Senior Thesis

Members of the Biology faculty pride themselves on being able to offer Villanova undergraduates the opportunity to be involved in meaningful biological research. We welcome all qualified students to consider including a research experience in their undergraduate curriculum.

Undergraduate research may be conducted over a single semester, or over more than a year. To get a taste of research, students may arrange with a faculty member to take Directed Research (Bio 6509), in which they complete a project lasting one semester. Any Biology major having a GPA of at least 3.0 can work toward a senior thesis (Bio 6609, 6610, 6709) that would involve at least two semesters of research for credit.

Completion of the full Senior Thesis sequence will fulfill the Castone Requirement in the Core Curriculum.

List of Recently Completed Senior Theses

Student Mentor Thesis Title
Breanna Bennett
Dr. Robert Curry Exploratory behavior as a component of personality in hybridizing chickadees
Gregory Branigan Dr. Angela DiBenedetto Epigenetic transcriptional co-regulator Brb2b is necessary for proper excretory, circulatory, and central nervous system development in zebrafish and may act antagonistically with paralog Brd2a
Emily Duffner Dr. Janice Knepper Identifying the structural motif required for ZC3H8 to induce mammary gland carcinogenesis
Laine Feller Dr. James Wilson The role of the iprAgene in mutagenic DNA repair in SalmonellaTyphimurium
Megan Foley Dr. Adam Langley Does microbial community composition matter for decomposition?
Jakub Glowala Dr. Dennis Wykoff The role of nucleosome positioning in Candida glabratagene regulation
Haun Hwang Dr. Anil Bamezai Investigating the role of lipid raft-based membrane order in CD4+ T cells on cellular proliferation and survival
Luke Izzo Dr. Elaine Youngman Quantifying Downstream Regulatory Output as a Way to Understand the Biogenesis Pathways of Endogenous siRNAs in C. elegans
Abigail Maguire Dr. John Olson Physiological effects of diet and exercise on ketone body metabolism in European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)
Laura Meissner Dr. Elaine Youngman
Investigating the heritability of a learned pathogen avoidance behavior in Caenorhabditis elegans
Linda Nguyen Dr. Aimee Eggler Understanding why your veggies are good for you: The role of hydrogen peroxide in electrophile-induced Nrf2/ARE activation
Danielle Sens-Castet Dr. Dennis Wykoff The Importance of Regulatory Factor THI3 across Ascomycota Fungi Thiamine Biosynthesis
Gerard Walker Dr. Janice Knepper Deregulation of Dzip11 in Fliz1 Induced Tumor Cell Aggression
Teresa Cannone Dr. Samantha Chapman
How do elevated temperatures impact soil respiration rates in a nitrogen-saturated temperate forest ecosystem?
Patrick Frangos Dr. Janice Knepper
The Effect of Fliz1 Deregulation in Human and Mouse Breast Cancer Cells
Laura Graf Dr. James W. Wilson The expression of cloned S. Typhimurium Pdu microcompartments in other Gram negative bacteria
Dana Grieco Dr. Mike Russell
Agar-based diets for assessing nutritional value of sediment ingestion: the picky-eater sea urchin conundrum!
Erin Hannon Dr. Louise Russo
Characterizing the effects of GPER on estrogen- induced inflammation and matrix remodeling of rat uteri utilizing in-vivo morpholinos
Elsie Howell Dr. John Olson
Bilirubin and it's mediation of oxidative stress in the liver in response to acute and chronic exercise
Rebecca Lin Dr. Aimee Eggler
Role of reactive oxygen species in electrophile- mediated Nrf2 activation
Tara Malanga Dr. Adam Langley
Does nitrogen addition irreversibly alter soil microbial community composition and function?
Prem Patel Dr. Matt Youngman
Innate Immunity in Adult C. elegans Requires DAF-18, an Evolutionarily Conserved Phosphatase
Prasanth Romiyo Dr. Louise Russo
NF-kB Knock-Down in the Immature Rat's Uterine Inflammatory Response
Erin Rosenberg Dr. Elaine Youngman An examination of the regulatory architecture that governs Argonaute protein expression in the germline of Caenorhabditis elegans.
Jani Swiatek Dr. Janice Knepper
The role of ZC3H8 in breast cancer cell invasion, phenotypes, and in transcription through the Little Elongation Complex

