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The Capstone Project in Biological Sciences

Some changes to the capstone project requirements will take effect Fall semester 2017  Please note that there are several sets of guidelines below. Find the one that corresponds to when you plan to complete your capstone project.

Capstone Project - Fall 2017 and later

The guidelines below apply to all students who will initiate a biological sciences capstone project during Fall 2017 or later. The two most important changes from earlier guidelines are as follows.  (1) All students must deliver an oral presentation summarizing the content of their capstone project.  (2) All students must prepare, in addition to the formal written report, a non-technical abstract describing the intent and outcome of the project.  Details follow.

I. What is the capstone project requirement in Biological Sciences?

The intent of the Biological Sciences capstone project is to integrate knowledge and skills learned in previous courses, including scientific knowledge, quantitative literacy, and communication skills, and apply these products of the university education to a creative activity.  For a biologist, a fundamental expression of applied knowledge, creativity, and critical reasoning is to engage in scientific inquiry.

The capstone project in Biological Sciences consists of a mentored research project on a biological topic that is completed in the junior or senior year.  

The requirements are:

1.  The capstone project must be chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor.  

2.  The faculty mentor must approve the project before work begins.  

3.  The project must include the evaluation of data. In most cases the student will collect an original data set, but working with an existing data set is also acceptable.

4.  There must be three forms of communication.

a.  A formal written report in the style of a scientific paper.

b.  An oral presentation of the study goals and outcomes.

c.  A short, non-technical summary of the project goals and outcomes, written for the public.

All capstone projects are assessed using a common set of expectations (see Final Evaluation of Capstone Project).

Students pursuing a BA in Biological Sciences are encouraged to incorporate  social science or humanities into their capstone project.

II. How can I satisfy the capstone requirement?

The capstone project requirement may be met in one of two ways.

1. A student may perform a capstone project within a designated capstone course in Biological Sciences or Wildlife Biology and Conservation.  Capstone courses are offered across a range of sub-disciplines within biology. A list of capstone courses in Biological Sciences may be found in the UAF catalog or the Biology and Wildlife Department website. All capstone courses include the expectation that the student will complete a biological research project.  Typically, the capstone course instructor will introduce one or several model study systems and methodologies that will form the basis for the student’s project.  The course instructor will assist the student to design a study and analyze the results. The capstone requirement within a course will be fulfilled only if the capstone project itself is evaluated as adequate or better for all criteria identified on the Final Evaluation of Capstone Projects rubric.  It is expected that the capstone project will constitute only a portion of the course grade.  Thus, it is possible for a student to pass a capstone course without receiving credit for the capstone project, and to receive credit for the capstone project without passing the course.  At the end of the semester, instructors will provide the Biology and Wildlife Department Chair with a copies of the evaluation forms and the written assignments (the formal paper and the non-technical summary), to be archived by the department.  

2. A student may satisfy the capstone requirement by conducting a research project individually with a faculty mentor, typically a member of the UAF Biology & Wildlife faculty.  A student may receive course credits for the research project by enrolling in independent study (BIOL F397 or F497) or undergraduate biology research (BIOL F490 or URSA F488); however, course credits are not necessary for completion of the capstone project requirements. A more informal arrangement, in which the student performs a project and communicates the results under the supervision of a member of the Biology & Wildlife faculty, may satisfy the capstone requirements as well. The student or research mentor should provide to the Biology and Wildlife Department a copy of the final paper and a copy of the Final Evaluation of the Capstone Project form, signed by the research mentor.  If the mentor is not a member of the Biology and Wildlife faculty, then an additional faculty evaluation completed by a faculty member in the Biology and Wildlife department will be necessary.

III. The required capstone requirements: more detail

1. Written report

All capstone projects must include a written assignment.  This is typically a final report expressing the study goals, methods, and findings written as a scientific paper, but may in some cases be a research proposal.  It is recommended that written assignments are a minimum 8 double-spaced pages (excluding figures and references) and contain at least 10 references. 

2. Oral presentation

The findings of all capstone projects must also be communicated orally.  Oral presentations can be delivered in class, at a scientific conference, at UAF Research Day, or in another instructor-approved setting.  Slide presentations and poster presentations are the most common forms of oral presentation. 

3. Non-Technical Summary

Communicating scientific results to the public is an important aspect of research.  In addition to the formal written report, capstone research findings must be communicated in the form of a short, non-technical summary.  The summary should consist of one or two paragraphs (1 page single spaced maximum) encapsulating the goal, approach, and findings of the study in language that could be understood by a non-scientist.


IV. Students intending to complete their capstone should register for BIOL F400

Regardless of how the capstone project is completed (within a course or by working individually with a mentor) the student must signal his or her intent to complete the capstone project within a semester by enrolling in BIOL F400, Capstone Project.  BIOL F400 is not a traditional course. It costs nothing, confers no credit, and requires no additional work on the part of the student. Rather, it is a way for the administration to track which students are in the process of completing their capstone projects, and which have successfully completed a project and therefore satisfied the capstone requirement for graduation.  A tracking system is necessary because the capstone can be completed in a variety of ways.

