Research and Capstone Policy
Research and capstone projects in chemistry are meant to provide an in-depth experience in which students draw on and build upon the various segments of their education. It can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the degree as students grow both professionally and personally in ways not possible in traditional classroom and laboratory courses. Students learn to design their own experiments and make observations when the outcome is not already known. The student and professor work together to discover new knowledge. Extensive hands-on use of research-quality equipment further develops students’ experimental skills and techniques. Students learn how to interpret results and draw conclusions from their own experiments. Finally, presenting the results of their research completes the cycle of science and permits others to build on their efforts. All USNA chemistry majors are required to complete a capstone project (SC476) or a research course equivalent (SC495 / 496).
Chemistry majors taking the Capstone Option will complete the 3-credit Capstone Project course (SC476) in the spring semester of their 1/C year. SC476 requires completion of a research proposal, a formal written report of work completed, and an oral presentation by the end of the semester.
Alternatively students may replace SC476 with 3 credits of Research (SC495 / 496). This option allows students to start a project sooner and the possibility of fulfilling a chemistry elective with a second semester of Research. All midshipmen enrolling in Research must find a faculty member willing to act as a project advisor and prepare a written proposal in consultation with the advisor. Once the advisor and the reader have endorsed the proposal, it will be submitted to the Chemistry Department chair. Midshipmen are required to submit an approved research proposal prior to registering for a Research course. Midshipmen are encouraged to learn more about the research currently being conducted in the Chemistry Department within the different subdisciplines:
Midshipmen interested in the Biochemistry concentration could conceivably do independent research with any Chemistry faculty member as long as the project has a strong biological or biochemical component, more information on this topic can be found here: Biochemistry Concentration
Research projects usually proceed through the following stages: 1) definition of problem / question; 2) a literature search of what has already been done in the area; 3) design of experiments to address the problem or question (i.e. synthesize the necessary compounds, understand the physical phenomenon, calculate the physical quantities, etc.); 4) execution of these experiments; and 5) analysis and presentation of results in a meaningful way.
Typically when the first two or three steps in this process are completed a written research proposal is prepared. Consult with your faculty adviser for details about preparing your proposal.
Once your proposal has been approved by your research advisor please submit an electronic copy to the department chair by the time Registration for the first semester of your research course opens.
A written report is required for each semester of research. If you are registered for a subsequent semester, you may submit a shorter Interim Report and a Quad Chart. At the end of your project, you will submit a Full Report and a Quad Chart.
Once your report has been approved by your research advisor, please submit one hard copy, and an electronic copy of the report and quad chart to the department chair by the last day of class for that semester.
More information on writing a research report is available at:
ACS: Preparing a Research Report
A presentation is required for each semester of research. These presentations will be open to all faculty, staff and midshipmen, as well as to invited guests from outside the Academy. Several formats for these are possible and the advisor and the department will determine the exact requirement and scheduling. This information will be given to the midshipman as early as possible in the semester. One possible format is the poster. A midshipman giving a poster would produce a high quality visual presentation using resources readily available at the Academy, such as PowerPoint and MSC. A twenty-minute oral summary of the research is also acceptable. Again, this type of presentation should include high quality graphics. A question and answer period will be included for all presentations.
Typically, a poster is presented in the fall semester during the final exam period, and an oral presentation is given in the spring semester.