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University of Pittsburgh    
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
  Jun 25, 2024
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Life Sciences Research Certificate

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The goals of this certificate program are to enable students to: understand and apply key concepts in designing and performing authentic experimental research; learn and practice good science communication, ethics and responsible conduct in research; develop research practices and critical thinking skills needed for a career in research; and compile evidence of rigorous training in research for applicants to jobs and graduate programs. Students must complete four terms of inquiry-based research in lab or field settings under faculty mentorship, overseen by Research Certificate Oversight Committee, two courses about research methods, three courses focusing on quantitative skills, one course in history and philosophy of science, and written and oral presentations of their research.

Application Requirements


  1. Introductory Biology. Completed two terms of introductory biology, with a grade of C [not C-] or above. Transfers or students with AP/IB credit may be exempt from part of this requirement.
  2. Completed 2 credits of mentored research in a Certificate-approved faculty laboratory (one term; min. 140 hrs.; BIOSC 1903 /BIOSC 1904  or NROSCI 1901 /NROSCI 1961  or equivalent) and have a letter of support from the faculty sponsor.
  3. GPA. If students have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or lower after completing the initial term of research, the faculty sponsor must comment in their letter of support on whether the student is likely to meet the rigorous demands of the Certificate.

Requirements to Complete the Certificate

Mentored Research in Life Sciences

  • Components of mentored research projects: Formulation of hypotheses, experimental design, data collection, data interpretation, drawing conclusions supported by the data. Presentation of research findings, understanding the pertinent scientific literature, developing new knowledge, and development of a path towards research independence.
  • Research credit requirements: Three additional terms (each term; min. 140 hours.; BIOSC 1903 /BIOSC 1904  or NROSCI 1901 /NROSCI 1961  or equivalent.) of research for a total of at least 8 credits or credit equivalents. BIOSC 1903 /BIOSC 1904  and NROSCI 1901  /NROSCI 1961  must be approved and credits awarded according to departmental procedures. The final 2 terms of research must be with the same faculty mentor. Research equivalents must be approved by the RCOC.
  • Pre-planning and Reporting for each Term: Pre-planning and Reporting: In the last week of classes before the next term of research (see B above), students must submit a 1-2 page report and prospectus summarizing accomplishments and aims for the next term. RCOC determines whether the research can count towards the Certificate before the end of the add/drop period. Oversight: Reporting documents must be co-signed by the faculty sponsor (and co-sponsor if any).
  • Choice of Research Faculty: Research-active faculty in the Departments of Biological Sciences or Neuroscience may sponsor students for research in their labs. Faculty sponsors in other A&S departments or other University of Pittsburgh schools must be approved by RCOC.
  • Optional Off-campus Research Term: One term of off-campus research may be approved (e.g. summer fellowship or study abroad). Submit in advance a 1-page description to RCOC of the project and the research environment plus a letter from the research advisor confirming commitment to the ≥140 hours of research activity.

Research Methods Courses

  • Complete two Research Methods courses, one in research communication and one in research mechanics. It is recommended that the research courses be in the student’s major department.
  • Be enrolled in the Certificate and performing research in a Certificate-approved lab during the same term as enrolled in these courses. Courses may be taken in any order. Substitution of other Research Methods courses must be pre-approved by RCOC.

Presenting Research

The student must present their research at two scientific meetings or symposia, at least one venue must be outside of major and research Departments. Ex.: Honors College Research Fair, Science20xx, Duquesne Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium, regional or national scientific meeting. Presentation and abstract must be designed and delivered by the student and approved by the research faculty advisor and RCOC. The research abstract and a copy of poster or talk must be submitted to RCOC.

Research paper

The student will submit a manuscript describing the research completed in the final research experience spanning at least two consecutive terms. This will be in the form of a research manuscript. The paper must be submitted to the faculty sponsor and the RCOC by the last week of classes before finals week. The paper must be approved by the faculty sponsor and RCOC. The same final research paper may be considered for satisfying both Departmental Honors and the Research Certificate, provided it fulfills other requirements of the Department.

Portfolio Documentation

Upon registration for the Certificate, students must start (and regularly update) their electronic Portfolio, documenting their progress towards Certificate completion. Each proposal, presentation, research report, and other Certificate-related materials must be collated in the Portfolio. The Portfolio allows students, faculty, and advisors to review progress towards the Certificate, and provides coherent documentation of research proficiency when applying for employment or graduate school admission.

GPA Requirements

The student must remain in good academic standing (minimum cumulative GPA 2.00); if students have a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or lower after completing the initial term of research, the faculty sponsor for that research must comment in writing their letter of support on whether the student is likely to meet the rigorous demands of the Certificate.


Majors in the Departments of Biological Sciences or Neuroscience will be advised through their departments. Students outside of these majors will be assigned an advisor within one of these majors.

Students conducting research with a faculty member who does not work in the Departments of Biological Sciences or Neuroscience must have their research faculty sponsor complete a Faculty Mentor Application unless they are a CNUP faculty member. Students must submit the faculty mentor application with their application for the certificate.

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