Undergraduate Research Training in the Stoddard Lab

Prior to consideration

We will expect no less than 10 hours a week effort, so you must be a strong enough student that this effort will not interfere with your academic performance.  In the most recent semester, you must have no grade less than a B and no biology grade less than an A–.


Prospective applicants must first register for and pass the required online mini-courses in lab safety and animal care (most take 1-2 hours).  We will provide information on which courses are required and how to register for them.


Application for consideration

You must apply formally, with a written application. 

Download the form here: application form. It can be filled out in Adobe Acrobat, or printed and filled out by hand.


Following the application, you must attend 4 of our weekly scheduled lab meetings, unless precluded by your class schedule.

You will read the following papers, then take two basic tests, one written & one practical.


1.  Stoddard, P.K. 2009. Electric signals and electric fish


2.  Bradbury, J. W. & Vehrencamp, S. L. 1998. Ch 11. Principles of Animal Communication. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer


3.  Stoddard, P. K. 2002. Electric signals: Predation, sex, and environmental constraints. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 31, 201-242


4.  Stoddard, P. K., Zakon, H. H., Markham, M. R. & McAnelly, L. 2006. Regulation and modulation of electric waveforms in gymnotiform electric fish. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 192, 613-24


5.  Stoddard, P. K. 1999. Predation enhances complexity in the evolution of electric fish signals. Nature, 400, 254-6

Written test:

1.     Details, concepts, and applications from assigned readings.

2.     Academic aptitude, number sense, algebra skills.

3.     Basic lab chemistry (units of measure, molarity calculations, common ions, pH adjustment).

4.     Lab safety, e.g., reading an MSDS, use of personal protective gear.

5.     Animal care regulations.


Practical test:

1.     Simple lab chemistry.

2.     Following a protocol.

3.     Library research assignment.

Probationary period

If you receive provisional admission, you will have a probationary period lasting at least one month, and running no later than the end of semester.


For at least your first full semester in the lab, you will assist an experienced lab member with an ongoing project.  For this reason, you must establish a mentor-apprentice relationship with an active member of the lab (grad student or higher). 


Once you have a preferred project and person to work with, you will research and write a 2-page, double-spaced proposal about the project you want to assist on.  The proposal must be followed by a bibliography listing all the relevant literature. 


To show competency in this project, you will read this literature and give a 15-minute presentation on the topic in our weekly lab meeting.  Your presentation will emphasize the big idea, project goals, general methods, and background literature.


After final admission to the lab

Students remaining on for additional semesters, by mutual agreement with Dr. Stoddard and senior members of the lab, you must sign up for 1-3 credits of supervised study (freshmen & sophomores take BSC-3915, juniors & seniors take BSC-4915). Students must dedicate at least scheduled 10 hours in the lab each week to receive a passing grade (fewer hours during final exam weeks can arranged by prior notification only). Missing scheduled hours without pror arrangement is grounds for dismissal.


Weekly supervisory meeting

All students must schedule a 10-15 minute supervisory meeting once a week with Dr. Stoddard, the lab manager, and any involved graduate student or postdoc.  You must bring 2 things to the meeting:

1.     Your lab notebook.

2.     A printed progress report for the week summarizing:
(i) Your previous week’s goal(s).
(ii) List of hours & times you worked over the past week.
(iii) Progress you made toward previous week’s goals.
(iv) Your goals for the coming week.
(v) Details of anything you will need help learning or doing.


Dr. Stoddard will keep the printed progress reports.  You will take away from the meeting a set of revised goals for the coming week and appointments for getting assistance with anything on which you will need help.