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Biology Capstone Options

Both options described below serve the purpose of fulfilling the capstone requirement for the BS degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Both provide BIOSC majors with exposure to, and experience in, the scientific research process. Finally, both options will be intense and demanding in their own ways, and will engage BIOSC majors in critical thinking and analytical skills, among many benefits. The major differences between Options 1 and 2 is that Option 2 has a minimum QPA requirement set by the BIOSC faculty members, and requires an informal one-page description of the anticipated project, and subsequent acceptance of that description, by the potential faculty advisor prior to admission. For both options, the students’ overall QPA will be checked by the faculty members conducting Options 1 and 2.

Prerequisites for both options are:  Biology 1 & 2, Genetics, Scientific Writing and at least one upper level laboratory course.  Scientific Writing must be taken the semester prior to the capstone.  If you take another writing option, it is your responsibility to fulfill all training modules related to safety and ethical research plus a written proposal for the research to be completed.  This may require individual transportation to the Oakland campus.

Option 1: The Capstone Laboratory Course

(BIOSC 1962, Senior Research, assigned days, times, and locations) – NO overall QPA limitation.

This option is a one-term, six-hour-per-week course that is conducted in a laboratory course format at a specified day & time and in a specific location. One or more capstone lab sections will be available in the Fall and Spring Terms. Each section will have an enrollment of approximately 12 students per section and will be supervised by a full-time faculty member. The students enrolled in each section will work on projects that fall within the research interests of the supervising faculty member. Some aspects (e.g., literature searching and review, solution preparation, laboratory safety) of the previous Senior Research 1 course, plus the experimental activity of Senior Research 2 (including the final research report and presentation), will be contained in this one-term laboratory-type course, under the supervision of the faculty member. This option, open to ALL BIOSC majors, is good for students who are not interested in pursuing graduate degrees in BIOSC or other science fields, who are not interested in doing research beyond this course, who do not want the intensity of individually-advised research, who are not sufficiently prepared for laboratory work, and who plan to pursue such careers as physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant, or the equivalent. For students with an overall QPA below 3.00, this option is the only one.

Option 2: Individual Advising of Research Project

(BIOSC 1963, Senior Research, TBA (i.e., open meeting) – MINIMUM QPA of 3.00 REQUIRED as well as faculty advisor approval, for admission to this option.

This option combines the former Senior Research 1 (BIOSC 1961) and Senior Research 2 (BIOSC 1962) capstone courses into one two-term sequence, conducted on an open-meeting basis, in which the student submits an informal one-page description of the desired research project to his/her potential faculty advisor, who in turn reviews the proposal and notifies the student of the decision to accept or reject him/her for undergraduate research. The decision also takes into account the 3.00 minimum overall QPA requirement, which will be checked by the potential faculty advisor. Upon acceptance for undergraduate research by the faculty advisor, the student is then trained by the advisor in such research basics as literature searching and review, solution preparation, laboratory safety, and preparation and presentation of the research proposal, followed by the experimental phases of the project and, ultimately, the final research report and presentation, over the Spring and Fall Terms. All of this will be under the direction of the research advisor, on a one-on-one basis – perhaps the closest thing to graduate school in an undergraduate environment. Expect this option to be intense and demanding, similar to a graduate-level research program. This option, open only to BIOSC majors with a minimum QPA of 3.00, is the one for BIOSC majors planning to go on to graduate school to pursue an MS or PhD in biology or related fields as well as those who want to pursue careers in research after undergraduate school. This option is also good for BIOSC majors who plan to pursue an MD, DMD, or equivalent degree in health-related fields and who want to build a strong research background for possible pursuit of a research-related career in the health-related areas.

Application for Option 2

Faculty Research Interests

J. Boothe

General Areas of Research:

  • Chemical Genetics
  • Chemical Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemical Synthesis

Potential Projects Include (but are not limited to):

  • Genetic knockouts
  • Media growth condition changes
  • Phenotypic analysis of various strains of microalgae
  • Synthesis of organic small molecule libraries
  • Chemical genetics screenings
  • Biochemical assays of microalgae

Dr. Boothe is open to ideas for research involving a host of microalgae strains and assays of various biologically relevant molecules, including (but not limited to): lipids for biodiesel production, carbohydrates and proteins for nutritional supplements.

O. Long

General Area of Research:

    Molecular Genetics
    Biochemistry
    Microbiology
    Model Organisms

Potential Projects:

      With C. elegans:

    Phenotypical analysis of mutant worms (looking at different diseases, and mutations
    RNAi (knocking down specific genes) and determining role of gene in different diseases.
    Utlilized ALS model in C. elegans to determine if specific genes played a vital role in the development of ALS
    Utilized an Alzheimer's model in C. elegans to look at different environmental factors had on the development of Alzheimers
    Developing mutant C. elegans
    Looking at effect different pathogens had on C. elegans
    Looking at the impact of C. elegans on bio-film production

     Other ideas:

    Real-time PCR
    Protein Isolation
    DNA and mRNA Isolation and Manipulation
    Autophagy, UPR and ERAD pathways

Dr. Long is open to ideas for research involving C. elegans (or other model organisms) and/or determining molecular components of human diseases.  She has worked with a few human diseases (Alpha-1 Antitrypsin, Alzheimers and ALS) but she is open to exploring other topics.

T. Savisky

General Area of Research: Environmental Science: stream ecology, landscape ecology, forest ecology.

Specific examples that students have done in the past:

    Effect of disturbances on stream macroinvertebrates
    Landuse and stream water quality
    Road salt effects on roadside vegetation
    Heavy metals in ecosystems

Possible projects for students who participate in Study Abroad to Costa Rica:

    Ecology of tropical rainforest
    Human interactions with rainforest
    Service-learning projects

Possible projects for students who participate in Ecology of the Rocky Mountains field course:

    Alpine plant ecology
    Ecology of spruce-fir forests