Research Opportunities

Research Opportunities

Undergraduate students in their third and fourth years of study are encouraged to try their hand in research in biology. The Biology and Ecology faculty provides opportunities for students to conduct research in laboratory and field settings through courses such as BIO 387/388 (Undergraduate Research in Biology) and HON 490 (Honors Thesis). Independent-research opportunities also exist within certain upper-level courses such as BIO 450 (Histology), BIO 454 (Invertebrate Functional Morphology), and BIO 475 (Field Marine Ecology). All of these research experiences can be used for credit toward the Capstone Experience, which is one of the General Education Requirements. Also offering experience with research are employment opportunities in the Work-Study and Work-Merit programs and other student assistantships funded by grants that individual faculty may have.

Literature-based research, in the form of an independent-reading project under the direction of a faculty member, is also possible and can also satisfy the requirement for a Capstone Experience. This can be done through BIO 391/392 (Independent Study in Biology) or BIO 402 (Capstone Experience).

Students who do undertake research experiences often develop useful skills, get ideas about careers, and have something significant to add to their resumes.

Faculty in SBE advertise opportunities for student research on the CUGR site (Center for Undergraduate Research). Other opportunities, unadvertised, may exist as well. Students who have an interest in the topics of a class they may have had with a faculty member are encouraged to contact him or her to explore possibilities. Also, interest in research projects that faculty describe in their Web pages may lead to opportunities for student research. Faculty are willing to discuss these opportunities, even if unadvertised.

In the list below, some faculty members have provided information on projects or activities for potential undergraduate students.

Faculty with research opportunities for undergraduates


Brian Olsen
Volunteers are needed to help sample insects and conduct bird point counts near Amherst, Maine. The field crew will visit the site in early mornings once a week from May until July to investigate the effects of acid rain on breeding songbirds. No previous field experience is necessary, but applicants with interest in the outdoors and the ability to hike over fairly steep terrain are encouraged. This is a great, low-time investment position for an aspiring field researcher to gain training in bird song and other field methods necessary for procuring paid positions. If you are interested please contact Dr. Brian Olsen at brian.olsen@maine.edu or on first class.

Christopher S. Campbell
Molecular evolution in the rose family. Species relationships in shadbushes. Evolutionary relationships of two important timber species, black and red spruce. Breeding system of white birch.
Skills developed: General molecular biology; phylogenetic analysis; light microscopy; plant species identification; quantitative morphology.

Francis Drummond
I have opportunities for undergraduate students to work in my laboratory in two areas: 1) I have an active computer simulation modeling research effort. I am interested in modeling the population dynamics of insect/pathogen, insect/predator, insect foraging dynamics. Students need not have any prior experience in computer simulation. The opportunities range from conducting laboratory experiments focused on insect physiology and behavior so that model parameters can be estimated to developing mathematical descriptions of ecological and behavioral processes. 2) I am also interested in insect diversity as affected by structural components of managed landscapes such as blueberry fields and forests. I have many years of collections (insect specimens) that need to be sorted and analyzed as to the relationship between taxa richness, abundance and landscape factors. Students have the opportunity to learn about a group of insects, how to identify them, and be trained in statistical analysis of this type of ecological data.In both of my projects there are opportunities for small 1 credit special topics or more in depth capstone experiences. Publication of the results of studies in scientific journals is encouraged, but not required.

Andrei Alyokhin
Interested students are welcome to participate in laboratory and field studies on insect behavior and ecology. For more information, please visit our laboratory website.

Rebecca Holberton Interested students are welcome to participate in laboratory and field studies on bird behavior and physiology.


Other faculty
It is important to note that this list is not entirely comprehensive, but only an example of those faculty members actively seeking undergraduates. Several other faculty also welcome undergraduate students. See the descriptions of faculty research on the list of faculty and contact individual faculty members to talk about possible research projects.