Warren Wilson Natural Science Capstone student Laura Miess.
NSURS student Laura Miess sampling for invertebrates in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Students pursuing degrees in the Natural Sciences gain undergraduate research experience through Warren Wilson College’s Natural Science Capstone Program. The Natural Science Capstone Program is comprised of a three-semester sequence. In the capstone program, students gain first-hand experience in scientific investigation and scientific communication in a dynamic, collaborative research environment. Each student is matched individually with a Warren Wilson College faculty mentor, who provides training, mentorship, and support during the research process. In addition to a primary faculty mentor, each student selects two faculty members to serve as on their research committee. Committee members provide additional feedback and expertise during the research process.

NSURS student Austin Patton is doing genetic research on salamanders.
NSURS student Austin Patton conducting genetic research on salamanders.

During their junior and senior years, students in the capstone program take the following sequence of courses:

1. Research Design (SCI 3900). In this course, students attend weekly meetings, special seminars, and explore the scientific research process. Students in this course focus primarily on identifying faculty mentors, identifying a research topic, familiarizing themselves with the peer-reviewed literature in their chosen field, and developing an independent research project.

2. Natural Science Research (SCI 4880 and SCI 4890). This semester is divided into two term courses.

In SCI 4880 (Natural Science Research) students begin implementing their research projects while working closely with their faculty mentor. Students also develop experience researching and critically evaluating the scholarly literature related to their projects.

In SCI 4890 (Advanced Natural Science Research) students finish data collection and continue working their faculty mentor to develop skills in data visualization, quantitative data analysis, and data interpretation.

3. Natural Science Seminar Communication (SCI 4930). This semester provides the forum for the presentation and evaluation of student research. Each student presents a 20-25 minute oral presentation on his/her research project and submits a formal thesis for the College archives.