Unlocking the secrets of crime: Dive into forensic science with an independent research study!
While not required, many students find opportunities over the course of their VCU studies to perform research-based and hypothesis-driven independent studies to deepen their understanding of a research topic of interest. Many will have a significant laboratory component but this is not required. Non-laboratory based independent studies are an acceptable option as long as they center around a research question.
Please review the information below to learn more about who is eligible for an independent study, as well as the general enrollment process.
To qualify for an independent study, an undergraduate student must:
- be enrolled in VCU and in the forensic science undergraduate program for at least one semester prior to and throughout the independent study
- be a sophomore, junior or senior
- have completed FRSC 300 with a minimum grade of C
- have a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5
- A maximum of six credits of FRSC 492 may be applied toward graduation (though more may be completed, if desired)
- Credit hours enrolled must be commensurate with total independent study hours for a 16-week semester:
- 3 credit hours: ≥125 supervised hours
- 2 credit hours: ≥83 supervised hours
- 1 credit hour: ≥42 supervised hours
- Students are assigned a letter grade by the supervising faculty member
- Students should speak with and identify a supervising faculty member (mentor) with whom he/she will conduct the independent study. The project and the number of credits shall be determined before attempting to enroll in FRSC 492.
- Students and their faculty mentor must complete the Independent Study Contract [DocuSign]. Once this is approved by the undergraduate director, an override will be requested on the student's behalf. The undergraduate director will provide the student and mentor with any necessary forms, due dates, etc. required for the independent study.
- Once an override is granted, students must follow the provided instructions to enroll during pre-registration, registration or add/drop. Students who submit their paperwork after the add/drop deadline has passed risk rejection of their project for the current semester.
- Near the beginning of the semester in which the student is enrolled in an independent study, the undergraduate director will send the student and their mentor an informational email outlining the requirements for FRSC 492. This will include necessary forms, information on completion of CITI training and due dates.
- Students are required to take the online CITI course on research conduct as soon as they sign up for FRSC 492. This online course is hosted by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) and can be found at the CITI Program website. Clicking on "Register" at the top of the page will take trainees to a page where they enter their organization (VCU) and set up their account. Once set up, search for the "Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Basic Module." Students need to complete this module plus any others required by their research mentor. CITI training is free but requires a vcu.edu account. For more information on this policy, please visit VCU’s Policy on Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarship.
- Students must complete the Independent Study Overview Form in consultation with their mentor (this will be provided by the undergraduate director). The mentor will review the Study Overview and, upon accepting it, the student will email it to the undergraduate director for final authorization. The undergraduate director will inform the student and mentor of the acceptance or rejection of the overview.
- All study overview forms AND documentation of successful completion of the CITI RCR training must be emailed to the undergraduate director by 5:00 p.m. on the tenth day of class for the semester (or fifth day for short summer sessions). All students registered for independent study who fail to meet this deadline will be dropped from the class the following Monday.
A final scholarly report must be submitted to receive a passing grade. Although the format and contents of the report are left primarily to the discretion of the supervising faculty member, the report should include:
- An introduction providing background information and the goals and/or objectives of the work with references
- A methods or experimental design section
- Data with numbered tables, photos or figures
- Conclusion and discussion of the work completed with references
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar will be considered
At least one draft should be given to the supervising faculty member no later than the Wednesday prior to the beginning of final exams. The supervising faculty member will provide feedback on the draft. The final version is due to the supervising faculty member by the agreed upon date. The final report must be emailed to the undergraduate director no later than the last day of finals. A submitted research manuscript for publication or an abstract (including the poster or presentation slides) for a presentation at a scientific meeting may be considered in lieu of a written final report. Students should consult with the undergraduate director well in advance in order to determine if a manuscript or presentation with abstract is an acceptable substitution for the final report.
The supervising faculty member is responsible for assigning the final grade for the independent study. In addition to the final report, recommended areas for assessment or evaluation of the student might include:
- time management
- Student Opportunity Center: Find experiential learning activities like undergraduate research.
- Goodwin Research Lab: An independent study position with Dr. Sumitra Deb is available. Interested students should send Catherine Vaughan (email@example.com) a complete CV and three names of references. The CV should at least include your general work experience, your lab experiences and GPA. If you know your class schedule for the next semester, providing that would also be very helpful (or at least your hours of availability). To find out more about the research, visit the Laboratories of Swait Palit Deb and Sumitra Deb website. Please note that this opportunity will not count as FRSC 492 or FRSC 493. Students are eligible to enroll in BIOL 395 or BIOL 492.