Biology UN2006 / UN2402 - Spring 2017 - POTENTIAL EXTRA CREDIT ASSIGNMENT Updated 01/04/2017

Note that the SURF symposium is in February -- right after Exam #1. If you can't make it, see FAQs at the bottom of this page.

Deadline to hand in summaries: Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Give them to Dr. M, put them in her mail box (2453 on 7th floor of Fairchild) or drop them off at the bio. dept. office (600 Fairchild).  Do NOT leave summaries in the boxes in Mudd.

Last summer, about 75 Columbia University undergraduate students conducted biomedical research under the aegis of the SURF   (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) & Amgen programs. They will be presenting their research at the annual SURF Symposium, and you are invited to attend.        

Friday Februrary 10, 2017:  Here is the plan, based on last year -- it will be updated if there are any changes.

12:00 - 2:00 pm:        Students will stand near posters describing their work, in Low Rotunda.  You can walk around and talk to them about their research.   

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it...     Learn about some of the research being conducted by these undergraduate students, and write a short news article about each. You can submit up to 2 such articles. Each one, if satisfactory, will count as one to two points, which will be added to your points after the grade distribution has been determined. Thus, if you are near the cut-off, this may raise your grade to the next category (for example, from a C+ to a B-.)  There are usually about 10-15 points between cut-offs, so if  you are not near the cut-off, this assignment will not increase your final grade -- but it is still worth it, as it should increase your knowledge of biology! 

1. Visit the students at the poster session, and ask them to explain their research.   Take notes, and save them.   There will probably be several students listening to each SURFer's explanation, so you may not all be conducting a one-on-one interview. That's okay -- But do ask for clarification if something is unclear, because your paper must demonstrate that you understood the research. 

2. Read some background information on the area of biology that relates to this research, either in one of the course textbooks (on reserve in the Science Library), or in Kimball's Biology Pages, or any other on-line biology textbook. (Wikipedia is a good start, but doesn't usually go deep enough.)

3. Write a brief (1-2-page) paper that describes the research project, and its relevance to the field of biology. (One page is plenty!)

Format: The following format may be most appropriate:

  1. Write an introductory paragraph summarizing the major findings of the project, or the major purpose, if there were no clear cut results.
  2. Continue with one or two paragraphs to show how this research is connected to the basic biology you learned (or will learn) in the introductory biology course. Include the background information that a non-specialist would need in order to  understand the student's research.
  3. Next, describe the specific question that the student was addressing, and the experiment that was designed to answer that question.
  4. Finally, explain the conclusions that the student drew from these results. Are the conclusions warranted by the results? What further studies are being conducted?

References: Within the body of your paper, give appropriate references to the books or articles you read, like this: "The 'red tide' is due to the reproduction of one-celled organisms called dinoflagellates (Sadava, et al., p. 568)"

At the end of the paper, include a bibliography that lists the sources you cited, using this format for books:  Author, (Year), Title, Publisher; and this format for web sites:  Author, Title, Date (if available) <URL>.

Style: Write in the style of a New York Times article. That is, use simple, direct prose, not bombastic scientific jargon. Write the way you would speak, for example "She taught them to walk again", not "She assisted them in regaining their ambulatory capacity".

Make sure that you understand all the words that you use; look up unfamiliar terms in the glossary in your textbook or use an online source such as the MedlinePlus online dictionary.  Write in your own words!  Do not simply copy the text that you read on the SURF poster or in the textbook. This is not only plagiarism, but also will convince us that you don't know what you're talking about.

Make sure that your  name is on each page.  Paper-clip or staple everything together (not in a folder or binder, please) and turn in:

We will not look at these until the end of the semester.  After calculating the course grade distribution, we will make a list of the students who are within 4 points of a cut-off, and see whether the number of papers they have submitted could increase their grade.  If so, we will read those papers, assigning each a grade of either 2 points (for a satisfactory job), 1 point for so-so, or 0 points (for work which is sloppy, careless, or fails to follow directions). 

(1) What i
f I am participating in the SURF symposium myself? You cannot get credit for summarizing your own poster. The idea is to learn something new! If you come early or stay late you should have the opportunity to speak to others about their posters.
(2). What if I have a class or a job that conflicts with the entire SURF symposium, all two hours, and I want an opportunity to earn extra credit? In that case we will try to arrange it. HOWEVER, you must email Amanda <> about the conflict BEFORE the day of the symposium. Late requests will not be considered. After the symposium Amanda will email all those with conflicts who have emailed her in advance about how to complete an equivalent assignment. (Usually it involves attending a scientific talk or symposium at CU or elsewhere.)