Display Accessibility Tools

Accessibility Tools


Highlight Links

Change Contrast

Increase Text Size

Increase Letter Spacing

Readability Bar

Dyslexia Friendly Font

Increase Cursor Size

BMB 490, 491, and 499

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The MSU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers courses that give students practical research experience:

  • BMB 490 is Independent Study offered Fall, Spring and Summer.
  • BMB 491 is and "Off Campus/External" Biochemistry Internship offered fall, spring, and summer. Supervised professional experience related to Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Industry, Medicine, Pharmacy, Science Policy, Science Communication, Research, Patent Law, iGEM etc...
  • BMB 499 is Independent Study culminating in a senior thesis.  Offered fall, spring, and summer.

  • 1 to 4 credits are possible per semester for BMB 490 and BMB 491 (with a maximum of 8 total credits), and 2 to 8 credits are possible per semester for BMB 499 (with a maximum of 8 total credits). 
  • Total credits between BMB 490 and BMB 499 may not exceed "12".
  • Approval of department required
  • 3 hour per week minimum = 1 credit

Students enrolled in these courses do research under the supervision of a MSU faculty member or an off campus research mentor (ex. BMB 491) and the requirements for a grade are negotiated with that mentor.


The requirements for the BMB 491 Off Campus/External Internship course include but are not limited to the following:

Final Report: Deadline for submitting final report (Friday before Finals week at Noon for Fall and Spring). (Summer deadlines with be determined by the undergraduate administration). Submission must include mentor's signature and their acknowledgement of submitting a final evaluation/grade to Dr. Susanne Hoffmann Benning (hoffman16@msu.edu) and Dr. Charles Hoogstraten (hoogstr3@msu.edu). Report must be 2-3 pages in length.

Final Oral Presentation: Required during the week of finals for Fall and Spring. (Summer deadlines will be determined by the undergraduate administration).


The requirements for the BMB 499 senior thesis are as follows:

A senior thesis is typically conducted over a minimum of two semesters of the equivalent of 2 to 3 research credits per semester. For the first semester, this research may be either via enrollment in 499 or via enrollment in BMB 490, paid research, volunteering, or internship work. The second semester must consist of enrollment in BMB 499. Students will conduct significant laboratory research and are required to present their research at the UURAF (University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum) event during the Spring semester or another pre-approved, comparable officially designated presentation forum, conference, or event. The senior thesis is a capstone experience and can be used to replace the BMB 495 requirement (this applies to College of Natural Science students ONLY and NOT to Lyman Briggs College students, for whom the LBC 492 requirement cannot be waived).

Students will write a thesis based on their research. The thesis will include references to original literature in biochemistry, molecular biology, and related fields. The thesis should be at minimum 12 pages long and up to 15 pages long (excluding the references and title page) and include a significant scholarly survey of the field (2 pages minimum) based on original literature. The thesis will be assessed by two faculty members including the student’s mentor and another whom the student will choose at the beginning of the semester. At least one of the faculty must be from BMB. Upon review of the thesis by these two individuals, students will be required to submit a revised thesis based on their comments. The grade will be posted after both readers of the thesis have discussed and agree on it.  We typically recommend that students enroll in initial semester(s) of BMB 490 (or paid or volunteer research) followed by a final semester of BMB 499 to be used predominantly to finish experiments and write the thesis.

To arrange a BMB 490 or BMB 499 experience:

  1. Search the department directory to identify faculty with whom you would like to work.  (You are not required to work in a Biochemistry faculty lab but the research you do would have to be "Biochemistry" focused)
  2. Contact the faculty member by email. You may wish to include a resume, a description of your past research and work experience, and a description of the type of project you would like to do.
  3. Arrange the details of your project and schedule with the faculty mentor.  (NOTE:  If you are unsure of if your project is Biochemistry focused enough, please contact Dr. Susanne Hoffmann Benning (hoffma16@msu.edu) and have her review things ahead of time.)
  4. Submit the online e-form: 

PDF's with the questions asked in the online forms above:

(IMPORTANT:  For BMB 499, you must EMAIL a 1-2 page PDF summary of the research project to your primary mentor, your secondary reader, Drs. Hoffmann-Benning and Hoogstraten and to Mary Villarreal.  PDF should be sent to everyone the same day that the form is submitted!  Failure to do so will delay enrollment into the course.  (If you can't access the e-forms, try using a different internet browser)

  1. For BMB 499, you can use one application form to apply for 2 semesters of BMB 499 (if you choose to do both semesters of BMB 499.)
    • NOTE: Remember that you can either use a minimum of one semester BMB 490 PLUS one semester BMB 499
      OR a minimum of one semester pre- approved laboratory research (paid/ volunteer/ BMB 491) PLUS one semester BMB 499.
  2. Once everyone has approved, Mary Villarreal will get notice and would enroll you into the course for the credits indicated on the form.
  3. For an Honors section, you will be required to do work above and beyond what is required for a non-Honors section.  Some mentors require the paper to be longer (more than the usual required 15-25 pages) or multiple presentations of the research, or additional lab notebooks or other research related papers etc... but it would be up to them as to what you would do above and beyond what is required for a non-Honors section.

To arrange a BMB 491 Off Campus/External Internship experience:

  1. Arrange the details of your project and schedule with the research mentor who will supervise the project.  For questions about allowable/appropriate internship opportunities, please contact Drs. Hoffmann Benning and Hoogstraten
  2. Submit the online e-form: BMB 491 - https://forms.office.com/r/mww55uhiRv
  3. Once everyone has approved (Research mentor, and Dr. Hoffmann-Benning or Dr. Hoogstraten) I will receive notice and will override you into the amount of credits listed on the form.
  4. Please note that Honors options/sections are not available for this course


For more information, contact:
Mary Villarreal
BMB Undergraduate Program Administrative Assistant