Experiential Learning through Research in Biology

Undergraduate research in biology immerses students in scientific exploration for experiential learning experiences that deepen understanding and better develop critical skills. As a proven High-Impact Practice (HIP), experiential learning prepares undergraduate students for careers in biology and related fields, cultivates qualities such as curiosity, adaptability, and scientific creativity, and enhances skills in teamwork. The Biology program at CSU Fullerton offers multiple opportunities for students to engage in original research through Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs), one-on-one mentoring in Faculty-Student Collaborative Research in the Department of Biological Science, and several formal Research Programs.

Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) 

Several upper division courses in the Biology major incorporate the original research projects of faculty. Research conducted in the laboratory component of these courses mirrors the activities in the faculty research labs and brings the science described in lectures and textbook readings to life, while allowing students to earn required units for the upper division laboratory/field unit requirements. The following undergraduate courses  offer semester-long authentic Biology research experiences or modules (*)  that expose students to the research process.


BIOL 317  -  Field  Marine Biology

Field biology and natural history of local marine plants and animals. Identify common species and factors, determining their distributions and abundance in marine habitats. Effects of human activities on marine organisms.

BIOL 410 -  Evolutionary Genetics

Introduction to molecular genetic data analysis as commonly applied in the fields of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Classical population genetics through to the genomics era, focusing on conservation  and restoration genetics.

BIOL 431 - Advanced Microbiology Lab

Provide knowledge and laboratory expertise to analyze scientific literature in microbiology, perform advanced microbiological techniques and conduct independent microbiology research.

BIOL 444 - Plant Physiological Ecology

Fundamental mechanisms of plant physiological responses to the environment with primary emphasis on whole plants and ecosystems. (2 hours lecture, 6 hours laboratory; weekend field trips may be required.

BIOL 448 - Plant Molecular Biology

Genetic mechanisms in vascular plants controlling metabolism, growth, development and responses to biotic/abiotic environmental stresses. Molecular regulation of gene expression and transduction of internal and external signals.

      BIOL 449  - Desert  Ecology       

Adaptations, distributions and interactions of desert plants, animals and microbes, including the influences of environmental factors. 

BIOL 462   -  General Parasitiology

Survey of various animal parasites emphasizing the morphology, physiology, and genetics of human protozoans and helminthes

BIOL 472A - Advances in Biotechnology Lab

biotechnology techniques for DNA cloning and analysis: restriction enzyme action, DNA sequencing, sequence analysis by computer, plasmid cloning, genomic library production and screening, and DNA probe hybridization.

*BIOL 254L - Research Skills for Ecology and Organismal Biology

Research skills needed in ecology and organismal biology, in the laboratory and field, including making observations and designing experiments, measuring biotic and abiotic variables, conducting library research, working in teams, communicating scientific information, and analyzing data statistically.

*BIOL 302 - General Microbiology

Introduction to structure and function of bacteria and viruses including beneficial and detrimental activities and interactions with other organisms. Laboratory provides investigations with microscopy, culture, physiology and genetics of microbes. 

*BIOL 419L - Marine Ecology Laboratory

Field and laboratory studies of planktonic, nektonic and benthic communities.

*BIOL 454L - Microscopy and Imaging in Biology

Skills-based training in microscopy and imaging techniques. Theoretical and practical aspects of microscope use, fluorescent dyes and biosensors, image generation and analysis. Significant project-based experience.

Faculty-Student Collaborative Research

Student research in the lab is an enriching educational experience that transcends traditional classroom learning. Collaborating with mentors, Biology students at CSU Fullerton contribute to ongoing projects, design experiments, and analyze data while gaining hands-on experience using experimental tools and techniques. For many students, this meaningful research experience has fostered a sense of community with other research students and a sense of ownership and responsibility for their work that instills a passion for life-long learning. Our undergraduate researchers leave CSU Fullerton with confidence and a solid foundation and tools for future success, making undergraduate research a truly transformative educational experience.

Students interested in undergraduate research can reach out directly to Full-Time Faculty in the Department of Biological Science year-round to inquire about potential research opportunities in their labs. Alternatively, several programs at CSU Fullerton listed below support student research with specific faculty mentors, with set deadlines for yearly applications.

Faculty-Student Collaborative Research is usually taken for credit in BIOL 299L (Directed Laboratory Study) and BIOL 499L (Independent Laboratory Study). Up to 3 units of BIOL 499L may count toward the major, serving as capstone and upper division laboratory/field units. Students engaged in undergraduate research labs are typically enrolled in BIOL 480 (Advanced Topics in Undergraduate Biology) with their faculty mentor, with up to 3 units counting as upper division Biology electives toward the major.

Research Program Opportunities

Several programs at CSU Fullerton support student research with specific faculty mentors: