Undergraduate independent study

While there is no independent study, internship, or research experience required as part of the undergraduate experience in Forensic Science, many students find opportunity during their time here at VCU to perform research.  Please review the information below and terms outlined in the Undergraduate independent study application to find out the procedure for applying for an independent study, then contact Dr. Catherine Connon, the Undergraduate Director, at cmconnon@vcu.edu.

Interest meetings are held each semester by the Undergraduate Director.

The Fall 2017 interest meeting will be held: Thursday, November 16 from 11-11:30am in Temple 3305

General information
  • Class standing – junior or senior.
  • GPA – minimum overall GPA of 2.5.
  • Maximum credits – six credits of independent study may be accepted toward graduation (though more may be completed, if desired).
  • Minimum hours of supervised activity – three hours per week per credit hour (3 credit hour assignment requires 9 hours/week or 144 hours/semester).
  • Grading – a letter grade as assigned by the supervising faculty member.
Enrollment procedure
  • Students should speak with and identify a supervising faculty member with whom he/she will conduct the independent study. The project and the number of credits during the semester prior to performing the work shall be determined before beginning the project.
  • Students and their supervising faculty mentor must complete the Undergraduate independent study application. Once this is turned in to and approved by the Undergraduate Director, she will request an override on the student's behalf.
  • 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.
  • Students must prepare a 2- to 3-page Proposal in consultation with the supervising faculty member. The proposal should detail the work in which the student will be engaged, including
    • an introduction providing brief background information and the goals and/or objectives of the work
    • a description of the work to be performed, including any experimental design and a budget (if no costs are anticipated, please include this information)
    • a detailed weekly-timetable for the conduct and completion of the work, including the submission of a final report. If two students will be working on a project, a joint proposal may be submitted, but must contain detailed descriptions of each student’s responsibilities for the overall project.
  • The supervising faculty member will review the proposal and, upon accepting it, the student will email the proposal to the Undergraduate Director for final authorization. The program director will inform the student and faculty member of the acceptance or rejection of the proposal.
  • All proposal requests must be submitted to the Undergraduate Director by 5pm on the tenth day of class for the semester (or fifth day for the summer session). All students registered for independent study who fail to meet this deadline will be dropped from the class the following Monday.

Effective Summer 2015 moving forward

All students all required to take the online CITI course on RCR 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: www.citiprogram.org. At this site, “Create an Account” will take trainees to a page where they enter their organization (VCU), their account information, and their choice of general RCR training. Training is free but requires a vcu.edu account.

For more information on this new policy, please visit VCU’s Policy on Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) and Scholarship

Final report and grade evaluation

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. Please 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
  • Punctuality
  • Attitude
  • Self-reliance
  • Productivity


Download the Undergraduate independent study application.

Current Opportunities

View Current Research Programs at VCU through the Office of Research and Innovation

Research Assistant in the forensic molecular biology laboratory of Dr. Sarah Seashols-Williams.  Duties will include general QA/QC duties for laboratory maintenance, perform necessary laboratory techniques as needed.  Student may also serve as the lead investigator on an assigned research project, including completing experiments, compiling data, and writing/revising protocols.  Requirements:  Forensic Science or other natural science major with GPA >2.75.  Completed coursework through Cell Biology preferred, but not required.  Email Dr. Williams at sseashols@vcu.edu for more information. 

Independent Study position in the Goodwin Research Lab with Dr. Sumitra Deb.  Send  Catherine Vaughan (vaughanca@vcu.edu) your complete CV and names of references (3).  Your resume 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, check out  http://www.people.vcu.edu/~ sdeb/.