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Research and Other Experiential Learning Opportunities

How do I gain research experience?

Students can begin to work in research labs as early as their freshman year. 80% of graduates obtain research experience during their undergraduate career. 

Dr. Norah Warchola
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

BIOL 4230L: Developmental Biology Lab

Any interested Genetics student may sign up for BIOL 4230L. This lab involves gene-editing in zebrafish using the CRISPR-Cas9 system.  Students 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, morphology, 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.

BIOL 3110X: Genome Editing and Engineering

Open to any interested students. Hands-on experiences in molecular cloning, CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, and imaging techniques. Novel biological and cellular processes and disease-related pathways in mammalian cell culture and other model systems will be investigated through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated mutagenesis approaches. Satisfactory-fail only.

A plant sciences focused gene editing course is currently being developed.

Genetics Internship Opportunity

Summer research internships with faculty are administered through the Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology (GDCB) and are available to students majoring in Genetics. These paid internships provide students an opportunity to conduct full-time hands-on research in the discipline. Fung Summer Internship in Genetics 

Research for Credit

Genetics-related research experience with Iowa State faculty can directly apply to degree requirements.  Students can earn credit for introductory research experiences by signing up for GEN 2990, while more senior students, or those with prior experience can register for GEN  4990 or GEN 4990H. Typically 1 credit hour is awarded for 3 hours of lab work per week. GEN 4990 credits may be used in the Advanced Science Electives area of the degree requirements.




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

Research experience is also available through the Honors Program.

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 2110L, 2120L, and GEN 3130L. Students are typically awarded course credit, GEN 4920, 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. 

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,  Destination Iowa State Leaders and Learning Community Peer Mentors.

Study Abroad Opportunities

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.  However, the most popular study abroad program with Genetics students is the ISU on the Mediterranean: Summer in Valencia, Spain or Caribbean Marine Biology, Roatan Island, Honduras Study Abroad. In Valencia, students typically earn 3 research credits and 3 credits of Spanish language or culture. The Roatan Island trip is 1 credit of advanced biology.