The Capstone experience is a senior-level sequence of two courses integrating the discipline via mathematical modeling, simulation, and active research and report writing. Before and while taking the Capstone courses, students are expected to engage in research or similar internship project experience, overseen by a UCLA ladder faculty member. The Capstone experience culminates with the completion of a senior thesis.
Effective Fall 2021, there are three options for completing the Capstone courses*:
- Option 1: C&S BIO 199 (4 Units) AND C&S BIO M187 (4 Units)
- Option 2: C&S BIO 198A (4 Units) AND C&S BIO 198B (4 Units)
- Option 3: C&S BIO 195 (4 Units) AND C&S BIO M187 (4 Units)
While taking these Capstone courses, students are required to complete, at minimum, 2 quarters of research or similar internship project experience supervised by a UCLA faculty member. Students are advised, however, to start early, ideally by their junior year. It is recommended that students complete at least a year (or more) of research/project experience by the time they complete their second Capstone course. This helps ensure that students have sufficient material for their senior thesis. Students are expected to reach out to faculty and find their own project prior to taking the Capstone courses. More information can be found in the Expectations section below.
*Students who were admitted to the major (not the pre-major) prior to Fall 2020 are required to complete just one course: C&S BIO M187 (4 Units), however, they are still expected to have at least a year of research experience by the time they complete M187.
Differences Between the Capstone Options
All three Capstone options are designed to be parallel to one another. In all three series, students will be expected to complete a research or internship project supervised by a ladder faculty member and complete the following deliverables:
- Give a 10-minute presentation.
- Complete a poster for presentation at CaSB’s Poster Session/Research Symposium in Spring quarter.
- Complete an approximately 10-page or longer research/project paper.
Option 1: C&S BIO 199 (4 Units) AND C&S BIO M187 (4 Units)
- Students will secure a research project in a UCLA faculty member’s lab.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO 199 by submitting a 199 contract, signed by the faculty mentor, to the CaSB Undergraduate Office by Wednesday Week 2 of the quarter. Students will turn in tangible evidence of work completed (as specified in the contract) to the faculty mentor and CaSB Undergrad Office by Friday of Finals Week.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO M187 via MyUCLA during regular enrollment passes and complete Capstone deliverables (paper, poster, presentation) as part of class.
More info on Option 1 can be found here.
Option 2: C&S BIO 198A (4 Units) and C&S BIO 198B (4 Units)
- Students will secure a research project in a UCLA faculty member’s lab.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO 198A by submitting a 198A contract, signed by the faculty mentor, to the CaSB Undergraduate Office by Wednesday Week 2 of the quarter. Students will turn in a partial draft of their thesis paper to the faculty mentor and CaSB Undergraduate Office by Friday of Finals Week.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO 198B by submitting a 198B contract, signed by the faculty mentor, to the CaSB Undergraduate Office by Wednesday Week 2 of the quarter. Students will turn in their Capstone deliverables (paper, poster, presentation) to the faculty mentor and CaSB Undergraduate Office by Friday of Finals Week.
More info on Option 2 can be found here.
Option 3: C&S BIO 195 (4 Units) and C&S BIO M187 (4 Units)
- Students will secure an internship related to a computational biology project and identify both a UCLA faculty member and on-site supervisor who will oversee the internship experience.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO 195 by submitting a 195 contract (signed by the faculty mentor), copy of their internship offer letter, and On-Site Supervisor Contact Sheet, to the CaSB Undergraduate Office by Wednesday Week 1 of the quarter. Students will turn in a 2-3 page write-up of their internship project to the faculty mentor and CaSB Undergraduate Office by Friday of Finals Week. The on-site supervisor will also submit an evaluation form.
- Students will enroll in C&S BIO M187 via MyUCLA during regular enrollment passes and complete Capstone deliverables (paper, poster, presentation) based on their internship project as part of class.
More info on Option 3 can be found here.
Choosing a Capstone Option
Students will gain research/project experience and complete a thesis paper, presentation, and poster, regardless of the Capstone series they choose. The three series are designed to mirror each other. Students are encouraged to meet with the CaSB Departmental Counselor to discuss which option is best for them.
