Undergraduate Research: Available to all NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors

Participating in research has many benefits, even if research is not part of your long-term career goals. Research provides important practical experience in the scientific process, from conceptualization of research questions and study design to implementation and even publication. Research experience is recommended or required for many educational and professional opportunities, and may yield helpful recommendations or professional connections.

A variety of opportunities exist for undergraduates in DNS to become involved in research at Cornell. Students who wish to participate in research for credit should check the current Class Roster for course-specific instructions. These opportunities fall under four general categories.

Undergraduate research opportunities, enrollment procedures, and credit policies
Opportunity Description Enrollment Credit policies
NS 4010 Empirical Research Students first identify the kind of research they are interested in and then contact faculty members with relevant research to see whether and how they may become involved (see below for tips). The student and faculty member then discuss details and outline an agreement for the student’s research work. Both CHE and CALS enroll through the online CHE Special Studies Enrollment Form to enroll
  • Maximum of 4 credits of NS 4010 per semester
  • Must first take2 S/U credits before allowed to register for graded credits
NS 4990 Honors Program Students with strong academic records may apply to the DNS Honors Program in February of their junior year (or three semesters before their expected graduation date). This structured research experience is for students who are highly interested in research and willing to commit substantial time and intellectual energy to a multi-semester project. Students with a confirmed faculty advisor and a proposed project, so they typically have completed 1-2 semesters of research in the same lab by that time (e.g. as NS 4010 credits). For more information, see the DNS Honors Program pages in this Roadmap. Same as above
  • In the senior year, instead of the usual research credits (e.g. NS 4010), Honors students enroll in NS 4990
  • NS 4990 grades are determined by Dr. Felice with input from research mentor
Research in other departments (e.g. Biological Sciences) DNS students may participate in research in other departments, both within and outside their College, registering for research credit through that department (e.g. BIOG 4990 or their equivalent of NS 4010). This brings many of the same benefits as research within DNS and also helps to diversify a student’s content knowledge and expertise. Research that is unrelated to human health and/or nutrition may affect a student’s eligibility for the DNS Honors Program. Inquire with home department of research credits
  • non-NS research credits cannot be used for advanced NS elective credits (NS majors only).
  • Research outside a student’s College cannot be used for College elective credits.
Research for pay Some students are able to secure funding toward wages for research, e.g. College via fellowships or through faculty PIs grants See section on funding below
  • Students paid hourly for research may not also receive credit
Research as a volunteer or unpaid intern Students who do not receive funding or academic credit for their research register as a volunteer or unpaid intern, especially in the summer, for safety, liability, and ongoing access to campus resources. Discuss with your faculty PI and have them confer with DNS Human Resources. N/A

 

Identifying potential faculty research advisors

Start by searching for faculty members that use the type of research methods you wish to learn about (e.g., social science methods or lab methods) or investigate the problem you wish to investigate (e.g., infant nutrition or lipid metabolism). The availability of research positions depends on the size and scope of various projects, the faculty member’s other commitments, and the skills/abilities of individual students.

  • Within DNS: Find out about the types of research being conducted in DNS by exploring the DNS Faculty Profiles pages. Academic faculty advisors, the instructors of courses that interest you, and students in other majors can also help you identify appropriate DNS faculty members to contact.
  • Outside of DNS: In addition to exploring faculty profiles on individual departments’ websites, explore the Experience Cornell website to find a wide range of research opportunities on- and off-campus.

Contacting potential faculty research advisors

BEFORE meeting with a faculty member:

  • Speak to faculty members at least a semester before you would like to start research
  • Make an appointment to see a faculty member by signing up for office hours or sending an email
  • Prepare an updated copy of your resume and coursework
  • Think about why you are interested in research, and specifically in working with them, as well as how much weekly time you have in the coming semester(s) to devote to research

DURING a meeting with a faculty member:

  • Ask the faculty member about their current/future research projects and their expectations for undergraduates who work with them in research.
  • Be prepared to discuss why you are interested in research and working within their research group, how much time per semester and/or how many semesters you wish to be involved in research, and previous work and research-related experiences.

