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The MBB Individual Study Semester allows students to obtain hands-on research experience in a laboratory setting.

Individual Study Semester - MBB 481, MBB 482, MBB 483  (OPTION A, one semester)

LETTER OF INTENT - DUE by the last day of exams of the term preceding the ISS semester.

Note: Your LOI must be approved by your committee before you submit it with your application form and advising transcript to the MBB office. Once your application has been approved, you will be registered in the course.

  • The student must find a supervisor who is willing to take them as an ISS student.  The supervisor should verify that the student has a 3.0 cGPA and udGPA by viewing the student's advising transcript.
  • The supervisor will help the student recruit two other faculty members to serve on a committee that will determine the student's grade in the course. ( At least one member on the committee must be an MBB faculty member.)
  • The student and supervisor should discuss potential research projects that could be undertaken in the lab as well as the proposed marking scheme (Scheme 1 or 2), which will be indicated on the LOI.
  • The supervisor and student should together prepare a one-page letter of intent. The committee members must review the student's LOI and sign the MBB 481/2/3 Application form . The LOI should describe the goal(s) and outline possible experiments for the proposed research project.
  • The student's application (i.e. the MBB 481/2/3 application form, LOI and advising transcript) should be handed in to the MBB office by the last day of exams of the preceding semester for approval by the Departmental Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (DUCC). Once the application has been approved by the DUCC, the student will be registered in the course.

PROPOSAL - Due at the end of week 2

  • In consultation with the supervisor, the student will prepare a written proposal (max of 5 pages, double-spaced, excluding figures and references) which is submitted in both electronic and hard copy to all committee members and an electronic copy only to the Undergraduate Program Assistant at mbbugrad@sfu.ca by the end of the second week of classes, unless alternative arrangements are made with the supervisor. The proposal should provide a description of the proposed research, including the research problem in question, relevant background information, the scientific approach to addressing the research problem and the expected outcome. Samples of proposals are available for perusal in the MBB office.
  • By the end of week 4, all committee members are expected to provide feedback to the student. Students are encouraged to follow up with the committee members to receive feedback.

THESIS - Due 3 working days before the oral presentation

Toward the end of the semester the student should start writing their final report in the form of an Honours Thesis . The grade will be based on the thesis and will reflect the quality of the writing, the demonstration of an understanding of the research project and the ability to clearly document research results.  The student must submit a draft of the written thesis to her/his supervisor with sufficient time for the supervisor's feedback, and corrections prior to submission to the defense committee members.


At the end of the semester, the student will give a 30-minute oral presentation on their research, which should take place sometime during the final exam period.  The student should contact their committee members well in advance to organize a date for this presentation. The talk should be practiced in front of lab members. Supervisor feedback is encouraged.  The talk, which is open to the public, will usually follow the outline of the Thesis (intro, results, discussion, etc.). The talk will be followed by questions from the committee.

Once the student has a date, time, room and title for their presentation, they should provide this information to the MBB undergraduate program assistant.  This should be done at least one week before the oral presentation. An e-mail will be sent out to MBB majors and faculty notifying them of the ISS presentation.  The presentation information will be entered in the grade sheet and put in the supervisor's mailbox.  Once the grade has been determined, the grade sheet should be submitted to the MBB office.


A 15-credit ISS means working full-time (40 credit hours per week). A 5-to-10 credit ISS requires proportionally less time. The students should keep a good record of their experimental work and will likely attend lab meetings and have an opportunity to present their work in progress.  Students are required to take the lab facilities tour and the complete set of SFU safety workshops; these typically occur in the second week of each semester.

Following the oral presentation, the supervisor and committee members will assign 3 separate grades, each worth 5 credits and listed separately on the transcript:

ISS Presentation Information for Students

Try to have your presentation before the Final Grade Submission Deadline, which is 3 days after the final examination period. This is especially important if you are planning to graduate at the end of the ISS semester.

  1. Meet with your supervisor to discuss
    • setting a date for your presentation
    • selecting a title for your presentation
  2. Check with committee members to see if the date and time works for them.
  3. Book a meeting room - rooms in the South Science Building (SSB) can be booked as follows:
    • SSB 7109 or 7172 can be booked through the Dean of Science Office. Grad students and technicians may be able to access the Dean of Science Room Bookings website. If you require assistance, please e-mail Lisa Lin or call 2-4590.
    • SSB 8114 and SSB 6178 (Computer Lab) can be booked through MBB Online Resources. Your supervisor, grad students or technicians should be able to access the MBB on-line booking system.
    • Note that resources (i.e. rooms and equipment) are limited, so book early in case other arrangements must be made.
  4. Book projector and laptop if necessary
    • ask your supervisor or another lab member to book the LCD projector and laptop for you using the department on-line system.
  5. Inform undergraduate program assistant of presentation details at least one week before the presentation. The information will be used to send out e-mail announcements as well as to prepare the grade sheet.
    • date
    • time
    • room
    • title of presentation
    • name of supervisor
  6. Practice your presentation. Try to book the same room and equipment for your practice session as for your real presentation. Practice in front of your colleagues. Supervisor feedback is acceptable and is even recommended.