NCSSM Durham

Research in Biology

About Research in Biology ("RBio")

Research in Biology is an intensive research program that is conducted on the campus of NCSSM. Students develop their own independent research project and work on their project through the end of the spring semester to the end of the fall semester. During a student’s senior year they will present their research at several research competitions and conferences. 

Current Student to Contact

What would I do in the program?

During January Term and the beginning of the spring semester, students will learn all about research and work on research skills that include: scientific literacy, scientific writing, presentations and communication skills. In the lab students will learn about the scientific method and experimental design, basic wet lab techniques which include: micropipetting, sterile technique, gel electrophoresis, and many more. 

Spring semester is also when students do library research, develop their project, and begin working with their model organism. Students will write a research proposal which they defend at midterm. Work on their project continues during the optional, yet strongly encouraged, summer term, and is completed at the beginning of the fall semester.

The focus of fall semester is data analysis and communication of results in multiple formats including paper writing, poster sessions, and short talks at competitions and conferences. 

How do I know this program is a good fit for me? 

Students in this program are, first and foremost, interested in biology. They are able to work independently, respond well to constructive criticism, and want to learn how to be a good scientist. There are no course prerequisites or expectations that students have had previous research experience. 

What projects have past / current students worked on?

Application Deadline

September 29,
12:00 PM (Noon)


Junior J-Term,
Junior Spring,
& Senior Fall


3-Week Summer Session &
Two Semesters

Course Information

 BI4920, J-Term
BI4921 & BI4922,
Academic Year

Heather Mallory, NCSSM Durham Instructor of Biology

Heather Mallory joined NCSSM in 2019 as an Instructor of Biology. She teaches AP Biology, Ecology, and Research in Biology. She earned her B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona, where she discovered a love of insects and spiders while studying their behavior in the searing desert heat. Her Ph.D. work at Georgetown University examined the behavioral ecology and brain development in insects, deepening her passion for the six- and eight-legged inhabitants of our planet. After Visiting Assistant Professorships at Washington and Lee University and Hamilton College she moved to beautiful Durham and began teaching high school courses. She currently spends her free time in her garden with her husband, dog, and bearded dragon.

Kim Monahan, NCSSM Durham Instructor and Chair of Biology

Kim Monahan started at NCSSM in 2012. Kim has transformed the AP Biology curriculum to align with the new standards and give students opportunities to conduct research projects in class. Along with AP Biology, she now teaches an additional class of Research in Biology, in which she pursues her passion for research and mentors several students on independent projects. In addition to her courses, she has also developed several research-based Mini-Term courses, in which students have presented their research at local science competitions. When not in the classroom or lab, Kim is involved in many outreach programs at NCSSM. She is the NC Director of BioGENEius, an international science competition; a board member of Student Academy; and an organizer of Lean In, Women in Science. Kim looks forward to providing research opportunities either in the classroom or outside the classroom to students at NCSSM. 

Course Descriptions

BI4920 Research in Biology I (*R*)

Prerequisite(s): By application in the Fall of the Junior year.

Corequisite(s): None

Graduation Requirements Met: January Term

Schedule Requirements Met: January Term

Meeting Times: Two week intensive January Term

This is an advanced course for January Term junior students with the maturity, independence, and motivation necessary to conduct their own research project. Students learn the scientific method and experimental design before conducting a trial experiment on a small scale. Students then write a mini- literature review on the topic of interest to them. Throughout the term students read from the primary scientific literature and participate in discussion groups on current issues in biological research. Students with a final grade of P or higher are expected to continue in Research in Biology II. This course includes a significant research component.

BI4921 Research in Biology II (*R*)

Prerequisite(s): Students with Junior standing apply in the Fall for entry in RBio I taught during the 1st two weeks of Jan Term.

Corequisite(s): None

Graduation Requirements Met: One STEM credit OR One Biology credit

Schedule Requirements Met: One of five courses required each semester

Meeting Times: Seven periods per week and three labs

This is an advanced course for second semester junior students. Students write a detailed research proposal and defend it to a panel of their peers. Students begin to learn techniques and to gather data for their experiments. Based on the outcomes of the term's work, students may be given an opportunity to participate in summer research programs on campus. Students with a final grade of B or higher are expected to continue in Research in Biology III. This course includes a significant research component.

BI4922 Research in Biology III (*R*)

Prerequisite(s): Final grade of B or higher in Research in Biology II, or successful participation in a summer research program and permission of the Dean of Science.

Corequisite(s): None

Graduation Requirements Met: One STEM credit

Schedule Requirements Met: One of five courses required each semester

Meeting Times: Seven periods per week and three labs

Students continue work on their previous research to produce additional data and conduct statistical analysis, as needed. They may research extension questions based on their original work. Students write a formal research paper and prepare a formal presentation. Students are required to present their results at the NCSSM Research Symposium in the spring and are encouraged to present their research at the North Carolina Student Academy of Science competition and other competitions. This course includes a significant research component.