A capstone project might extend across several semesters, or an initial project may be abandoned in favor of a new one.  In these cases, there is no need to register for BIOL F400 repeatedly.  If the capstone project is not completed, or not completed satisfactorily, within a semester, the BIOL F400 grade will be deferred (DF grade) until a later semester. The DF will be changed to P when the student passes the capstone project.  A DF grade will convert to an F only if it remains on the record for more than 3 years.  This conversion can be prevented by request if the student can demonstrate she or he is actively working to complete the project. 

Catalog description:

BIOL 400  Capstone Project

0 Credits  Offered Fall and Spring

This course should be taken by students during the semester they initiate a capstone research project.  The capstone project may be completed within a designated course or by working individually with a faculty mentor; see the Biological Sciences program description for more information.  The duration of the capstone project may exceed one semester.  Prerequisites: Junior or senior standing. (0+0)

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Capstone Project – Fall 2015 through Summer 2017

These guidelines apply to all students who initiated a biological sciences capstone project between Fall 2015 and Summer 2017. The two most important changes from previous guidelines are as follows.  (1) A student taking a capstone course must receive a passing grade on the capstone project itself, regardless of the course grade.  In other words, a passing course grade will no longer ensure a passing grade on the capstone. (2) Students intending to complete a capstone, whether in a class or through individual study with a mentor, should register for BIOL F400.  Details follow.

 What is the capstone project requirement in Biological Sciences?

The intent of the Biological Sciences capstone project is to integrate knowledge and skills learned in previous courses, including scientific knowledge, quantitative literacy, and communication skills, and to apply these products of the university education to a creative activity.  For a biologist, a fundamental expression of applied knowledge, creativity, and critical reasoning is to engage in scientific inquiry.

The capstone project in Biological Sciences consists of a mentored research project on a biological topic that is completed in the junior or senior year.  The capstone project must be designed or chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor. The faculty mentor must approve the project before work begins.  The project must include evaluation of data and communication of the study intent, methods, results, interpretation, and conclusion in the context of existing literature and knowledge.  All capstone projects will be assessed using a common set of expectations (see Final Evaluation of Capstone Project).  The capstone project requirement may be met in two ways, detailed below.

How can I satisfy the capstone requirement?

First, a student may perform a capstone project within a designated capstone course in Biological Sciences or Wildlife Biology and Conservation.  Capstone courses are offered across a range of sub-disciplines within biology. A list of capstone courses in Biological Sciences can be found in the UAF catalog. All capstone courses include the expectation that the student will complete a biological research project.  Typically, the capstone course instructor will introduce one or several model study systems and methodologies that will form the basis for the student’s project.  The course instructor will assist the student to design a study and analyze the results.  The capstone project will include a major written assignment, which may be fulfilled as a research proposal and/or a final report formatted as a scientific paper.  It is recommended that written assignments have a minimum length of 8 double-spaced pages (excluding figures and references) with at least 10 references.  If a research proposal is used as the written assignment, students will also be required to communicate their research findings through an oral presentation, poster presentation, or final written report.  The course instructor may require additional means of communicating the research results as well, such as an oral presentation or a poster.  All projects will be assessed using the standard capstone project rubric.  The capstone requirement will be fulfilled only if the capstone project is evaluated as adequate or better for all criteria identified on the Final Evaluation of Capstone Projects rubric.  Thus, it is possible for a student to pass a capstone course without receiving credit for the capstone project, and to receive credit for the capstone project without passing the course.  At the end of the semester, instructors will provide the Biology and Wildlife Department Chair with a copies of evaluation forms and written assignments, to be archived by the department.  

Second, the student may satisfy the capstone requirement by conducting a research project with a faculty mentor, typically a member of the UAF Biology & Wildlife faculty.  A student may receive course credits for the research project by enrolling in independent study (BIOL F397 or F497) or undergraduate biology research (BIOL F490 or URSA F488); however, course credits are not necessary for completion of the capstone project requirements. A more informal arrangement, in which the student performs a project and communicates the results under the supervision of a member of the Biology & Wildlife faculty, may satisfy the capstone requirements as well. The capstone project will culminate in a written report, formatted as a scientific paper. It is recommended that the report have a minimum length of 8 double-spaced pages with at least 10 references. Reports must be assessed by the research mentor using the standard assessment rubric, and must be evaluated as adequate or better for all criteria. The student or research mentor should provide to the Biology and Wildlife department a copy of the final paper and a copy of the Final Evaluation of the Capstone Project form, signed by the research mentor.

