In the Senior year, Molecular Biology majors will have the opportunity to demonstrate that they can think independently and creatively about the field and can use the research tools of the discipline. In addition, they will have the opportunity to discuss important information about their thesis with other students and faculty.

Senior Thesis

The senior exercise for Molecular Biology students can be fulfilled by an Experimental Senior Thesis, MOBI194A,B which comprises two semesters of research in a Pomona College laboratory or working on a grant proposal for two semesters that will result in a Senior Library Thesis-Grant Proposal, MOBI191A,B. The same deadlines and guidelines apply to both senior exercises and culminate in the writing of a comprehensive Research Report (written thesis) or Grant Proposal, respectively, and an oral presentation at the Molecular Biology symposium.

In order to complete the requirements for the senior exercise, you must:

  1. Identify a problem, write a one-page abstract that describes your research project, provide 3 references, and submit a Senior Exercise Contract to Dr. Negritto by the first week of the Fall semester in your senior year (see the Deadlines section).
  2. For an experimental senior thesis, work in lab an equivalent of 2 full afternoons (8 hours) per week; spend additional time outside lab reading material relevant to your research project; and work on your written Research Report (Senior Thesis).
 For a library thesis-Grant Proposal, work the equivalent of 1 afternoon (4 hours) per week.
  3. Participate in a total of 3 oral presentations (see Guidelines under Senior Exercise), one in the Fall and two in the Spring; submit written reports and assignments specified in the Deadlines section; and attend your classmates' presentations, participating and providing feedback to them.
  4. Submit a written Research Report (Senior Thesis) or Grant Proposal and present your thesis or proposal in the Senior Molecular Biology Symposium at the end of the Spring semester of your senior year.

Identification of the Problem for Your Senior Experimental Thesis

You may find that this is the most difficult part of your senior exercise. To help define the problem you will investigate, the following suggestions may be helpful.

a) Identify from your classes those fields that were of interest to you and in which there were unanswered questions or considerable research remaining to be done.

b) Read current issues of journals as Science and Nature. Each issue contains a section called Research News, or News and Views, that reviews "hot" areas of research and, often, defines unanswered problems. Additionally, journals such as Trends in ...., Current Opinion in ...., Annual Review of ...., contain comprehensive reviews of broad fields, while others, such as Cell, contain shorter, more narrowly focused "minireviews".

c) Think about the laboratory exercises you have completed in the Molecular Biology Laboratory course, during a summer research project, or in an upper division laboratory course. By now, you should have an idea of how scientists work in the lab and what research can be realistically accomplished, given time restrictions and the appropriate resources. How might you expand your lab experience into a specific project?

d) Recall talks given by senior Molecular Biology students on their Senior Thesis projects. This gives you an idea of ongoing research projects at Pomona.

e) Talk to your professors and other scientists about projects of potential interest. We want to help you as best as we can, and we may be able to assist in identifying suitable topics. However, be sure you are reasonably prepared before you begin these discussions. Most importantly, give yourself plenty of time to undertake the readings and discussions necessary to identify the topic of your proposal. We will not provide a list of topics for your selection. It is not an overstatement to say that the most important parameter limiting the ultimate quality of your Senior Exercise is the selection and definition of the question you pose. The choice of faculty thesis advisor and problem go hand-in-hand. Your potential thesis advisor will not sign your "contract" unless they are persuaded that your problem is well chosen, thought out, and that it is a good match with their area of expertise. Approach your prospective advisers well in advance of the deadline for submitting your "contract".