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BIOE Undergraduate Honors Program FAQ

Why should I participate in the BIOE Honors Program?  

The program is designed to provide education and training in leadership, professional development, academic writing, academic presentations, and career awareness. Above all, however, the Honors Program enriches the students’ academic experiences and better prepares students for their next career step through immersion in bioengineering research. Regardless of the next step – a Ph.D., medical school, a career as an engineer in the industry, or nearly anything else – excelling in undergraduate research prepares a student for advancement in their future endeavors. This is because research places students in a unique position; a researcher must solve a problem that has not been solved before. Graduates who have intensely pursued undergraduate research will have obtained valuable research aptitude and experience, a solid understanding of the research methods that lead to clinical advances, creative and critical thinking skills, leadership capabilities, teamwork, and effective communication styles – all of which are coveted assets in any career in bioengineering and medicine.

How big of a time commitment is a research project?  

This is up to what you and your mentor decide, but typically 8-15 hours a week. 

Do graduate schools and possible employers strongly prefer students who have participated in the program?  

Grad schools and employers value practical experience, and you will be able to identify specific areas of specialization based on your research.  If you are productive, you will also publish your work or present your findings at a conference, both of which will strengthen your resume.

How would I go about choosing a mentor if I don’t already have one in mind?

The best approach would be to browse the research websites of potential mentors, contact individuals whose research is of interest to you, and determine whether the mentor has an opening for an honors students and whether there could be a match.

Is it O.K. if a potential mentor doesn’t know me yet?

No problem at all. Most mentors expect requests from curious undergraduates.

Do I already need to have a research project defined in my mind before I meet my mentor?

Not at all. Your mentor will help you design the project, usually based on mutual research interests.

Once I have identified a mentor, what does the mentor need to do?

The mentor should write the letter of support indicating his/her endorsement of your application to the program and his/her commitment to guiding your research.  The mentor should also review the outline of proposed research project. 

Why isn’t the BIOE Honors Program universally accessible to all students?

The BIOE Honors program is meant to augment, not supplant, learning of principles and concepts in the core bioengineering curriculum.  When grades are a concern, it is imperative for students to focus on coursework.  It should also be noted that students participating in undergraduate research need not participate in the BIOE Honors Program.  

May I participate in Bioengineering honors if I study abroad?

If you and your mentor can devise a plan to perform mutually agreeable research remotely (e.g., computational research or data analysis), this would be fine. Alternately, you can replace the study-abroad semester with a summer of work.  

May I participate in Bioengineering honors if I am participating in an Honors College Program?

Yes.  You should meet with your Honors College advisor and the BIOE departmental advisor to discuss the best way to fulfill both sets of requirements. 

May I replace one of the semesters of research with a summer of research?

If it is acceptable to your mentor, yes.  Regardless of credits, students often find it useful to perform research over the summer, as it offers an opportunity to focus their full attention on their Honors research project.

May I take BIOE 399 during one semester of the Honors Program?

Yes, in fact students should take two courses of independent study, but they should register for BIOE399H (3 credits will be applied toward graduation).

May I also be paid (e.g., scholarship or through my mentor’s research funds) for work that I perform as part of the Honors Program?

The primary goal of the BIOE Honors Program is to provide a structured mechanism for students to improve their scientific research capabilities. Consequently, students should have no expectation of financial compensation. That being said, application for undergraduate research scholarships is strongly encouraged and will have no bearing on a student’s eligibility for the Honors Program. Alternatively, student support through a mentor’s research funding may be provided at the discretion of the mentor.  One exception is that the policy of the A. James Clark School of Engineering is that students cannot be paid for taking coursework, and thus a student cannot be paid for research while taking BIOE399 or BIOE399H.