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Experiential Learning


Experiential Learning

research, teaching, leadership, study abroad

1. Research Experience

Students often begin to work in research labs as early as their freshman year. Eighty percent of graduates obtain research experience during their undergraduate career. 

Norah Warchola Picture
Dr. Norah Warchola
Experiential Learning Coordinator

Experiential Learning Coordinator

The experiential learning coordinator is a unique resource available to genetics, biology, and environmental science majors. 

"I specialize in connecting biology, genetics and environmental science students with experiential learning. This includes campus based research experiences and outside internships. Please contact me if you have questions about how to get involved in student research." - Dr. Warchola

Connect with information and open positions here


Freshman Research Opportunity in Gene Editing

Any interested Genetics student may sign up for BIOL 423L (Developmental BiologyZebrafish image Lab, 1 credit) taught in Spring semesters.  This lab is overseen by Dr. Jeff Essner and involves gene-editing in zebrafish using the CRISPR-Cas9 system.  Student have the opportunity to select a gene of interest related to a human disease of their choice and use gene editing technology to remove or modify the gene. Students then evaluate the effects such as changes in survival, morhpology, and system functions. Students receive an introduction to bioinformatics, PCR, gel electrophoresis, DNA and RNA isolation, fluorescence microscopy and more. Taken as a freshman, it teaches skills that can be very useful in obtaining further research opportunities both on and off campus.

Genetics Specific Research Opportunities:Lab work

GEN 299/499 Research Credit

Students are encouraged to ask their faculty advisors and instructors about openings in their laboratories. 

Genetics-related research experiences with Iowa State faculty can count directly towards degree requirements.  Students can earn credit for introductory research experiences by signing up for GEN 299, while more senior students, or those with prior experience can register for GEN  499 or GEN 499H. Typically 1 credit hour is awarded for 3 hours of lab work per week. Students generally earn 1-2 credits per semester for 299 or 1-3 credits for 499/499H.  499 credits may be used in the Advanced Science Electives area.




The appropriate contract should be completed by the student and research mentor and returned to Dr. Norah Warchola,

Freshmen Honors Research Projects

Freshman Honors students have the opportunity to participate in research for HON 290 credit.  Many students continue to work in the lab in which they did their HON 290 coursework.  Honors students are required to complete a capstone project before graduation.


2. Teaching Opportunities 

Students have many opportunities to gain teaching experience.  Undergraduate teaching assistants facilitate student-centered learning activities in large lecture classes such as BIOL 212 and work with graduate teaching assistants in BIOL 211L, 212L, and GEN 313L.  Students are typically awarded course credit, GEN 492, for this work.  Student who have performed well in coursework are sought after by departments to be Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leaders and Tutors. Genetics students often choose to be SI leaders for CHEM courses as a great way to review material before taking the MCAT exam.  SI Leaders and Tutors are paid positions.  Peer mentors also hold study sessions and reviews for the freshmen students.


3. Leadership Opportunities

Iowa State University has over 600 student organizations, all looking for participants and officers.  Students also hold leadership positions in the Department of Residence, as Ambassadors for Colleges, as Cyclone Aides, and as Destination Iowa State Leaders. 


4. Study Abroad Opportunitiesstudy abroad snorkeling

There are numerous possibilities for study abroad. Genetics majors who plan to take a semester or entire year studying abroad should plan ahead and work carefully with their academic advisor to be sure that courses will meet requirements here.  There are six semesters of "sequenced" course work (courses requiring prerequisites) in both the Biology/Genetics and the Chemistry/Biochemistry area so it is possible to graduate in eight semesters in which two do not contribute to those sequenced courses.  However, the most popular study abroad program with Genetics students is the ISU on the Mediterranean: Summer in Valencia, Spain.  Students typically earn 3 research credits and 3 credits of Spanish language or culture. Roatan Island Study Abroad