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What is the Introductory Biology 152 “IP” Project?

We have our own set of terms that have a unique meaning within the course. For example, “IP” stands for “Independent Project.” All students in Introductory Biology 152 do an independent project in lab. They can choose to do a group (two or three students) library research project; or, they can do mentored research instead. Please note than “independent” means “not part of the regular lab activities.” It doesn’t mean “by myself” or “alone.”

How do the two - the Library and Mentored Research options - differ?

Library Research is focused on analysis of data available in the literature. The library research papers will be mentored by your lab TAs. As you examine the scientific literature, you soon discover that even scientists do not always agree with each other. For example, in studying the effects of cholesterol on heart disease, you may find that the results of different studies do not agree.  When this occurs, you need to read the articles carefully and do an analysis of the methods and results of the different studies to determine possible reasons for the disagreement or controversy. This is also known as a meta-analysis. Your goal in this type of research is to discover:

  • What do we know? For example: are there any parts of the question or issue that studies agree on?
  • What don’t we know? Based on your analysis, what parts of the question or issue are still unclear and why (for what reasons) do these remain unclear?

Where should the research go from here? Which of the questions that remain are most in need of further analysis? Your paper will follow specific guidelines established for this type of analysis of the literature.


Mentored Research is focused on analysis of experimental data gathered by the student under the guidance of a Research mentor (e.g., a professor, graduate student, post doc, scientist on campus). If you do mentored research your paper will follow a strict format that parallels the guidelines scientists must adhere to if they want their papers published in refereed journals. The introduction provides the rationale for the research. As such, it can be considered a mini-Library Research paper. It provides information on other studies that have been done, what they have discovered, what questions remain and which of these the research will address.

How is the Introductory Biology 152 independent project related to COMM-B?

Introductory Biology 152 has required independent projects of its students for more than 18 years. In other words, IB 152 has a long-standing tradition of providing high quality opportunities to develop professional skills. About 1995, the University instituted the Comm-B requirement. This requirement closely parallels what we had been doing in IB 152 for a long time. This includes generating several revisions of the paper. Each one of these revisions builds on the previous one and on the comments and suggestions provided by reviewers. Peer reviews, oral presentations, poster design and presentation are also included. As our students were already doing the work, we applied for and were designated a Comm-B course.

How do I choose an IP topic?

Find something that is of interest to you or is relevant to you. The obvious choice is a subject that will directly relate to your future career.


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If I want to do Library Research how do I start?

  1. You will work in groups of 2 to 3 students on your library research projects. Analyzing scientific literature is challenging. Having one or two partners to discuss articles with and conduct your analysis will really help you develop an interesting, thorough, and useful
  2. Once you have your group together, decide what area of biology is of most interest to you as a group, e.g., heart disease, cancer, ecology, etc. Next find out what questions are being examined in the literature in this area. To do this, you can use the web. A Google search will provide you with a lot of references. Use these to help narrow the focus of your (Note: You can use web sites to help focus your question. However, your analysis and final paper must be based on research published in scientific journals.)
  3. Each member of the group must be assigned to research a particular aspect of the question. For example, if you are looking at the effect of some factor (e.g. a pollutant) on an aquatic ecosystem, one member could research the effects on the zooplankton, another could investigate at the effects on the algae and aquatic plants and a third could concentrate on the effects on fish species. All members would bring their information together to analyze possible interactions that would occur as a result of what they discovered and to summarize what is known, what is not known and where the research should progress from this


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If I want to do Mentored Research what are the requirements?

A Mentorship is an opportunity for you to do biological research in an established laboratory on Campus. INTRO BIO 152 encourages all the students to do undergraduate research. As a general rule, you will be expected to work about 100 to 150 hours with your mentor during the semester. In exchange, you will earn two credits through the mentor’s Department. The specific requirements for each individual mentorship are set by the mentor.

Am I exempt from attending regular INTRO BIO 152 labs if I do mentored research?

No, everyone enrolled in IB 152 is required to do all the regular lab work as outlined in the lab manuals and as assigned by the lab instructor. You will get a grade for your lab work and attendance. That grade will be about 20% of your final grade for IB 152.

Are the two credits I get from my mentor included in the five credits granted by INTRO BIO 152?

No. You will receive 5 credits for Introductory Biology 152. In addition, you may receive 2 credits of directed study or independent research from your mentor.

How do I enroll for the two credits?

Obtain the form titled Authorization to register for directed study credit in your mentor’s department from your Intro Bio 152 coordinator. Follow the directions at the top of this form carefully. Do not bring the completed form back to your coordinator.

  1. Your Mentor’s signature is required for you to enroll in a “directed studies” type of course
  1. Your Mentor will decide which specific course you will enroll in. For example, if your Mentor is in the Botany Department, he/she might allow you to enroll in BOT 699 or BOT 399 or BOT
  1. You will need to find the Course Number for the course the mentor indicated you should enroll in (see above). This is a unique five-digit number that reflects all of these:
    1. The semester (Fall 2008 in this case)
    2. The specific Mentor
    3. The Mentor’s Department
    4. The specific level (299, 399, 699, )

If your Mentor doesn’t know the specific five-digit course number, you can get it by consulting the online Timetable. If the number is not listed there, ask the Departmental secretary in your Mentor’s Department.

