Capstone and Independent Study

Experiences outside the classroom

Coursework is only part of the experience you will gain while obtaining your degree in Biological Sciences. Projects outside the classroom give you the ability to distinguish yourselves from your classmates. We encourage you to take advantage of professional development opportunities suited to your career goals. You can at any time engage in individual projects on a volunteer basis, or you can submit proposals for Capstone or Independent Study credit. Read through the brief descriptions below to help you decide what option best fits your needs, then click on one of the options under “Instructions” at the bottom of this page for detailed information and instructions for submitting your proposal.

Contact information

Submit all paperwork to the Capstone/Independent Study coordinator by the required deadlines. Direct any questions to the coordinator:

Dr. Brian Antonsen
Department of Biological Sciences
Science Building
1 John Marshall Dr
Huntington WV 25755

Phone: 304-696-6496

Critical Deadlines!

Please adhere to the following deadlines, failure to do this can lead to problems with your registration and/or grades. Meeting deadlines is your responsibility.

Important: your transcript must accurately reflect the time you performed any work. Therefore, you must complete the required approvals before beginning work on any project. You may not receive credit for any experiences you have already completed. Current projects can continue. For example, you may have been working in a lab since sophomore year, and you wish to continue for your Capstone.  Likewise, you may continue prior shadowing experiences, but you must complete 90 hours while registered. Failure to follow this guideline is in violation of university policy, and may result in project rejection or a failing grade.

Register for Capstone or Independent Study: Before start of classes, in the semester during which the work will be performed. Please note: forms must be completed, submitted, and approved before you will be permitted to register, so start early.

Submission of Project Requirements: All final evaluation materials must be submitted  before final exams. Further details on requirements can be found in the instructions for your project (below), and will be provided in the syllabus and course handouts once your project begins.

Applications for Undergraduate Research Grants or Tuition Waivers: See deadlines listed on the individual application forms (found on “Forms” page).


The Department of Biological Sciences requires all undergraduate majors to perform a Capstone project in their junior or senior year (senior year strongly recommended). We currently offer two main options. If neither of the options below seems to fit your needs, contact the capstone coordinator to discuss possibilities.
A. Research Capstone. You conduct research with a working scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences or, with justification, in other departments. Each mentor/student team designs an appropriate research project to complete in one semester. We expect sufficient guidance from your mentor to allow a meaningful research experience, and you should not engage primarily in administrative or cleanup work. You must complete a minimum of 90 hours of hands-on research time, in addition to outside reading and development of the final report. You must submit a final project to the department for assessment. While the details of the project will be up to each mentor/student team, we encourage some form of oral presentation to be part of your responsibilities. The department assigns your final grade.
B. Shadowing Capstone. You shadow with a mentor in a specific profession e.g. Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Parks Service, etc. You must arrange a minimum of 90 hours of supervised shadowing with a professional or group. This voluntary, non-paid position should provide you with insights and opportunities to learn about that profession not available through other means. This shadowing position must focus on the professional aspects of your career, not the front office. You must keep a log/diary of each days experience, and write a summary paper of the experience. We may consider alternatives to the log and paper if applicable, contact the capstone coordinator before beginning your project to discuss options. The department assigns your final grade, based on the materials submitted near the end of term.

Independent Study

The Department of Biological Sciences provides the opportunity for undergraduate or graduate students to devise specialized educational experiences with a faculty mentor. These experiences may involve research in the lab or field, detailed library investigations into advanced topics, specialized training, or other outside the classroom experiences. Suitable Independent Study projects are of real educational value to you, and they encompass practical or intellectual experiences not found in a regularly scheduled class. You may register for between 1 to 4 hours of Independent Study credit, with the scope and size of the project tailored to match the number of hours. Students and faculty mentors work together to form details of the project, and we expect sufficient guidance from your mentor to allow a meaningful research experience. Projects must result in some deliverable, such as a talk poster, or paper.