Research Capstone in Biological Sciences

The intent of the Biological Sciences research capstone is to integrate knowledge and skills learned in previous courses, including scientific knowledge, quantitative literacy, and communication skills, and apply these products of the university education to a creative activity.  For a biologist, a fundamental expression of applied knowledge, creativity, and critical reasoning is to engage in scientific inquiry.

The capstone project in the Biological Sciences B.S. consists of a mentored research project on a biological topic that is completed in the junior or senior year.  

The requirements are:

  1. The capstone project must be chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor.
  2. The faculty mentor must approve the project before work begins.
  3. The project must include the evaluation of data. In most cases the student will collect an original data set, but working with an existing data set is also acceptable.
  4. The rationale, approach, and conclusions must be communicated in three ways.
    1. A formal written report in the style of a scientific paper.
    2. An oral presentation of the study goals and outcomes.
    3. A short, non-technical summary of the project goals and outcomes, written for the public.

All capstone projects are assessed using a common set of expectations (see Final Evaluation of Capstone Project).

The research capstone project requirement may be met in one of two ways.

  1. Take a designated capstone course: A student may perform a project within a designated capstone course in Biological Sciences.  Capstone courses are offered across a range of sub-disciplines within biology. A list of capstone courses in Biological Sciences may be found listed under the tab "Designated Capstone Courses" above or in the UAF catalog, and special topics and trial course capstone options also appear occasionally in the course schedule. All capstone courses include the expectation that the student will complete a biological research project.  Typically, the capstone course instructor will introduce one or several model study systems and methodologies that will form the basis for the student’s project.  The course instructor will assist the student to design a study and analyze the results. The capstone requirement within a course will be fulfilled only when the capstone project itself is evaluated as adequate or better for all criteria identified on the Final Evaluation of Capstone Projects rubric.  It is expected that the capstone project will constitute only a portion of the course grade.  Thus, it is possible for a student to pass a designated capstone course without receiving credit for the capstone project, and to receive credit for the capstone project without passing the course. When the student has successfully completed the project, instructors will provide the Biology and Wildlife Department with a signed evaluation form and copies of the written assignments (the formal paper and the non-technical summary) to be archived by the department.
  2. Work individually with a faculty mentor: A student may satisfy the capstone requirement by conducting a research project individually with a faculty mentor, typically a member of the UAF Biology & Wildlife faculty. A student may receive course credit for the research project by enrolling in independent study (e.g. BIOL F397 or F497), and these credits may be applied to the student's degree requirements; however, course credits are not necessary for completion of the capstone project. When the student has successfully completed the project, the student or research mentor should provide to the Biology and Wildlife Department a copy of the final paper and a copy of the Final Evaluation of the Capstone Project form, signed by the research mentor.  If the mentor is not a member of the Biology and Wildlife faculty, then an additional faculty evaluation completed by a faculty member in the Biology and Wildlife Department will be necessary. Students and mentors should work together to fill out a mentoring agreement within the first few weeks of the project.

Written report: All capstone projects must include a final written assignment. The report is typically written in the format of a scientific paper containing an abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, acknowledgements, and literature cited. In some cases, the report may take the form of a research proposal. Written assignments should be at least 8 double-spaced pages (excluding figures and references) in length and cite at least 10 relevant references.

The acknowledgements section should contain the name of your research mentor, the name of your project evaluator (if different), the names of anyone who helped you along with a brief description of the help they provided, and your research funding sources if relevant (e.g. URSA, NSF grant to your mentor).

Non-Technical Summary: Communicating scientific results to the public is an important aspect of research.  In addition to the formal written report, capstone research findings must be communicated in the form of a short, non-technical summary.  The summary should consist of one or two paragraphs (1 page single spaced maximum) encapsulating the goal, approach, and findings of the study in language that could be understood by a non-scientist.

Oral presentation: The findings of all capstone projects must also be communicated orally.  Oral presentations may be delivered in class, at a scientific conference, at UAF Research Day, or in another instructor-approved setting.  Digitally-illustrated oral presentations and poster presentations are the most common forms of oral presentation.

Regardless of how the capstone project is completed (within a course or by working individually with a mentor) the student must signal his or her intent to initiate a capstone project by enrolling in BIOL F400, Research Capstone In Biological Sciences.  BIOL F400 is not a traditional course. It costs nothing, confers no credit, and requires no additional work on the part of the student. Rather, it is a way for the administration to track which students are in the process of completing their capstone projects, and which have successfully completed a project and therefore satisfied the capstone requirement for graduation.  A tracking system is necessary because the capstone can be completed in a variety of ways.

A capstone project might extend across several semesters, or an initial project may be abandoned in favor of a new one.  In these cases, there is no need to register for BIOL F400 repeatedly.  If the capstone project is not completed, or not completed satisfactorily, within a semester, the BIOL F400 grade will be deferred (DF) grade until a later semester. The DF will be changed to P when the student passes the capstone project.  A DF grade will convert to an F only if it remains on the record for more than 3 years.  This conversion can be prevented by request if the student can demonstrate she or he is actively working to complete a project.

Catalog description:

BIOL F400      Research Capstone in Biological Sciences
0 Credit

Offered Fall and Spring

Enrollment in BIOL F400 signals that a student has initiated a capstone research project, a required element of the Biological Sciences B.S. program. The research project may be completed within a designated course or by working individually with a faculty mentor.

Prerequisites: Junior or senior standing.

