BIOC 797 Syllabus

BIOC 797 - Research

Course Format: Laboratory and independent study
Credit Hours: 1 – 15 credits
Course Coordinator: Dr. Aaron R. Robart, Co-Graduate Director
Instructor: Dissertation mentor
Schedule: Arranged
Location: Research laboratory of the dissertation mentor

Purpose of Course

  • Perform independent exploration of a hypothesis as part of the completion of their dissertation research.
  • Read the scientific literature both broadly within their discipline and deeply within their dissertation topic.
  • Keep a laboratory notebook to record procedures and results following best practices for maintaining this scientific record.
  • Present their results orally as a seminar or poster presentation at scientific conferences, and at graduate program or department based seminars and research forums.
  • Summarize results in a manuscript(s) for publication in a scientific journal. One of these publications must be as first author.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Note: The research process is a continuum in which the student enters the program with a limited skill set and by the point of defense of the dissertation demonstrates significant independence as a scientist and expertise on the project. Thus, in any given semester the student will make progress on one or more of these outcomes but would not be expected to achieve all of them until near the time of defense of their dissertation research.

  1. Student will be able to formulate novel questions or hypotheses, and test these hypotheses by independently designing, performing, and optimizing experiments, and interpreting the data resulting from these experiments.
  2. Student will demonstrate self-directed learning skills through reading the scientific literature, talking to colleagues/scientists both in this institution and nationally/internationally, attending seminars and lunches with the seminar speaker, attending scientific meetings, and through webinars.
  3. Student will increase their proficiency in oral and written communications.
  4. Student will gain experience supervising and teaching others in laboratory research.
  5. Student will learn to defend ideas, approaches, and conclusions in front of other scientists.
  6. Student will be able to conduct research in an ethical manner, maintaining appropriate documentation of their activities, and complying with all University, state and federal regulations associated with research.


Performance in research is evaluated with the grades of S, U or I and written comments from their mentor and/or Dissertation Advisory Committee. All written comments will be part of the student’s file kept both in the graduate program office and the Office of Research and Graduate Education. Students who receive letter grades of S but have consistent written concerns may be recommended for remediation. These written concerns can be used in subsequent disciplinary actions by the graduate program. A grade of U subjects a student to probation and can be grounds for dismissal when it follows a consistent pattern of written concerns despite the presence of a grade of S when those concerns were noted. Receiving 2 U’s in research can be grounds for dismissal from the graduate program and/or the University.

Criteria for grade

S – Student makes progress toward dissertation completion and progress in achieving the learning outcomes listed above; demonstrates a strong work ethic by an organized approach to experiments and activities of self-directed learning; conducts experiments in a timely and responsible manner; maintains a safe and effective work environments; and demonstrate good laboratory citizenship. Student organizes and meets with the dissertation advisory committee on an annual basis or more frequently if requested by the committee, the graduate program director, or the assistant VP for graduate education. Student achieves benchmarks set forth by their dissertation committee and the graduate program. Student is routinely present in the laboratory and communicates absences to their dissertation mentor before the absence occurs.

U – Unsatisfactory performance in research can involve any of the following. Failure to make sustained progress toward completion of the dissertation research; inability to master or to demonstrate progress in mastering the expected outcomes listed above; extended absences or a consistent pattern of absences without approval; breach of University rules for the safe and ethical conduct of research; disruptive behavior in the laboratory; and failure to meet benchmarks set forth by the mentor, dissertation advisory committee, or graduate program.

I – An incomplete in research can be given if a student fails to meet a specific benchmark. This can include failure to have a meeting of the dissertation advisory committee in the previous 12 months, failure to draft a manuscript of component of their dissertation proposal or the dissertation itself by a specified deadline, and/or failure to complete required regulatory compliance steps. An incomplete must be remediated within one semester or it automatically becomes a U.

Attendance Policy

The PhD degree is awarded based on the completion of the dissertation, not total time in the program. Thus dedication to the experiments and tasks associated with research are essential. Student should consult with his/her dissertation advisor regarding expectation for presence in the laboratory. This includes days of the week, hours during the day, and procedures for vacation and sick time. As a general guideline, the student should avoid vacations in excess of 2 weeks per year or use of more than one sick day per month. The student should not consider the credit hours of research to be directly proportional to the time spent doing research. If for personal or medical reasons, an extended absence is necessary. The student should consult the Leave of Absence Policy for requesting this leave.

Social Justice Statement

"West Virginia University is committed to social justice. I concur with that commitment and expect to maintain a positive learning environment based upon open communication, mutual respect, and non-discrimination. Our University does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, veteran’s status, religion, sexual orientation, color or national origin. Any suggestions as to how to further such a positive and open environment in this class will be appreciated and given serious consideration.

If you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing any type of accommodation in order to participate in this class, please advise the course coordinator and make appropriate arrangements with the Office of Disability Services (293-6700)."