly what will be expected of you. How many hours per week? (Approximately 50 hours per unit, total for the semester, is typical.) Will you be trained by someone first? Will you have keys to be able to come and go at any time? What if you need some extra time to study for a midterm during one particular week? What is the exact product that you are expected to produce? What is the format and length of your final paper for this project? When is it due? How will your grade be determined?
  4. Consider carefully how the time spent on this project will balance with your other coursework, job, and extracurricular activites. If you pour 10 or 12 hours per week into this project, will your other grades suffer?
  5. Follow up with an email to your professor stating your enthusiasm for the project, and summarizing your understanding of what exactly you'll be doing during the semester. You don't want to reach the end of the semester only to find out that your expectations (perhaps based on a single 15 minute meeting at the beginning of the semester) were different than the professor's.
  6. See the Biology advising staff in LS-135 to get the necessary registration form. After you fill it out and your professor signs it, bring it back to LS-135 to get registered for the course.
  7. Your professor will submit your grade at the end of the semester.