Biology C2006 / F2402 - Spring 2003 - POTENTIAL EXTRA CREDIT ASSIGNMENT 

Last summer, 80 Columbia University undergraduate students conducted biomedical research as part of the SURF program (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship). They will be presenting their research at the annual SURF Symposium Friday, February 7, 11 am to 2 pm, Low Library.

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 3 such articles. Each one, if satisfactory, will count as two points, for a possible total of 6 points, which will be added to your points after the curve 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 15-20 points between cut-offs, so if  you are not near the cut-off, this assignment will not increase your final grade, although it should still 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 Biology Library), or in Kimball's Biology Pages, an on-line biology textbook. 

3. Write a brief paper (1-2 pages) that describes the research project, and its relevance to the field of biology.  Your paper should be written in the style of a New York Times article.  That is, write it as if you were explaining this research to a non-specialist.

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 clearcut 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 nonspecialist 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 (Purves, 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>.

Make sure that you understand all the words that you use; look up unfamiliar terms in the glossary in your textbook or in the Life Science Dictionary or the On-line Medical Dictionary.     Write in your own words!  Do not simply copy the text that you read on the SURF poster or in the textboook. 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 curve, we will make a list of the students who are within 6 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.