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The Molecular Bioscience and Biotechnology major (MBB) puts its emphasis on molecular and cellular biology and gene technology and their applications in the interdisciplinary, exponentially-expanding and constantly-evolving fields of human inquiry known as Life Sciences. As we are closing the second decade of the 21st Century, it is important to remember that the genomic revolution that ushered in this “Age of Biology” was driven primarily by molecular bioscience.
Beyond its self-evident relevance to human well-being, environmental health and sustainable economy, molecular biology is intellectually stimulating, beautiful and fun. As such, MBB students are engaged in research across ASU (most centers of Biodesign, School of Life Sciences, School of Material Sciences, biomedical engineering and other departments around all ASU campuses). Many students over the years chose to do their research at one of the many excellent research organizations around the valley (e.g. TGen, U of Arizona Med School, Mayo Scottsdale, Barrow Neurological Inst. etc.). Research areas are as diverse as immunology, structural biology, host-pathogen interactions, cancer, functional genomics studies of sex chromosomes, drug addiction and microbiome of Antarctic rocks.
Research in any of these areas would be beneficial for any future career steps, whether your path takes you to see yourself going to medical school, graduate school, law school, industry or open a biotech start up yourself!
Get involved in research early and certainly by the spring semester of your sophomore year you should secure a lab for the remaining time at ASU. Any Barrett student who is considering majoring or minoring in MBB, or is already an MBB major and want to discuss research opportunities should contact the MBB’s Faculty Honors’ Advisor, Professor Tsafrir Mor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Finding a spot in a lab is quite competitive and it is the FHA’s role is to facilitate the process of matching up all MBB Honors students with a mentoring lab.
Undergraduate Student Research Opportunities
School of Life Sciences
School of Molecular Sciences
Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative
TGen Helios Scholars
Mayo Clinic Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
University of Arizona Basic Medical Sciences
Barrow Neurological Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Program
Most UG student research beings work in a lab working closely with a graduate student or a postdoctoral trainee in the lab of their mentor. During the time in the lab you would be expected to preform various routine chores, participate in lab meetings where you will also present your research progress. As you will be honing your lab skills, you and your mentor will carve out a particular niche of research work – “your project”.
You will be writing up a “prospectus” a proposal describing the scientific question(s) you will be working on, major hypotheses and proposed experiments. At this point you will also assemble your thesis committee that will be chaired by your mentor (has to be an ASU faculty, or co-chaired with an ASU faculty). A second reader will be another faculty member and the third reader (required per SoLS norms) is often the lab member with whom you worked directly.
Once completed, these experiments will form the basis of your “Thesis”. The scope is typically that of a research paper in the particular field of enquiry supplemented by a substantial literature review. However, the particulars depend on the specific project, the expectations of your mentor and the norms of the specific field you will be working in (MBB is very interdisciplinary and these can vary a lot). Finally, you will defend your thesis in a public seminar and in a private examination with your committee.
Although you can join a lab at any points during your ASU studies, taking MBB347 is strongly advised as it will teach you many of the basic skills that will allow you to “hit the ground running”. As an MBB student you would be required to officially enroll into two semester of UG research (one of which should be MBB492 and the other either MBB495 or MBB484), but most labs would prefer, or even require, that you would be doing research with them for more terms before that. You should be planning to take MBB493 (HON493) during the semester in which you will defend your thesis.
Although it really is never too early to start working in a lab (some students, for example, continue research they started as high school students and work in the lab throughout their four years of college, summers included), I believe that a reasonable timeline would leave your first year to adjust to college (academically, socially and personally) without stressing over the need to find a lab “right away”. You should keep your eyes and ears open for information about cool research projects, excellent labs and fantastic mentors. You should also cultivate your network of junior (e.g. TAs) and senior faculty (e.g. professors). For example, visit your professors at their office hours not just to talk about the course they are teaching but to engage them about the research they do. Try to meet with your FHA during your first year.
Start focusing your interests on particular areas that look interesting to you. Go through faculty websites and assemble a long list (6 names) that your FHA will help you shorten further. Certainly try to contact people on the list, but make an appointment with your FHA. They can help in making sure you get responses form prospective mentors and secure interviews with them. Go over your potential mentors’ recent papers. Don’t feel intimidated if the papers are technical and look and feel impenetrable. Remember you are learning to be a scientist and the first thing you need to learn is to ask questions, not have answers! By the middle of your second year’s spring semester you should have already secured a lab for starting as early as is possible, but certainly for the fall. Good labs fill early, so plan ahead.
Your first few months are critical to ensure your integration into the lab. Be punctual, be reliable, be helpful, be inquisitive and supportive of all the lab members. Sign up for MBB495 (or if off campus, for MBB484) for the spring semester. Plan to continue work in the lab through the summer. Write your prospectus. Take the online prospectus/thesis workshop. Talk to potential committee members and obtain their consent to serve.
Fall semester: Sign up for MBB492. Submit your prospectus for the September deadline.
Spring semester: Sign up for MBB493. Decide on the defense date (March and early April are good). Spend the winter break to outline your thesis and start writing it in January, making sure your committee chair has plenty of time to go over the document, give you initial feedback and for you to revise. Start working on your defense presentation. Present to your lab a week or so before your defense. Defend, revise the thesis as needed and submit by the required deadline.
Look for a passage about honors' contracts in the syllabi of the courses you take and ask your professors. Keep an eye for special honors courses that come up.