Capstone Experience

The Capstone

General Education at the University of Cincinnati requires a Capstone Experience as a graduation requirement to be completed by students within their major. Capstone students should demonstrate the four Baccalaureate Competencies: (1) Critical Thinking, (2) Effective Communication, (3) Knowledge Integration, and (4) Social Responsibility. The Capstone is a one-credit course (Pass/Fail) that most often takes place during one semester of the senior year. Students are eligible, however, to enroll in Capstone once they have taken two sophomore biology courses and completed two upper-level courses. The student must (1) be enrolled in a capstone-associated course (see below for details) and (2) obtain permission from their Biology Major Advisor to sign up for BIOL 5050 for 1 credit hour in the appropriate faculty member’s section. A Catalyst Course Permission will only be granted by a Biology Advisor if there is clear permission from a professor for the student to conduct a capstone project with them. We, therefore, suggest students obtain permission from faculty members first, and then pass along the permission to their Biology Major Advisor (e.g., a forwarded email or email directly from the professor). The Biology Major Advisor will then grant the student permission to enroll if the student is capstone eligible, which will subsequently require the student to enroll themselves.

General Capstone Requirements

  1. A written component
    The length and format of the written component should be articulated to the student by their capstone advisor.

  2. An individual public presentation to a group of individuals
    Students must present their capstone project orally in the form of a poster or ‘PowerPoint’ presentation. This could be presented to members of the class, Spring Scholarly Showcase, a departmental research event, a scientific conference, or other venue with invited attendees.

  3. A written reflection on how the experience has influenced them going forward. Requirements and topics that should be covered are provided here: Capstone Reflection Guidance.

Ways to Satisfy Capstone Requirements

We currently recognize three options to fulfill the capstone requirement. Students can choose among these options with instructor permission and are, therefore, encouraged to discuss with faculty members more specific Capstone requirements prior to enrolling in BIOL 5050.

I. Capstone Associated with an Upper-Level Course – All upper-level courses within the Department of Biological Sciences are eligible to have a Capstone offered. 

II. Capstone as a Learning Assistant (LA) or Assistant TA (ATA) for an Undergraduate Course – Some undergraduate courses offer capstone credit for students assisting as a LA or ATA in a course that they previously took. Students would enroll in BIOL5050 and BIOL4010 simultaneously with instructor approval. As detailed by the instructor, the capstone requirement is based upon a topic- or lesson-based project in addition to typical LA/ATA duties. 

III. Capstone as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in a Research Lab – Students conducting Independent Research (BIOL4095,6,7) in a faculty member’s lab can receive Capstone credit (BIOL5050) associated with that Independent Research. If students are conducting research outside of the department, they must sign up for BIOL 4095/6/7 with the Director of Undergraduate Research by filling out the application here.

Table 1: Possible timelines for research-based capstone experiences for capstone-eligible students.
Option  Semester 1  Semester 2     ULBE Eligible  
Option 1 3 credits of research 1 credit of research + 1 credit of capstone   Yes*
Option 2**    3 credits of research + 1 credit of capstone          Yes*
Option 3
2 credits of research
1 credit of research + 1 credit of capstone

*Students who have completed (C- or better) two prerequisite sophomore biology courses can have the independent research (minimum of 3 credits in one semester) count as an Upper-Level Biology Elective (with or without a lab) as long as they give an oral presentation on that research. Note that capstone can only be associated with research that was conducted after students are capstone eligible. A single oral presentation on their capstone research fulfils both the ULBE and capstone presentation requirements. Undergraduate Research credits within a given semester less than 3 cannot be used towards an ULBE. 

**Option 2 frequently takes place during the spring semester at the UC Undergrad Research Symposia, but may take place during the fall or summer semesters for students who are graduating or have other special circumstances.

More information is at:

Additional Notes Applicable to All Capstone Experiences

Defining a Presentation: The public presentation must be made to an audience that consists of more than members of one research lab group, such as to a class or invited attendees. In special cases, a student may delay their public presentation to a subsequent semester, but receive an “Incomplete” initially, which would then be changed to a Pass when all three capstone requirements are fulfilled. Any “Incompletes” of Capstones extending beyond two semesters will be changed from “I” to “F” per the Registrar’s Office.

Timing of Enrollment: Students should enroll in the BIOL 5050 capstone course the same semester as the upper-level course, ATA/LA course, or research credits unless given approval by a Biology department advisor or the Undergraduate Director.

Individual vs Group Contributions: The capstone is meant to be an individual experience. Some data acquisition and data analysis may be conducted by groups, but individuals need to prepare and conduct the written and oral components individually based on the portion of the project the student was assigned to by the instructor. 

Double Majors: We recommend that joint majors take a Biology capstone, and discuss with their Biology advisor and other major advisor whether there is an opportunity to have one project count for both majors.

Paid experiences: Students cannot get paid for undergraduate research, ATA, or LA positions and receive course credit at the same time.

Petitions: Exceptions to the Capstone requirements outlined in this document can be made with approval from an undergraduate Biology advisor or the Undergraduate Director. The decision of the advisor/Director may be appealed to the undergraduate curriculum committee and will be determined by majority vote. The Undergraduate Affairs Committee will serve as the capstone committee. The committee will identify and assist faculty in the development of capstone courses (based on UC General Education guidelines). This committee or their designate will be responsible for certifying that each undergraduate has completed the requirement for graduation.