  1. The “directed studies” type of courses require permission to enroll. As noted above, complete the Authorization to register form. Get your mentor to sign it. Take it to your Mentor’s Departmental Office—they should be able add your name (as a Permission in ISIS) to the computer so that you can register online for the credits. You will need to get the 5 digit authorization code from
  1. Finally, with the correct 5 digit course code and the Permission in ISIS, you can go to any computer and

How do I find a Mentor?

  1. Use the web to locate faculty and their research
      1. Go to the UW website (www.wisc.edu)
      2. Under Admissions – click on Graduate
      3. In the gray menu at the left – click on Academic Programs
      4. In the search box at the top of this screen, type in a key word, for example, genetics or ecology or immunology. Click on the search button to get a list of departments on campus doing this type of
      5. Click on the Department(s) of interest to you.

    At the departmental web site look for a listing of faculty and their research interests. Sometimes this is under “Personnel”, other times it’s under “Faculty” or “Research”, etc.

    Once you find a list of faculty, click on individual names to get a brief description of the research each is doing.

      1. Read through the information you get from the various web sites you visit and pick 4 to 6 faculty members with whom you would like to

    Print the pages that contain the researchers of interest and bring these with you to your meeting with the coordinator.

    1. Sign up for an appointment to meet with your coordinator to go over your faculty choices. Do this ASAP by signing up on the sheets outside your coordinator’s
    2. Complete any forms the coordinator has indicated you need before coming to the
    3. At your meeting, the coordinator will then give you information on how to contact
    4. Following this meeting, you will set up an initial meeting with the professor to determine if you have mutual interests and expectations. Take your resume with you and the packet of information about the Intro Bio 152 mentored research program. (Your coordinator will provide you with a format for resumes and the packet of information when you )

Can I do research in anthropology or psychology?

Yes, but only if your specific topic is biological in nature. All the research done with animals is acceptable. Some of the research done on human subjects might not be biological. For example, any research involving social organization, opinions, emotions, likes and dislikes, are considered to be social science rather than biological science.

What if I already have a Mentor?

Good! But, you still have to meet with your coordinator. We also need to provide your mentor with information about the requirements of an Introductory Biology 152 mentored research project. For example, at a minimum, your Mentor will have to revise your paper at least once and he/she will have to approve the contents of your poster.

Can I get paid for my work in the lab instead of taking the credit?

If you are already working in a lab for pay and your mentor is willing to pay you for doing your mentored research you can continue to be paid. You can receive either pay or credit for the work, but not both.  See your coordinator if you have any questions about this.

I am enrolled in CALS’s Honors Program or the Undergraduate Research Scholars program. Can I use that research for an INTRO BIO 152 mentorship?

No. You can’t get double credit without expanding the scope of the project.  See your Coordinator about this. S/he can contact your CALS or URS mentor and discuss mechanisms for expanding the project so that it can satisfy both requirements.

Who will actually oversee my work in the mentor’s lab?

Sometimes, the mentor her/himself will be the person who will train you and will guide you through the process. Alternatively, the Mentor will designate another member of his/her staff to be your immediate supervisor.

What type of work am I expected to do in the mentor’s lab?

You must do hands on and brains on work. You must be an active participant in the lab. Ideally, you will attend the lab’s weekly meetings. The specific details are entirely up to the Mentor or her/his designee.

How many hours am I supposed to work each week?

On the average, students doing mentorships work for about 10 hours each week or a total of about 150 hours per semester

When do I work in the lab?

Your research schedule is decided by your mentor according to the research needs and according to your available time. Often, after the project is under way, you will be able to adjust your schedule a little.

Some Mentors micromanage their labs according to very strict rules. Other Mentors are very easy going. Regardless, you are expected to do the required work and you are expected to follow the Mentor’s guidelines.

Can I do some of the work in advance?

Yes, if you have the time and if the mentor agrees.

Will I have to do some cleaning and other menial tasks?

Every successful scientist on Campus has done a lot of dish washing, a lot of clerical work, and a lot of supplies managing and ordering. This is not glamorous work but it is an essential part of research. Of course, this type of work should be a minor component of your overall workload. If the only thing you do is prepare solutions, clean test tubes, refill micropipetter tip boxes, and order pizza; then, you are not doing a mentorship. You are just a gopher. Contact your Coordinator if this type of situation occurs.

Does the time spend in training count toward the 2 credits of independent research?

Yes it does. Any time wisely and effectively spent learning techniques, protocols, and “the ropes” does count toward your minimum. If you are required to get a license to operate a complex scientific instrument or to handle hazardous materials, the time spent getting such license does count toward the minimum. Some special training required to handle live animals also counts.

Does the time I will spend reading papers and books count toward the 2 credits?

No, it doesn’t. Every student in the course (whether they are doing mentored or library research) must do a lot of reading to prepare for the IP.

Does the time I’ll spend writing and revising my paper count toward the two credits?

Absolutely not! Writing, revising, reviewing, conferencing with mentor, printing, making the poster, and any other time expenditure related to writing cannot be used to fulfill the minimum number of hours required for your 2 credits mentorship. All students taking INTRO BIO 152 are required to write the IP paper and to design, construct and present a poster.