Neuroscience Independent Research (NRSC 3999)

Independent Research Application Form

*Note: The submission deadline for Fall 2024 is September 3rd at 4pm. The first mandatory seminar will be held on Monday September 16th at 3:00pm. Plan accordingly.

Note that this Pre-proposal form should be emailed to Dr. McLean by April 1st, before applying for Independent Research credit.

All questions regarding independent research should be directed to Dr. McLean, head of the undergraduate Neuroscience Research Program (jmclean@sas)

Independent research proposals should be submitted via the link above.

The undergraduate Neuroscience Program encourages all students to pursue sponsored research while at Penn. Whether one plans to go on to medical school, graduate school or pursue another path, the experience gained while conducting research enhances one's undergraduate career.

Research Sponsors - It is suggested that students begin contacting potential research advisors in the semester preceding the term in which the student intends to pursue NRSC 3999/BIBB 399 credit. Only Juniors and Seniors can receive independent research credit.

Research should be based in the broad area of neuroscience and the biological basis of behavior. Students may review Neuroscience Graduate Group faculty research interests to find a potential research advisor at The Neuroscience Program Advising Office will also assist students in finding a faculty member whose research matches their interest; students should visit during scheduled advising hours.

The undergraduate Neuroscience Program will accept neuroscience research done with any standing faculty member of the College, medical school or veterinary school at Penn, Monell and CHOP. Students may not be sponsored by lecturers or postdoctoral fellows, although standing faculty members may oversee work mentored by someone in one of these categories. Any exception to this rule must be obtained in writing from the Director's Office, and such permission must be requested prior to the semester in which the research is to be taken.

Research Projects - Students should develop their projects in consultation with their research sponsor. It is expected that the sponsors will initially guide this discussion, but as students gain experience in the lab, it is expected that they will take a leading role in their research project. The Neuroscience Program requires students pursuing research to gather their own data relevant to the scientific hypothesis being tested. The Neuroscience Program will not accept research involving surveys, literature reviews, or analysis of existing data.

Students wishing to do research that is not approved for credit within the Neuroscience major should consider College 99 by contacting the College Advising Office.

Registration Process - Juniors and Seniors should submit an independent  research proposal online at the beginning of the semester, but no later than one week after the beginning of the semester. The Proposal should be 1-2 pages long (minimum 3 full paragraphs) and explain the research that the student intends to pursue. Students should review the Proposal with their research sponsor for accuracy. The Proposal must include the following sections:

Hypothesis/Goal of the research
Methods to be used
Bibliography of relevant literature (at least 10 papers assigned by the advisor which the student has read)

The research proposals of Juniors and Seniors will be evaluated and students will be registered for NRSC 3999 by the NRSC Office. Students may not register for Independent Research through Path at Penn. Please note that NRSC 1110 - Introduction to the Biological Basis of Behavior is a pre-requisite for NRSC 3999. Students may not exceed 5.5 c.u. during any semester in which they are receiving Neuroscience research credit. No student shall be allowed to register for more than 2 Neuroscience research credits.

Activity during the semester - Students should plan the research paper and work on it throughout the term. This is the point of requiring that a bibliography and research proposal be submitted in advance of registration for NRSC 3999. The student should devote approximately 10-12 hours per week to the research which should include a weekly meeting of at least 1 hour with a preceptor or mentor in the lab or research group to discuss the background and organization of the work, and the interpretation of results. The student should not focus entirely on mastering the experimental methodology. It is understood that not every research project can be expected to reach completion in a single semester. However, it is expected that the student demonstrate a reasonable degree of mastery over the problem or matter under study in a written document.

Required Seminars  - Students taking NRSC 3999 are required to attend two seminars given by the Neuroscience Research Coordinator. The first seminar is a discussion of how to carry out independent research.  The second seminar is a discussion of how to write a research paper.  Students taking NRSC 3999 are encouraged to attend the honors seminars as well as the Annual Student Research Symposium.

Research Paper - For each semester of sponsored research credit, the student must submit a paper of 10-15 double-spaced typewritten pages in length to their research supervisor as well as upload a copy to the NRSC 3999 canvas site by the end of the final exam period. The paper is to be written in 11 point Arial type. The paper is to be taken as seriously as a term paper in a course whose grade depends primarily upon it. The research paper differs from a term paper in that it is devoted to the specific scientific problem upon which the research is focused. The paper should be in the form of a scientific progress report. Each paper should include the following sections:


Students may review the Journal of Neuroscience website for guidelines. The student is expected to demonstrate in the paper a genuine understanding of the scientific background of the problem, and of the logic that ties the experimental work to the problem.

Each paper should include a section on "Contributions" to acknowledge contributions to the research accomplished. It is expected that the research paper has not been submitted and will not be submitted for credit in another course. Students are expected to follow Penn's Code of Academic Integrity. Students caught plagiarizing may face either academic or disciplinary negative consequences.

Grading Process - Grades are based upon performance, which includes understanding the material and successfully communicating that understanding in writing (i.e., upon its substantive content, and its quality as a written document). The Research Sponsor will be responsible for reading and grading the paper and submitting the grade by the time that is designated by the Registrar's Office. The Director will retain the prerogative of challenging a grade assignment if the submitted paper is inadequate or for any unexcused absences.

Incompletes - Students who have not completed their research by the end of the semester may be granted either a short Incomplete (I) or a long Incomplete (II). The short Incomplete must be made up within the first four weeks of the next regular semester in which the student is enrolled. The long Incomplete must be made up by the end of the next regular semester in which the student is enrolled. In either case, if the Incomplete is not made up by the deadline, it will become an F. The Incomplete is made up only when the official grade is received by the College Office. After a grade is converted to an F, the instructor may choose to change it. Please review the College policies regarding incompletes and note the consequences:

Credit - Students may apply up to two course units of independent research towards their Neuroscience elective requirements. Credit may only be given for research done on-campus during the Fall or Spring semester. Please note that if students are working in the laboratory for pay, they are not eligible to also receive credit for this work.

Poster Presentation - Students doing more than one semester of independent research will be required to present a poster at the Neuroscience Student Research Symposium held in April of each year.

Student Publications - Click here for a list of published articles with a Neuroscience/BBB major as a co-author.