NCSSM Morganton

Research in Biology

Learn more in the Research in Biology breakout room at the Research in Science interest meeting on
Thursday, September 21 from 7:30-8:30 PM at AC2116

About Research in Biology

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. 

What would I do in the program?

During a two week January Term and the beginning of the spring semester, students learn all about research and work on research skills as they design and conduct short guided inquiry projects. During the process they will increase their skills in scientific literacy, scientific writing, presentations and communication. In the lab students will learn about the scientific method and experimental design, basic wet lab techniques which include: micropipetting, sterile technique, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and many more. 

Spring semester is also when students search the literature, develop their own original, long term  study, and begin working with their model organism. Students will write a research proposal which they defend in front of their peers, instructors and scientists. Work on their project continues during the 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 and as part of a team, 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

Jennifer Williams, NCSSM Morganton Chair of Science

Jennifer Williams joined the NCSSM team in November of 2021 as Department Chair of Science at NCSSM-Morganton. Jennifer began her career in western North Carolina, where she taught chemistry, physics, biology, environmental science, math and science research in Transylvania County for 23 years and served as science chair at Brevard High School for 15 years. Beginning in 2006, she created, developed and facilitated the TIME 4 Real Science program in collaboration with community partner Mary Arnaudin, NC Cooperative Extension. The TIME program continues to support students in authentic inquiry into their own questions as they work with scientists and teachers to conduct locally relevant science projects. Jennifer’s students have conducted award-winning work on topics ranging from endangered species to invasive insects to endophytes to biophotovoltaics. A 2010 recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Science and Mathematics Teachers, Jennifer is passionate about supporting high school students as they become scientists and is excited about the opportunity to impact even more students in her position 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: One Biology credit OR 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