Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology

About the Barrett ProgramBarrett Program History | Mills Biology Program Goals

About the Barrett Program

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Mission

The mission of the Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology at Mills College is to encourage the advancement of women in the biological sciences by providing research experiences to Mills undergraduates. The research experience and professional development of students is fostered through close mentorship by faculty supervisors, interactions with fellow Barrett participants past and present, and interactions with other collaborators. Students engage in research projects that aim to provide insights into unanswered questions in biology. In the process, participants gain technical skills, practice in the logic and creativity of science, and experience analyzing and presenting data. More broadly, the program aims to increase the representation, participation, and leadership of women in the biological sciences through the promotion of leadership skills, professional development, and contributions of new biological knowledge.

Mentored Research Opportunities

Barrett students engage in research projects that aim to provide insights into unanswered questions in biology. In the process, participants gain technical skills, practice in the logic and creativity of science, and experience analyzing and presenting data. More broadly, the program aims to increase the representation, participation, and leadership of women in the biological sciences through the promotion of leadership skills, professional development, and contributions of new biological knowledge.

Financial Support for Barrett Scholars

The Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology provides scholarships for students participating in a 10-week-long summer research project under the tutelage of a faculty member in our Biology Department. There are two levels of support depending on level of responsibility and experience: 1) a part-time position with partial stipend and 2) a full-time position with full stipend. Students accepting a Barrett Scholar position are expected to engage in Directed Research (Bio 179) for academic credit during the spring semester prior to the start of their scholarship period to prepare for their summer research project.

Outcomes

This program offers first-hand research experiences to students with a variety of interests including genetics, animal behavior, ecology, and microbiology. Scholars in the program will gain both depth and breadth in the field of biology through weekly meetings in which Barrett students present and discuss their research findings (at various stages of completion) with faculty and peers. Additional outcomes may also include continued collaborations with faculty members and students at Mills as well as the production of scholarly works (such as presentations at professional meetings and publications in professional journals).

Barrett Scholars are honored each fall at our Annual Jill Barrett Undergraduate Program in Biology Symposium hosted on the Mills campus. The purpose of this event is for students to share their research findings with the Mills community and beyond through oral and poster presentations. Mills has limited financial support for students interested in presenting their findings at off-campus venues. For more information, please visit the Undergraduate Research and Opportunity Program grant page.

Applying to the Program

For detailed information on applying to the Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology and available faculty mentors, visit our application information page.

Barrett Program History

The Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology at Mills College was initiated in 1998, funded by the generosity of donors Richard and Elaine Barrett in honor of their daughter Jill, who graduated from Mills as a biology major in 1993. She wrote her senior thesis on "The Evolution of Optimal Foraging Strategy in Araneophagic Spiders." (Araneophagic means "eating spiders;" these are cannibalistic spiders.) She also did fieldwork at the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County. After Jill graduated, she became an active conservation biologist, working to eliminate threats to endangered sea turtles, which remain at risk of extinction. Tragically, Jill lost her life in an accident in Greece while coming home from early morning observation of sea turtles. Her family established the Jill Barrett Undergraduate Research Program in Biology in her memory. We are grateful for their support of this program, and all participants are mindful of the contributions that Jill made and undoubtedly would have continued to make had her life not ended so prematurely.

Mills Biology Program Goals

The program goals for students who earn a major or minor in biology at Mills are for them to:

  • Possess knowledge of general biological principles.
  • Have the ability to carry out standard laboratory and field techniques, including analysis of results.
  • Have the ability to communicate findings in both oral and written modes.
  • Understand and practice the process of scientific inquiry, including the logic of experimentation and data analysis.
  • Have the ability to evaluate a new area of research using knowledge of biological principles and the process of scientific inquiry, as well as the current biological literature.