Guidelines for Independent Study Semester (ISS)

The outline below is intended to guide you through your Independent Study Semester (ISS). To apply, please fill out the online application form.

An Independent Study Semester is a combination of three elements: a written proposal, a research project, and a final report, followed by a presentation to a Supervisory committee.  Although each of these elements is graded separately, they are parts of a package.  The package is worth a total of 15 units in three 5-unit courses, and thus should reflect the effort of a semester’s full time course load. BISC 490 may be taken in the semester prior to BISC 491/492 by students intending to complete the three course ISS.  Please visit for descriptions and requisites of ISS courses.

Responsibilities of the Supervisor and the Committee

The role of the supervisor shall be to provide: suggestions as to appropriate research projects; feedback and guidance in writing the proposal and the final report; and advice and technical help in the execution of the research through the semester.  The role of the committee shall be to ratify the final drafts of the proposal and the final report, hear the final presentation, and advise the supervisor on the appropriate grade.  It is the student’s responsibility to present the supervisor with drafts of the written submissions in time to get comments prior to the deadline for final submission, to request assistance from the supervisor or other research personnel when it is needed, and to be available at times during normal working hours for consultation with the supervisor and other lab or field workers.

The Proposal

The intent of the proposal is to make sure that a feasible project has been identified, and that the student has a reasonable conceptual framework for the project. The proposal should demonstrate a basic understanding of the questions to be asked, and the experimental techniques that will be employed.   A typical proposal is 10 — 15 pages long.  Its exact format is to be agreed upon with the Supervisor.

The Presentation

After the submission of the final report, the student will be expected to give a short presentation of the work to the Supervisory committee.   It is the student’s responsibility to consult with the committee members to identify a time when all can hear the presentation.. The presentation will be followed by a question period (typically 30 minutes or less). The presentation and question period are intended to verify that the written submissions are a true reflection of the student’s accomplishments.  It also gives the student experience in the presentation of research work.