Many students need and/or want to explore sources of funding for research conducted over the summer. DNS does not provide summer research funds. However, several sources of research funding are available. Possible sources of funding or information about funding include:

One of the many things that students learn in research is how to apply statistics classes to real data. The Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit (CSCU) is here to help! Students involved in research projects are encouraged to seek assistance from CSCU for the design of research projects, the planning, implementation, and write-up of statistical analyses, the interpretation of output, and the write-up of results for reports or publications. Help is available by appointment or during specified walk-in hours; see the CSCU website for more information.

Global Learning and Exchange Programs Available to all NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors

Undergraduates in NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors may take a semester off campus to supplement their academic experiences through Global Learning (also known as Study Abroad) and Urban Summer programs. Undergraduates in CHE may also take a semester off campus through the Exchange Program. Usually, the semester is devoted to studying in elective areas or gaining field experience related to their career goals. DNS students have studied in Italy, Australia, England, Israel, Spain, Denmark, and the Semester at Sea. Through the Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers Program (formerly Urban Summer), students learn about multicultural issues in New York City and gained experience in geriatric long term care facilities, surgical intensive care units, pediatric medical practice, and community nutrition programs. Those who have taken advantage of these programs report that they have wonderful experiences in many different ways, and return to campus with new understandings about themselves, their career goals, the global environment, and the social, cultural, economic, and political forces affecting people’s lives in the real world.

Most NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors have interests and career goals that involve complex sets of sequenced courses, and some students have multiple goals. Fitting in a semester off-campus requires early planning, including developing a plan for completing required courses in the right order and on time. To fit everything in, students may need to double up on some courses earlier than other students or take one or more courses during summer or winter terms. Some students choose to postpone plans to attend medical school, dietetic internships, or graduate programs. Extracurricular commitments, the need to work during the summer or academic year, and personal situations may also impact a student’s planning for a semester off campus.

Students who wish to spend a semester off-campus should start the planning process as early as possible, no later than the fall of the sophomore year. This planning process must include:

  1. meeting with the student’s faculty advisor to discuss academic goals
  2. developing a plan to complete graduation requirements on time
  3. seeking out relevant contacts and information related the program(s) of interest (see below)

In general, it is not recommended for students to complete required courses in chemistry, biology or nutrition when they are off-campus. Students do, however, complete courses for college distribution requirements. GPHS major may use these opportunities toward the major’s “experiential learning” requirement, if approved in advance.

Junior year is usually the time that NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors spend off campus. However, this is also the year in which biochemistry is taken by most/all DNS students and in which NS 3310 Nutrient Metabolism is taken by NS majors. Students who take a semester off campus during their junior year can take biochemistry in the alternate semester, however, for CHE students, the only biochemistry option that offers CHE credit is NS 3200 (a fall semester only course). Students may also postpone NS 3310 until the spring of their senior year.

For All Students

Students are responsible for understanding all the graduation requirements for his/her program and all the procedures related to his/her academic and career goals, including the procedures for the Study Abroad, Exchange, or Practicing Medicine Programs. Cornell abounds in resources to help, but students are responsible for pulling together information from many sources, including your faculty advisor, the DNS Academic Affairs Office, either CHE or CALS Student Services, and the Urban Summer, Global Learning, and/or the CHE Exchange Programs. Remember that questions are always welcome! There are people to speak with, printed materials to study, and many sources of information on the web. Be sure to find out the application deadlines for the program(s) of interest. Program application deadlines may be two semesters before students enter the program.

For the Global Learning Program, contact the University office and your College’s Global Learning advisor:

For the CHE Exchange Program:

For the CALS Exchange Program:

For Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers (formerly Urban Summer)

For Honors Students

Students who wish to participate in the Honors Program should note that DNS Honors Program students are expected to participate in required seminar (NS 3980), and are normally expected to begin planning their research in the fall of their junior year and begin implementing it in the spring of their junior year. DNS Honors Program students who plan to study off campus in the junior year must receive special permission to make up required work. Contact Dr. Julia Felice (julia.felice@cornell.edu) for more information.