How much research you complete is up to you, in consultation with your advisor and supervising faculty member—but the effort is virtually never wasted: few things can better help you stand out from your competitors when it comes time to apply for graduate school, professional programs, or employment. Until you try your hand at research, you can’t make an informed decision about pursuing (or ruling out) many career options.

How do I get started in research at Villanova?

Learn about the research activities of our faculty as soon as you can. Visit the faculty pages on this web site to gain a sense of what different members of the faculty do. Follow this up by going to see any faculty member whose work interests you: make an appointment, or just drop by during office hours. It never hurts to ask about opportunities that might exist!

Work part-time as a laboratory or field assistant during the regular school year, or over the summer. Ample opportunities exist for helping faculty and their graduate students in the tasks that are central to biological research, while earning hourly pay. Duties may include laboratory preparation, care of animals, preparation of specimens, computerized data entry, or collection of data or samples in the lab or field. Working in several different labs can expose you to a range of possibilities for independent study, while helping you get to know several different faculty with whom you might want to work. Some faculty members will suggest a project to get you started; others would prefer to see you develop a general interest in the work being done, from which ideas for a specific project can develop. Experience gained in this way at Villanova or elsewhere can develop into an independent research project.

One key to research success is to get involved as early as possible during your undergraduate career. Beginning senior thesis research in the fall of your Senior year might be OK for someone doing only library research, but scientific research in the laboratory or field usually involves unpredictability and therefore frustration and delays. The amount of time needed to complete a project often varies by biological subdisciplines. In molecular biology, for example, it may make sense to wait until you have taken advanced coursework before attempting a laboratory project. (Still, there’s much to be gained from prior exposure to the activities of a lab as an hourly worker assisting with the research.) Also, lab-based biology can usually be done throughout the year, including winter, so you can work throughout Senior year. In contrast, research in field biology (e.g., ecology or behavior) may require more advance planning, especially if a phenomenon of interest (e.g., breeding or germination) only occurs during the summer. It’s not uncommon for students doing ecological studies to begin working with a faculty member during their Sophomore year, with their major “push” for data collection taking place during the summer between their Junior and Senior year. The earlier you have data in hand, the more time you will have to complete a satisfying and scientifically valuable senior thesis.

The commitment of time and effort required for completing a senior thesis is probably going to be greater than you might think. Your senior thesis will involve extensive planning, data collection, analysis, and preparation of the thesis document (usually a report comprising 20 or more pages, along with figures and tables reporting your original results). Thus, a thesis is not worth doing unless you are able to make this a high priority during your Senior year (and, perhaps, the year before that). And yes, it does involve a lot more work than that required for the biology degree. Still, completing a thesis is without doubt worth the effort if done well. You have an opportunity at Villanova to gain research experience through work on a thesis that students at many schools are not given. Further, it will give you an opportunity to make a scientific contribution that will be significant in your applications to graduate and professional school. The Department of Biology would be happy to see more of its majors succeed in meeting this challenge.

Students completing the degree requirements for the Bachelor of Science, Honors Program (B.S.H.) are required to complete a Senior Thesis, but you do not have to be an Honors major to do research for a thesis; you just have to be an interested Biology major with a GPA over 3.0.

Research funding

Opportunities exist to obtain financial support for your research activity. In particular, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences now has a generous program for Undergraduate Research Grants for summer work or for research during the school year. Students conducting research under the direction of Biology faculty mentors have had great success in this program. Additional possibilities exist for support from faculty research grants or from external student award programs. Contact your advisor or research mentor for more information.