Florida State University

Research Opportunities

Research is an important component in the investigation of the biological basis of behavior. Undergraduates in the Neuroscience majors can participate in research opportunities with faculty in the Program as well as across the University. These experiences can enhance the college experience beyond traditional coursework.

  • • Gaining hands-on experience that will extend classroom learning.
  • • Increased competitiveness and training for graduate school, medical school, and other career opportunities.
  • • Building important connections with professors, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students who can help you reach your career goals.
  • • Research experience can fulfill course electives.

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP): current high school seniors entering FSU in the Fall, transfer students and current FSU first year students can apply to UROP. Accepted students will choose a topic from a list of approved projects and are paired with a Research Mentor. More Information.

Directed Individual Study (DIS): DIS is independent or group work done outside of the classroom for which you can receive elective credit hours. DIS is a great way to gain valuable laboratory experience in a particular topic i.e. Alzheimer’s Disease or research area i.e. Ingestive Behavior. Any current student can participate in the DIS program as long as they meet the requirements of the lab in which they wish to join.

Honors in the Major Program (HITM): Advanced students in their junior or senior year with at least one semester of DIS experience may have opportunities to conduct their own research under the supervision of a faculty member through the HITM. This opportunity is only available to students that have already completed at least one semester of DIS coursework. Students should discuss the implications of completing an honors thesis with their DIS faculty advisor BEFORE applying to HITM. You will need to meet the Honors Liaison for Neuroscience and an advisor from the Honors College to be accepted into the program.

Behavioral Neuroscience majors will in enroll in the Psychology Honors course, PSY 4039, regardless of research topic or faculty affiliation.

Cell/Molecular Neuroscience majors will enroll in the Biology Honors course, BSC 4970, regardless of research topic or faculty affiliation.

Neuroscience research can involve either human subjects or non-human subjects such as rodents, birds, fish, fruit flies or cell culture. DIS generally requires a two semester, 9-10 hrs a week commitment outside of course work. Some labs will require less, some more, and might even include weekend duties. Please be sure to do an honest review of your academic and extracurricular activities before committing to a lab. The student is allowed to work in the lab under terms and conditions set forth by the faculty member.

Upon accepting an invitation to work in a lab, make sure tasks and grading expectations are clearly stated and understood by you the student and the faculty member. The progress and outcome of the DIS can vary depending on the lab environment. Some professors will require attendance at weekly laboratory meetings where the DIS student is expected to participate in the discussion and presentation of scientific papers. Other professors will require a research paper or project.

  1. Contact a faculty member - Generally one you have had a course with, whose research is interesting, or a recommendation of a graduate student/TA of a lab course you were enrolled. Go to the faculty webpages and read about the faculty and their research interests. This can direct you to some scientific papers the research group has published. Reading these papers will give you a good idea of the kind of work occurring in the lab.
  2. Research the research - While reading about the faculty members research, ask yourself the following questions: What is the experimental model (animals or humans)?, What kinds of experimental techniques are being used (fMRI, cell culture, training of rodents, etc)?
  3. Plan ahead - It is generally best to start looking for a lab no later than midway through the semester BEFORE you intend to begin DIS work. For example, if you want to start a DIS in the Fall, you should be reaching out to faculty or graduate students by Spring Break. Waiting until late Spring or Summer will decrease your chances of gaining an appointment because the available spaces have already been filled.
  4. Be targeted and specific - When you approach a faculty member about doing a DIS experience in their lab, in person or via email, it is essential that you only contact faculty that you are truly interested in working with. Do NOT email every faculty member in hopes that one will just work out. Choose 3 – 5 that interest you and craft an individualized introduction email containing the following:
    • • What semesters you are intending to work (including anticipated availability during the week)?
    • • What is your major? What relevant courses have you taken?
    • • What are your long-term plans (medical school, graduate school, not sure but want to know more about research)?
    • • Do you have any research experience? Work or volunteer experience? You can include a resume. Please be sure to have the Career Liaison or a staff member from the Career Center review your resume before sharing with a faculty member.
    • • Why are you interested in the faculty member’s research?
  5. Follow-up is critical - Do not expect an instant reply. Faculty are busy people and they may have to check space availability for DIS students with other lab members. Generally, if you have not received a reply in 7-10 working days, try contacting them again via email and an office visit if possible.
  6. Interview - The professor may ask you to come by for an interview or have you fill out an application. If you get invited for an interview, arrive on time, be prepared to answer and ask questions, and dress appropriately. You do not need a suit or dress but do not show up in wrinkly clothes nor come over straight from working out. The interview might include meeting other lab members and a tour of the research space.
  7. Safety Requirements - Most Neuroscience research labs have required training and paperwork through Laboratory Animal Resources or Human Subjects Protection and Environmental Health & Safety that must be completed before beginning work in a lab. Please check with the faculty member about what is required.

DIS is variable credit, usually 1-3 credit hours per semester as determined at the beginning of the semester. Up to six (6) hours of DIS credit can be used as elective credit for the Neuroscience degree therefore it must be graded (A-F). The DIS relationship with the faculty member and their lab can last beyond the minimum of the two-semester commitment but only 6 credit hours will count toward major elective credit.

You may only use DIS as elective credit for either Biology OR Psychology, NOT both. If you wish to discuss how to decide which is best for your degree progress, please contact Neuroscience Advising.

If you are planning to use Psychology elective credit, you must choose PSY 4910. This is the letter graded version of DIS. PSY 4920 is the S/U version of DIS and does not count for elective credit in Neuroscience. Please be aware that some faculty may insist on PSY 4920 S/U DIS your first semester as a trial period. If your DIS lab is with a Psychology faculty member, they will have a section of DIS assigned to them. You will need to get the permission code from that faculty member to register for the course.

If you are planning to use Biology elective credit, you will need to contact Jacquelyn Roberts. The student will need to provide the name of the DIS faculty member, the correct email address for that supervisor or faculty member, and the number of course credit hours you plan on taking that semester. The Neuroscience advisor will initiate the DIS process and which will then forward this information to the student and the faculty member. The Biology Department will add you to the BSC 4900 DIS course if all required documents are completed and approved by the stated deadlines. There is no S/U version of Biology DIS.