For Pre-Health Students

Pre-health students must consider carefully their timeline for applying to and attending medical school. Students apply to medical school more than a year before they plan to matriculate. For example, those who wish to attend medical schools immediately after graduating from Cornell begin the application process in the junior year. Therefore, students who plan to be off-campus in your junior year must plan when to complete the core pre-health requirements, when to take the MCAT, and how to participate in the Cornell’s Health Careers Evaluation Committee’s services for obtaining letters of reference. Fall term of the junior year is a common time for our students to spend a term abroad. However, a fall junior term off-campus requires that you have completed the requirements for two terms of organic chemistry and two terms of physics prior to your junior year. Spring term is usually a less desirable time to be off-campus because this is the term in which pre-health students participate in the interviews for the Health Careers Evaluation Committee.

For Dietetics Students

Dietetics students must pay close attention to the sequence of and prerequisites for required Dietetics courses, including NS 2470, 4250, 4410, 4420, 4500, 4880. Fall term of the junior year is a good time to study off-campus because students can take NS 3310 Human Nutrition and Nutrient Metabolism, which is a prerequisite for NS 4410, Nutrition and Disease, taken in the fall of the senior year. However, this plan requires taking biochemistry in the spring of sophomore year or in the summer before junior year.

Supervised Fieldwork Available to all NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors

Structured learning experiences in the real world (i.e., the “field”) help students link theory to practice. Students also learn about communication, team work, setting goals, client needs, and the social, economic and political forces that influence professionals who work in the food, nutrition and health fields. Students who wish to participate in research for credit should check the current Class Roster for course-specific instructions.

Students may conduct supervised fieldwork in a variety of topic areas settings. For example:

  • Nutrition and fitness: Advanced nutrition students serve as nutrition counselors to student athletes and members of local fitness clubs.
  • Community nutrition: Students work with local Cooperative Extension professionals and others in developing and pilot testing educational programs for adults and children.
  • Nutrition and business: Students intern with a local software firm to learn about developing and testing food composition data bases, dietary assessment instruments, and food management programs for use by the health care industry.
  • Nutrition and health care: Students examine how nutritionists and other health care practitioners treat and counsel patients with different conditions and the many factors that influence how these professionals conduct their work.
  • The Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers Program: Based in New York City, this summer program is an excellent opportunity to gain field experience. All undergraduate students who have completed their freshman year are eligible to apply. More information is available on the Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers website.

Students can earn credit for a planned field experience through NS 4020 Supervised Fieldwork. This fieldwork is “supervised” in that the student registers for this credit through a DNS faculty member, who evaluates the student’s work. Participating in fieldwork through NS 4020 requires several components:

1. Planning: Students must plan fieldwork with a DNS faculty member in advance, with explicit goals,planned activities, and expected outcomes determined before the NS 4020 registration.

2. Registration: Once an agreement is reached, the both CHE and CALS students must submit an online Special Studies enrollment form through CHE to enroll. On this form, the student will have to describe the content of their fieldwork as agreed upon with their DNS faculty supervisor. NOTES:

  • Maximum of 4 credits of NS 4020 per semester.
  • Must first take at least 2 S/U credits before allowed to register for graded credits.

3. Communication with their DNS faculty supervisor via regular conferences in person or by phone or email. The fieldwork experience also must include a reflective component (e.g. an analysis of a journal or systematic record of the experience) to allow the student to consider their feelings, attitudes, and understandings as well as the applications of classroom learning to practice. The student’s work also must be evaluated by the faculty supervisor.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • The basis on which a student’s grade will be determined must be agreed upon in advance with the faculty supervisor (e.g. by evaluating journals, papers, oral presentations, input from field supervisors, and/or other materials developed as part of the experience).
  • The number of credits also must be determined in advance. For 1 academic credit, the student should be working in the placement or on materials relevant to the placement an average of 3-4 hours per week for 14 weeks. This time is in addition to that spent with the faculty member.

The Honors Program in the Division of Nutritional Sciences is designed to challenge research-oriented NS, HBHS, and GPHS majors.

This structured research-based experience involves four general components:

  • the conduct of a research project, in which a student has major role and intellectual engagement in the whole research process(JUNIOR and SENIOR years)
  • a course in research, NS 3980 (JUNIOR year)
  • the completion of a written thesis that reports the research (SENIOR year)
  • an oral presentation of the project at the DNS Undergraduate Honors Symposium (SENIOR year).