Assignments required for the capstone

1. Written report

All capstone projects must include a written assignment.  This is typically a final report expressing the study goals, methods, and findings written as a scientific paper, but may in some cases be a research proposal.  It is recommended that written assignments are a minimum 8 double-spaced pages (excluding figures and references) and contain at least 10 references. 

2. Oral presentation

The findings of all capstone projects must also be communicated orally.  Oral presentations can be delivered in class, at a scientific conference, at UAF Research Day, or in another instructor-approved setting.  Slide presentations and poster presentations are the most common forms of oral presentation. 

 3. Non-Technical Summary

Communicating scientific results to the public is an important aspect of research.  In addition to the formal written report, capstone research findings must be communicated in the form of a short, non-technical summary.  The summary should consist of one or two paragraphs (1 page single spaced maximum) encapsulating the goal, approach, and findings of the study in language that could be understood by a non-scientist. 

Students intending to complete their capstone should register for BIOL F400

Regardless of how the capstone project is completed, within a course or by working individually with a mentor, the student must signal his or her intent to complete the capstone project within a semester by enrolling in BIOL F400, Capstone Project.  This is not a traditional course. It confers no credit and requires no additional work by the student. Rather, it is a way for the administration to track which student are in the process of completing their capstone projects, and which have successfully completed a project and therefore have satisfied the capstone requirement for graduation.  Such a tracking system is necessary because the capstone can be completed in a variety of ways.

A capstone project might extend across several semesters, or an initial project may be abandoned in favor of a new one.  In these cases, there is no need to register for BIOL F400 repeatedly.  If the capstone project is not completed, or not completed satisfactorily, within a semester, the BIOL F400 grade will be deferred (DF grade) until a later semester. The DF will be changed to P when the student passes the capstone project.  A DF grade will convert to an F only if it remains on the record for more than 3 years.  This conversion can be prevented by request if the student can demonstrate she or he is actively working to complete the project. 

Catalog description:

BIOL 400  Capstone Project

0 Credits  Offered Fall and Spring

This course should be taken by students during the semester they initiate a capstone research project.  The capstone project may be completed within a designated course or by working individually with a faculty mentor; see the Biological Sciences program description for more information.  The duration of the capstone project may exceed one semester.  Prerequisites: Junior or senior standing. (0+0)


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Capstone Project in Biological Sciences – Pre-Fall 2015

These are the correct guidelines for projects that will be completed before Fall semester 2015. If your capstone project will be completed during Fall 2015 or later, refer to the guidelines in the next section. 

The intent of the Biological Sciences capstone project is to integrate a range of knowledge and skills learned in previous courses, including scientific knowledge, quantitative literacy, and communication skills, and to apply these products of the university education to a creative activity.  For a biologist, a fundamental expression of applied knowledge, creativity, and critical reasoning is to engage in scientific inquiry.   

The capstone project in Biological Sciences consists of a mentored research project on a biological topic that is completed in the junior or senior year.  The capstone project must be designed or chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor.  The faculty mentor must approve the project before work begins.  The project must include both evaluation of data and communication of the study intent, methods, results, interpretation, and conclusion in a report written by the student. The capstone project requirement may be met in two ways, detailed below. 

First, the student may pass, with C grade or better, a designated capstone course in Biological Sciences or Wildlife Biology and Conservation.  Capstone courses are offered across a range of sub-disciplines within biology.  A list of capstone courses in Biological Sciences can be found in the UAF catalog.  All capstone courses include the expectation that the student will complete a biological research project.   Typically, the capstone course instructor will introduce one or several model study systems and methodologies that will form the basis for the student’s project.  The course instructor will assist the student to design a study and analyze the results.  The student will communicate the results of the project in a in a written report.  Some capstone courses may require that students communicate their research findings in additional ways, such as in an oral report or poster presentation. 

Second, the student may satisfy the capstone requirement by conducting a research project with a faculty mentor, typically a member of the UAF Biology & Wildlife faculty.  A student may receive course credits for the research project by enrolling in independent study (BIOL F397 or F497) or undergraduate biology research (BIOL F490 or URSA F488); however, course credits are not necessary for completion of the capstone project requirements.  A more informal arrangement, in which the student performs and communicates a project under the supervision of a member of the Biology & Wildlife faculty or completes research in the context of an internship, may satisfy the capstone requirements as well.  In either case, to satisfy the capstone requirement using a research project conducted outside a designated capstone course, the student must file a petition with the Biology & Wildlife department chair.  The petition must include a memo by the student’s faculty mentor confirming that the work was completed and a copy of the mentor’s written assessment of the final paper, showing that the work was of satisfactory quality. 


 

Capstone Courses

The biology capstone project requirement may be met in one of two ways. (1) Complete a project within one of the courses listed below. Or (2) Complete a mentored research project by working one-on-one with a faculty member. Students working individually with a faculty member may take individual study (BIOL 397 or 497) to earn credit toward graduation, but are not required to do so.

 

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