National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Innovations in Undergraduate Research and Honors Education: Proceedings of the Second Schreyer National Conference 2001, ed. Josephine M. Carubia & Renata S. Engel. Copyright © 2004 The National Collegiate Honors Council.


Full engagement in science includes observation and asking questions, the development of a hypothesis, designing and conducting an appropriate experiment to test that hypothesis, data acquisition, appropriate analysis, revisiting initial questions, and dissemination of results. Here, I report on efforts to engage undergraduate students in all of these elements of science by integrating inquiry, investigation, and research in four intermediate biology courses for all majors. The project-based courses include Plant Ecology, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Molecular Genetics, and Physiological Ecology. Students conduct semester-long, experimental research projects and present their results at a public poster session on campus. Using computers, peripherals, and software funded by an award from the National Science Foundation, efforts were made to enhance the data acquisition, analysis, and presentation aspects of student research. The quality of the student research was improved, and student pride and ownership over the work increased. Students exhibited a greater understanding of science and quantitative analysis. One student project was published in a peer-reviewed journal, and many others were presented at regional and national meetings. The number of students taking elective courses in related areas, continuing research and senior honors projects, and applying and being accepted to related graduate programs significantly increased. Student poster sessions served to create a campuswide culture of science.