We strongly encourage all Neuroscience majors to consider engaging in hands-on laboratory research in any area of neuroscience. Our advice is to start working in a lab during your sophomore year - if not before! A first step is to define your area of interest and/or level of analysis, and then make a list of at least 3-4 faculty by studying their pages - start by clicking on the "Faculty" link to the left or going to http://www.usc.edu/programs/neuroscience/faculty/.
You will need to contact faculty members well in advance (usually 1-4 months) to see if they have space in their labs to take on a new person. Be persistent! The knowledge you gain by seeing first-hand how research is conducted is a fantastic exercise in acquiring self-taught knowledge (even though you will get a lot of help along the way). As a result of working in a lab, you may decide to engage in a career in research and teaching. USC provides fellowships for research activities - see links at the bottom of this page.
Research for Unit Credit: NEUR 490
Students with junior or senior standing interested in earning credit for research may register for NEUR 490: Directed Research (pre-requisite: GPA > 3.0), or a Directed Research course in another Department with approval as long as the project is Neuroscience-related. Students may choose to earn 2 or 4 units of credit in NEUR 490, the units awarded being dependent on hours per week spent in the lab; the rule of thumb is that students spend 4 hours/week in the lab for each unit of credit. Students who earn 4 units in NEUR 490 may apply this coursework to the Neuroscience major. NEUR 490 coursework receives a letter grade.
NEUR 490 research projects require a minimum 3.0 GPA (science and cumulative) and approval by the Neuroscience Major Co-Directors. All projects must contain a substantial component of neuroscience research - i.e., they must be a neuroscience project as opposed to one in biology or psychology that does not involve investigation of neural mechanisms. NEUR 490 requires the support of a faculty sponsor whose lab is engaged in neuroscience research, so you will need to find a sponsor well in advance.
You will need to start planning your project and writing the research description for the application form at least a month in advance of the deadline, working with your faculty sponsor.
Please see the applications form for further instructions. We have also posted an example of an excellent research proposal there.
Consider joining the Honors program in Neuroscience! Honors students must have a GPA of 3.5 or better. In addition to taking 4 units of NEUR 490 Honors students also take a proseminar (BISC 493) and write a thesis (BISC 494). Click on the Honors Program link (above right) for more details.
Research applications must be submitted by the first week of classes in the semester in which you wish to enroll. Remember: this means you need to alert your advisor and start working on your proposal well in advance! You can submit your proposal either by: a) Dropping a hard copy off to Gloria Wan in HNB 120G, or
b) (PREFERRED) Sending the application as an email attachment to Gloria Wan at email@example.com. If done this way, please fill out the PDF Application form using the Typewriter function, and sign the form using a verified electronic signature in Adobe (i.e., use the Sign feature in Adobe). Please also have your faculty advisor sign the form electronically in Adobe if you plan to make your submission via email. An alternative is to fill out the form manually (preferably typed but if not make sure it is legible), sign it, have your advisor sign it, and scan it. You will then need to create a single pdf including the form and your research proposal.
Please make arrangements to meet with your sponsor well in advance (at least 3 weeks), and allow about one week for a decision from the Department Co-Directors following submission. Once research proposals have been approved, students will be granted D-Clearance and will be able to enroll in the course.
Students requesting 2 unit credits for NEUR 490 are expected to be actively working in their chosen lab eight hours per week, while students requesting 4 unit credits of NEUR 490 are expected to be in the lab sixteen hours per week.
Students who sign up for NEUR 490 are expected to spend a minimum of three to four hours of weekly lab work per credit hour (e.g., 4 credits would require12 to 16 hours per week in the lab). Some students prefer to pursue their project by signing up for 2 credits of 490 in two consecutive semesters (i.e., eight to 10 hours per week of lab work for two semesters). Students who pursue this option are expected to work on the same project with the same sponsor both semesters. Joining a lab represents a serious commitment. A research lab will spend considerable time and energy helping you to learn the ropes and acquire research skills. In turn, it is expected that you show up exactly on time whenever you are scheduled to be in the lab and carry out your work with scrupulous care and attention to detail. Do not even consider working in a lab if you are not prepared to meet these responsibilities.
The selection of a faculty sponsor is an important aspect of the research experience. Your sponsor may be any regular faculty member of the university who is carrying out neuroscience research in a university laboratory. Neuroscience research is broadly defined, but the project must involve basic research and cannot be clinical medicine. The selection of a sponsor is a student-initiated process and should involve your becoming familiar with several faculty members’ research interests. Once you have looked over the web pages of faculty in whose labs you are interested, you can do further web searches and/or read published papers from that lab.
Most faculty members will accept undergraduates in their laboratories if they have space and funding, and if they are impressed by your interest and preparation. Once you know the rules and regulations for 290/490 projects, you should make a list of three to five faculty members whose research interests you and contact them to set up an appointment to see if they have an opening in their labs. Be aware that faculty members are very busy and you will need to plan well in advance to meet with them, write a proposal with their guidance, and meet the deadline for submission of your proposal.
Research for Unit Credit (BISC 290):
Sophomores interested in earning credit for research may register for BISC 290: Introduction to Biological Research (pre-requisites: 220L/221L; CHEM-105aL and 105bL). BISC 290 is graded Credit/No Credit, and students may earn 2 or 4 units for successful course completion; units awarded depend on number of hours per week spent in the lab (1 unit = 4 hours work/week). While BISC 290 does not satisfy any Neuroscience major requirements, participation provides valuable research experience, and allows students to earn school credit for research work. Units earned in BISC 290 will go toward the 128 units needed to complete the USC degree, as well as to the College Unit Requirement.
BISC 290 research applications must be submitted to Glen Smith in AHF 105A/ AHF 107G, by the end of the first week of classes in the semester in which you wish to enroll.
Links and Opportunities:Here are some URLs for undergraduate research fellowships from USC:
USC Undergraduate Research (includes SOAR and SURF):http://dornsife.usc.edu/undergraduate-research-opportunities/.
USC Office of Undergraduate Programs:http://undergrad.usc.edu/research/.
* Undergraduate Symposium - Present a poster in April describing your research
* Research Fellowships - Get paid to do research (see links above)
* And many more opportunities
General info on Undergraduate Research at USC:http://www.usc.edu/programs/ugprograms/ugresearch/.
Research Initiatives at USC:www.usc.edu/research/.
*Research groups and centers