Catalyst Seminar (BSCI 279C / BSCI 279H)

Spring 2017



Dr. Kaci Thompson
1313 Symons Hall

Office hours:  by appointment 



The Catalyst Seminar has two overarching learning goals:

1. You will be able to identify and obtain research opportunities that are appropriate to your professional goals. This includes

  • Developing an awareness of the diversity of undergraduate research opportunities available to them in the chemical and biological sciences
  • Being able to evaluate and express how particular research programs resonate with your professional goals
  • Being able to communicate your interest to potential faculty mentors

2. You will better understand what it means to be part of the scientific community, specifically

  • Becoming proficient in basic forms of scientific communication (e.g., reading and interpreting primary literature, interacting with researchers)
  • Developing awareness of some of the basic ethical issues in the conduct of science
  • Understanding the role and limitations of peer review in science
  • Developing increased awareness of how scientific knowledge is constructed

In this course, you will learn about the research currently being conducted at the University of Maryland through a series of faculty seminars and informal receptions. The course will also provide an opportunity for you to learn skills essential for becoming a successful student researcher, such as strategies for negotiating the research process, locating a faculty mentor, ethics in science, critical analysis of research papers, and understanding how research findings extend our existing knowledge base.



Pechenik, J.A. 2013. A Short Guide to Writing about Biology, 8th ed. New York: Longman. The text is *required* but I am flexible about the edition. If you choose to purchase an older or newer version, be aware that the chapter and page numbers may not correspond perfectly to those in the syllabus.


Online resources:

Much of this course will be online. We will use ELMS ( for readings, videos, assignments, and posting grades. Some assignments will be submitted using the Calibrated Peer Review system, while others will be submitted in ELMS. For details on how to submit each assignment, see the ELMS Assignments page.


Class meeting time:

Much of this class will take place online. Your presence in class is required on the following dates:

  • Monday, Jan. 30 from 3:30-4:45 PM in room 1243 BPS (first day of class)
  • Monday, Feb. 27 from 3:30-4:45 PM in room 1243 BPS (faculty research presentations)
  • Monday, Mar. 6 from 3:30-4:45 PM in room 1243 BPS (faculty research presentations)
  • Monday, Mar. 13 from 3:30-4:45 PM in room 1243 BPS (faculty research presentations)

During these class meetings, you will have the opportunity to hear from faculty and students about the research currently being conducted on campus. Following faculty presentations, you will also have the opportunity to speak informally with the presenters.


Assignment of grades:

The final grade for the course will be based upon a total of 200 possible points. Instead of having a small number of high stakes assignments, this course will have a larger number of small assignments that build over the semester. Instructions and due dates for all graded assignments are given in ELMS. Late assignments will acrue a penalty of 10% for each day past the due date. 


Academic Dishonesty:

The University of Maryland, College Park has a nationally recognized Code of Academic Integrity, administered by the Student Honor Council.This Code sets standards for academic integrity at Maryland for all undergraduate and graduate students. As a student you are responsible for upholding these standards for this course. It is very important for you to be aware of the consequences of cheating, fabrication, facilitation, and plagiarism. For more information on the Code of Academic Integrity or the Student Honor Council, please visit

If I suspect academic dishonesty, I will forward the assignment in question to the Student Honor Council.



This course consists of seven modules. The orientation modules (Module 0) should be completed first. Each module contains some introductory material (e.g., readings on the web or from your text, videos) and one or more quizzes or assignments. Some of the modules will not be accessible until after the deadline for completing other assignments has passed. An outline of the modules, associated assignments, and due dates is below.



Module Assignments Due date Points
0: Introduction Quiz Feb. 6 10
1: Communicating with potential research mentors Personal introduction Feb. 6 5
2: Searching for research opportunities Finding opportunities quiz Feb. 13 5
Faculty interest statements #1-3 Feb. 20 15
3: Understanding scientific communicationsFaculty research presentations (in class) Feb. 27 10
Quiz Mar. 6 5
Faculty research presentations (in class) Mar. 6 10
Faculty research presentations (in class) Mar. 13 10
Non-technical summary Mar. 17 15
4: Peer review Peer review case study questions Mar. 27 10
Introduction to Calibrated Peer Review Mar. 27 5
Peer review of Personal Introduction Apr. 10 5
Peer review of Non-Technical Summary Apr. 10 15
Peer review reflection Apr. 17 10
5: Ethics Introduction to scientific misconduct Apr. 24 10
Ethics case study questions Apr. 24 10
6: Scientific progress Quiz May 1 5
Scientific ideas essay May 8 30