Lecture + Lab + Other: 0 + 0 + 0

Grading System: Pass/Fail Grades

Biology Capstone Courses

The biology capstone project requirement may be met in one of two ways. (1) Complete a project within one of the courses listed below. Or (2) Complete a mentored research project by working one-on-one with a faculty member. Students working individually with a faculty member may take individual study (BIOL 397 or 497) to earn credit toward graduation, but are not required to do so.

Designated capstone courses

Links to Related Forms

BIOL F400 Biological Sciences Capstone Project

Mentoring Agreement Form

  • Mentoring Agreement Form (fillable pdf) - for students doing their research individually with a faculty mentor (not necessary for students taking capstone classes)

Capstone Project Evaluation Forms

  • Understanding the differences in temperature sensitivity of soil respiration across differing boreal forest landscape types
  • Anaerobic metabolic remodeling in three-spine stickleback fish in response to temperature acclimation
  • Investigating the accuracy of herbal supplement ingredient lists with genetic sequencing
  • Physiological effects of the Alaska wildland firefighting season on firefighters
  • Investigating the effects of meromixis on invertebrate community structure and concentration of dissolved ions in a subarctic lake
  • Protein quantification of diaphragm muscle tissue in the Arctic ground squirrel
  • Damage induced by X-ray radiation in DU-145 cells
  • UV-induced DNA repair in virally infected cells
  • C3A Hepatocarcinoma cell line: study of DNA damage and repair
  • Role of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in rabies virus into host cells
  • The origin and diversity of the octoploid Turkish parsley fern (Cryptogramma bithynica)
  • Effect of hypothermia in energy metabolism
  • Treeshrews as biomedical model organisms: an evolutionary perspective
  • Does substrate size determine the diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates in lakes?
  • Effects of plant defense compounds on diesel rhizoremediation potential of three high latitude tree species
  • Impact of Alaskan blueberry and lingonberry on stress resistance in Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Chemical and biological characterization: Smith Lake versus Tanana Lake
  • Arthropod abundance and richness at occupied and unoccupied nesting sites of Olive-sided Flycatchers (Contopus cooperi) in Alaska
  • The effect of caffeine on Betta splendens courtship behavior
  • Temperature limitations of freeze tolerance in dragonfly (Odonata: Anisoptera) larvae from a lake in interior Alaska
  • How the environment affects the prevalence of recurrent airway obstruction observed in horses in Alaska
  • Physiological evaluation of muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) immobilized with Ketamine and Xylazine
  • Creation of a prehistorical food web in Bristol Bay, Alaska
  • DNA repair response to X-ray radiation: genomic damage in natural hibernators
  • Measuring depression-like, anxiety-like, and compulsive-like behaviors in three different strains of mice
  • Effects of caffeine on anxiety-like and compulsive-like behaviors in a non-induced OCD mouse model
  • Effects of female audience reproductive state on male-male social interactions in the Siamese fighting fish
  • Nutritional stress as a potential cause of massive mortality events in the Common Murre (Uria aalge)
  • Dose-dependent effects of moderate alcohol exposure on aggression in male Betta splendens
  • A correlation between testosterone and behaviors in male common house mice (Mus musculus) that have been selectively bred for nest size
  • Depression in the mouse model: how effective is St John's Wort on selectively bred mice?
  • Meta-analysis: the impact of cane toad presence (Bufo marinus) on the abundance of Australian birds and mammals
  • Evaluating validity and assessing usefulness of the OCD mouse model
  • Diesel biodegradation potential of birch and spruce rhizospheres
  • Developing methods to determine the most probable number of aromatic-compound-degrading microorganisms in the soil of different birch species
  • A study of aging and toxin-induced neurodegeneration in models of Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Streptococcus uberis: Describing the emergence of a novel pathogen on Alaska's North Slope
  • Impact of glycosylation on whole protein binding to MHC
  • DNA damage and repair in cells exposed to X-ray irradiation
  • Diet of marten in Interior Alaska
  • Effects of aerobic exercise on heart myoglobin concentration in Mus musculus
  • DNA repair in virally infected cells
  • Evaluation of non-induced compulsive-like behavior in Mus musculus as an animal model for obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Cellular DNA damage of Arctic ground squirrels during multiple metabolic stages
  • Identifying plant families in ancient, environmental DNA from permafrost using DNA barcoding
  • The effects of permafrost thaw on methanogens
  • Comparing mercury concentrations in muscle and liver tissues of six Alaskan fish species
  • Structure of zooplankton communities as a response to motorized disturbance in Boreal Kettle Lakes
  • Evaluating lifewater ExtremeSTP wastewater treatment system efficiency by comparison of two subarctic lakes
  • Social status and stress in Canis familiaris: The cost of being on top
  • Sexual selection of normal and OCD model mice
  • Using stable isotope analysis to identify colony origin of Common Murres affected by the mass die-off
  • The effects of reduced body mass on short-term memory in Mus musculus
  • Relationship of stable isotope signatures in red blood cells between mother, father and chick crested auklets
  • Observing facial features in mice based on personality types
  • Potential contamination of Thick-billed Murres migrating to waters surrounding Japan
  • The impacts of stress on male fitness and intersexual selection
  • The effects of temperature on corticosterone levels in feathers of Eastern Bluebird chicks
  • Effect of exogenous corticosterone on fear responses in the Mus musculus
  • The anxiolytic effect of ashwagandha on mice
  • Effect of exercise on OCD behavior in mice
  • Examining the aptitude of Labrador and Golden Retrievers (Canis familiaris) for working as service dogs in relation to stress
  • The effects of temperature and humidity on the plant growth of Brassica rapa
  • Survey of thermokarst and gravel pit lakes