Options 1 & 2: These options are designed for students who are doing research in a UCLA faculty member’s lab. Students who desire a more structured research communications course where students get significant, individual feedback on their writing and presentation skills may want to consider Option 1. Students who foresee continuing research in graduate school or their careers, and want to build their research communication skills, may particularly benefit from taking C&S BIO M187.
On the other hand, students who feel comfortable completing their thesis without taking a separate research communications course (like C&S BIO M187), want more of the feedback to come directly from their primary investigator, or need to complete their thesis over different quarters (M187 is typically only offered in the Spring), may want to consider Option 2.
Option 3: This option is designed for students who are doing research outside of UCLA or a computational biology project via a corporate internship. Note, not all internships may be suitable for use towards the Capstone. Please see the Capstone Option 3 page for more details on internship expectations.
Students can take any Capstone option and be eligible for Departmental Honors. Students with a grade-point average of 3.5 or better in required major courses and a 3.0 cumulative GPA may apply for Departmental Honors during their graduating term. Eligible students will need to submit a copy of their senior thesis and will need to be recommended by their senior thesis advisor/primary investigator.
Research/Project Expectations for the Capstone Courses
Students are expected to find their own research or internship project prior to starting the Capstone courses. Students are required to complete, at minimum, two quarters of research or equivalent internship experience supervised by a UCLA ladder faculty member while they are enrolled in the Capstone courses. Students are advised, however, to start early, ideally finding a project in their junior year. Some research labs will not accept senior students due to the amount of time it takes to train and onboard a new student into the lab. Therefore, starting in the junior year is recommended.
Detailed instructions on what to look for in a project can be found on the pages for each Capstone option:
For the purposes of the Capstone classes, the research/project needs to be enough for a coherent story: a 10-minute presentation, a poster, and an approximately 10 pages or longer paper.
Presentation – The presentation should consist of approximately 10 slides that cover the following topics: Title, Background, Question that is being addressed by the research/project, Methods, Results, Conclusions, Future Directions, Acknowledgements. The presentation should be presented at the lab meeting of your host lab and recorded or in the C&S BIO M187 class.
Poster – The poster should be printed on a large (48”x 36”) sheet. The poster should contain a title, authors, abstract, figures of all results, conclusions, and references. A PowerPoint template will be provided in C&S BIO M187.
Research Thesis – The research thesis should follow standard guidelines for a scientific publication. The paper should be at least 10 pages single-spaced. It should include the following sections: Title, Authors, Affiliation, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions, Acknowledgements, and References. The references should follow the guidelines of a journal that is relevant to the research topic and there should be at least 10 references. The paper should also include at least four figures. Each of figure can contain multiple panels and should include a caption. Figures should be embedded within the text of the thesis rather than added to the end of the report. The final report should be submitted in PDF format.
Students will complete the above deliverables as part of their Capstone Courses.
Finding Research or Internships
Most students find research by directly emailing faculty members and asking about opportunities. The Undergraduate Research Center has a checklist on how to identify and contact faculty members, which students can find here. Many students use the CaSB Affiliated Faculty List to identify professors with similar research interests. Students can also look at the faculty lists of other departments that align with their interests and see if any of those professors are doing computational biology research.
There are also portals and pages where research opportunities are posted, including the Undergraduate Research Center Portal, the Computational Biosciences Undergraduate Research Portal, and the Bioinformatics Graduate Program’s Undergraduate Research page.
The UCLA Career Center is the primary resource on campus for finding internship opportunities, refining resumes and cover letters, and connecting with recruiters and alumni. The Career Center uses Handshake to post internship opportunities. It is also where students can find upcoming career-related events and info sessions and schedule career counseling appointments.
If students identify a research/internship project and have any concerns about whether the project would be appropriate for the senior thesis, students are encouraged to write a brief project description (about half a page to a page) outlining the research question(s)/goals and planned project activities and submit it to email@example.com to have it reviewed by the CaSB faculty.