Sample 4-Year Plan for Life Sciences

This is designed to give you suggestions of how you might combine research activities over four years of college and can be adapted for any discipline.

Freshman year

Fall semester

  • Enter Mizzou and begin course work.
  • Discuss research interests with academic adviser and course instructors.
  • Begin a part-time job taking care of research plants in a greenhouse on campus.

Spring semester

  • Continue part-time job, but increase responsibilities by extracting DNA from plant tissue samples.
  • Interview faculty members of interest to look for a summer job on campus and find out what opportunities might be available at home.
  • Attend faculty research seminars and the Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum to get more ideas.

Summer semester

  • Enroll in a summer school class at MU and work 20 hours a week maintaining a colony of transgenic mice.

Sophomore year

Fall and spring semesters

  • Continue to attend faculty research seminars and campus poster sessions.
  • Join a research lab studying stem cells and neurodegenerative diseases. Attend weekly lab meetings to learn more about the ongoing research projects in your lab.
  • Early during the winter semester, prepare research internship applications to receive funding for the summer and next academic year.
  • Help a graduate student prepare his or her poster for the Life Sciences Week poster session.

Summer semester

  • Conduct your first independent research project full time during the summer with your Mizzou faculty mentor.
  • Present your work at the Summer Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum.

Junior year

Fall and spring semesters

  • Continue project with new cell line and receive funding for academic year.
  • Begin to search for summer programs at other universities and medical centers, and apply in January or February.
  • Begin to explore graduate programs in neurobiology using the web and faculty contacts you’ve made.
  • Outline project for senior thesis.
  • Prepare abstract for submission to the Society of Neurosciences.
  • Study for and take the GRE exam.
  • Present your project at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievements Forum.

Summer semester

  • Participate in summer research program at CalTech in Pasadena, Calif.
  • Network with faculty at CalTech and contact your mentor’s roommate from graduate school.
  • Narrow down graduate school options and collect application materials.

Senior year

Fall and spring semesters

  • Register for senior capstone credit for your research.
  • Continue gathering data and analyzing results, and work with faculty mentor and graduate student to plan for research publication.
  • Attend Society of Neurosciences national meeting to present your research, and talk with faculty from universities with strong graduate programs in neurobiology.
  • Put together application materials for graduate school and mail applications during winter break.
  • Apply for national graduate fellowship awards.
  • Serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant in your faculty mentor’s lab course.
  • Interview at graduate schools and make a decision on which offer to accept.


  • Participate in Honors Convocation with your mentor by your side.
  • Find out that your publication has been accepted with only minor revisions.
  • Go out for a final lunch with your lab mates and mentor.
  • Pack up your belongings and prepare for the next phase of your career!