Lab Requirement

M.A. Biotechnology
Lab Requirement
Academic Standards
Thesis Guidelines

Lab Requirement

Tuition for G4500 and G4501 is covered under the RU. For S4502, S4503, and G4310, if that is the only course taken in the summer, there is no RU requirement. However, there will be a "Lab and Administrative Fee", of $1,000.

Q: Should I take G4310 Intensive Laboratory in Biotechnology or G4500-3 Supervised Research? 
A: Try to answer these questions. If you answer 4 or higher to more than 2 questions, you should take the summer lab. Otherwise, take Supervised Research. If your prior strength does not match with the course you take, you will learn very little while spending a lot of money and time. 

Q: I don't have much lab experience. According to the question list above, I should take G4310. But someone told me that I'd never get a job if I don't do an internship. 
A: Internship on top of strong academic training is an important line on your resume. However, it should not be used to replace solid lab training. Without prior lab experience, a 2-month internship will not give you much education and will not help you land a good job. 

More about Summer Intensive Lab here


Supervised Research 

If you decide to do Supervised Research to fulfill the bench work requirement, the 6 points can be earned by doing research in a laboratory in Columbia University or in other universities, hospitals, industry companies, or other organizations within the New York City Metropolitan Area unless otherwise approved by the Program. To earn 6 points, a minimum of 336 hours must be spent in the lab. This can be accomplished a number of ways: 

  1. At least 15 hours per week, 2 semesters;
  2. At least 15 hours per week, 1 semester plus 1 month full time in the summer; or
  3. 2 months full time in the summer 

The MA program advisor must approve the lab and project before you start. There will be written assignments such as a proposal before the project begins, a progress report and a final report. The grade will be given by the MA program faculty, based on the recommendation from your lab mentor. See the course website for details.

Year Semester Mentor Confirmation* and SR Approval Form Due First Day of Class Proposal Progress Report Final Report
2015 Fall 9/1/2015 9/8/2015 9/22/2015 10/20/2015 12/14/2015
2016 Spring 1/12/2016 1/19/2016 2/3/2016 3/3/2016 5/2/2016
2016 Summer A-3 Credits 5/24/2016 5/31/2016 6/6/2016 6/20/2016 7/6/2016
2016 Summer A-3 Credits 5/24/2016 5/31/2016 6/6/2016 7/6/2016 8/5/2016

*Confirmatory e-mail from Mentor should be sent to for approval.

SR Registration Approval Form

Q: What type of works is suitable for Supervised Research? 

A1: You must have intellectual input in your project. Most of the time you don’t get to design your own project. However, you should be thinking about the project, the experiments, the procedures, the data, and the interpretation. If you are given a list of samples and assays to run in the morning and at the end of the day (or the week, or the month) are expected to turn in a set of results, it won’t count. You must have the opportunity to think about what samples to run on what assay, how to do it, what the data mean, and what to do next. 
A2. Any service you perform is directly related to your training. For example: Doing dishes and making solutions are OK if: 

  1. They are part of your project, or
  2. They are your 'lab duty' (while another member of the lab takes care of cleaning the tissue culture hood, for example.) 

However, doing dishes and making solutions are not part of the supervised research if that is your duty for supporting the other members of the lab. Same goes for doing minipreps. Minipreps are good for your project, but you cannot receive credit toward a degree if you spend an entire summer doing nothing but thousands of minipreps for someone else. Any duties in this category must be excluded from the 336 hours. 

Q: Can I get paid for my work if I do an internship? 

A: In general it is a poor arrangement to receive both money and academic credit for the same work. When you receive credit only, you are a student. Your relationship with your supervisor is 'mentee-mentor.' Your primary goal is to learn. Your supervisor's primary function is to provide guidance and training. However, once you start to accept monetary compensation, the relationship changes into 'employee-employer.' Your primary function is to provide service. Your supervisor's function is to verify that your service is worth your pay. In many case this dual relationship results in conflicting expectations. Therefore for the sake of your education and future career, we strongly advise you not to seek payment for Supervised Research. 

