Capstone/Independent Study

Coursework is only part of the experience you will gain while obtaining your undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences. You will also have the ability to distinguish yourselves from your classmates by engaging in projects outside the classroom. We encourage students to take advantage of the professional development opportunities that best suit their career goals. Read through the brief descriptions below and the other information that can be found through the links to the right 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

The Capstone/Independent study coordinator is Dr. Mallory. All paperwork should be submitted to his office by the required deadlines, and you can contact him if you have any questions that are not answered in the instructions.

Dr. David Mallory
Department of Biological Sciences, Marshall University
Science 350
1 John Marshall Dr
Huntington WV 25755


Phone: 304-696-2353

Critical Deadlines!

Please adhere to the following deadlines, failure to do this can lead to problems with your registration and/or grades. It is your responsibility to ensure that deadlines are met.

IMPORTANT: university policy stipulates that your transcript must accurately reflect the time period during which work was performed. Therefore, you must complete the required approvals before beginning work on any project, and credit will not be given for any experiences you have already completed. You are permitted to continue work you have already begun, for example, you may have been working in a lab since sophomore year, and you want to continue that work for your capstone. However, you must specify precisely what you plan to do during the semester you are registered for capstone, and all of that work must be completed during that semester. Failure to follow this guideline is in violation of university policy, and may result in your project being rejected or you receiving a failing grade.

Register for Capstone or Independent Study: Before the beginning of classes, in the semester during which the work will be performed. Please note: forms must be completed, submitted, and approved before registration can take place, and they can take some time, so start early.

Submission of Project Requirements: All evaluation materials must be submitted to the Biological Sciences office before the beginning of exam week during the semester registered. Further details on exactly what is required, and when, can be found in the instructions for your project, and on the “Forms” page.

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 majors to perform a Capstone project in their senior year. We currently offer two options for fulfilling your Capstone requirement:

A. Research Capstone. This option allows students to conduct research with a scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences. Each mentor/student team will design an appropriate research project that should be completed in one semester. It is expected that the student will have sufficient guidance from the mentor to undertake a meaningful research experience, and not be exclusively engaged in administrative or cleanup work. It is expected that a minimum of 90 hours of research time (in addition to outside reading and development of the final report) will be dedicated to completing this work. While the details of the requirements will be up to the mentor/student team, it is highly encouraged that some form of oral presentation of the completed project be part of the student’s responsibilities. The final grade will be assigned by the research mentor.

B. Shadowing Capstone. This option allows students with interests in clinical careers to shadow/intern with a clinician in a specific profession e.g. Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, etc. To successfully complete this option, students must arrange a minimum of 90 hours of supervised shadowing with a clinical professional or group. This voluntary, non-paid position should provide the student with insights and opportunities to learn about that profession not available through other means. It is imperative that the time the student spends in this shadowing position be geared toward the clinical aspects of the profession, not the front office. In addition to the 90 hours of work, the student will be required to keep a log/diary of each days assignments and to write a summary paper of the experience. The final grade will come 50% from the mentor’s evaluation, and 50% from assessment of the log and summary paper.

Independent Study

The Department of Biological Sciences provides the opportunity for 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. The main criteria in determining a suitable Independent Study project is ensuring that it is of real educational value to the student and that it encompasses practical or intellectual experiences that cannot be found in a regularly scheduled class. Students can register for between 1 and 4 hours of Independent Study credit, and the scope and size of the project should be tailored to match the number of hours. Details of the project are worked out between the student and faculty mentor, and it is expected that the student will receive sufficient guidance from the mentor to complete the project and have a meaningful learning experience. Some deliverable along the lines of a final written report or presentation is required.