However, we understand that unusual situations are the norm for our MA students. Although we discourage you from receiving payment we do not prohibit your doing so. (International students should follow Immigration Laws. Check first with the Program Office and the ISSO.) 

To receive payment for Supervised Research, the following conditions must be met:

  1. It is a pre-established, paid position, such as some industry internships.
  2. The supervisor understands and agrees that your primary function is to receive training.
  3. You must have intellectual input in your project.
  4. Any service you perform is directly related to your training. ​

Q: I am a lab technician now. Can I use my current project as my supervised research? 

A: Please see above regarding getting paid for your education. Taking that with the consideration that only work done directly related to your educational training counts, it is unlikely that what you have been doing is suitable. The idea for taking a course to receive credit and to lead to a graduate degree is to learn something that you would not have otherwise. Therefore, you should use this opportunity to do a higher-level research. We don't want you to have to leave the current job for two months just to do this supervised research. But you need to work with your supervisor/mentor to find a defined project that pushes beyond your current capacity. Pay special attention to the requirement of intellectual input. In many situations you have to put in extra hours to fulfill the obligations of an employee and a student. 

Q: Can I get credit for work done before I registered for the course? 
A: No. However, if the work you do while registered is a continuation of previous work, you can include your previous work in your report. 

Q: I plan to do my supervised research in a biotech firm. They don't want me to tell you what we will be doing. Can I get credit if I don't tell you whom I work for and don't write any report? 
A: No. 

Q: Then what should I do? 
A: You can tell me a lot of what you do without letting out any industrial secrets. You will most likely be asked to sign a confidential agreement with the company. Ask the company's IP lawyers to clear any report you write before sending it to the course advisor. (Warning: This can take time. So don't wait until the last minute.) Please note that the MA program would rather not know a secret than have to keep it, since it is a big responsibility to keep secrets. That's why, in general, we would prefer not to sign any confidential agreement between the company and the University. The reports are for us to know whether you have learned anything. There are many ways to do it. Please come to the program office to see examples. 

Q: Can I use the results from my supervised research for my thesis? 
A: Keep in mind that research is unpredictable, and no one can be sure that you will have enough results from a few months’ work to write a thesis. So you may not want to bet on it and wait until the end of your supervised research to begin writing your thesis. Also, note that supervised research and the thesis are separate requirements. Therefore, one cannot use the supervised research report directly as one's thesis. That is, any result you have used in the supervised research report and received credits cannot be used again to fulfill thesis requirement. For thesis, you need to write additional material to serve as a thesis on its own. Of course, we encourage you to write on the field of your research. You can include the results from SR report in the thesis; they are just not counted as the main body of the thesis. You can consider them supplemental materials. For more detailed information, see the Thesis Guidelines

Q: I am going into the business field. Can I do an office internship instead of working on the bench for supervised research? 
A: What type of supervised research you do depends on what prior training you have had. To receive an MA degree in Biotechnology we require that you be familiar with laboratory culture, including various bench techniques, independent survival instincts, interpersonal skills, and research mentality. These usually cannot be acquired by taking standard college lab courses or doing research while an undergraduate student. Remember that what sets you apart from all those MBAs is your scientific aptitude. With bench work training, you are much more qualified than they are in science and not as qualified in business. Without bench work training, (with or without an office internship of two months), you are no more qualified than they are in science and still not as qualifed in business. So the short answer to your question is: Bench work training is required. 

Q: I have worked as a lab tech for 5 years. I don't see how another 2 months on the bench can help my future career as a biotech analyst. 
A: For those who had extensive research experience, bench work may be substituted with other types of 'internships'. Please note the emphases on 'extensive' and 'research'. That is, a couple of semesters won't do. Five years of PCR for other people's projects doesn't count either. Check with the program office to see if your prior experience qualifies. Former supervisors must be available for discussion. 

Q: An internship in the business field is extremely important for my future career. 
A: I agree. For those who wish to enter the business field, we encourage them to do a business-related internship in addition to bench work supervised research. 

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Academic Office

Department of Biological Sciences
600 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2402
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
212 854-4581