Biology Independent Research Project Using Tetrahymena


We strongly recommend that teachers interested in supporting a Tetrahymena based independent student research project first use one of our basic ASSET modules to become familiar with the organism and to introduce their students to Tetrahymena. With teacher approval, motivated students can then carry out an independent project of their own design. The student-designed project does not have to be cutting edge for the research community, but it should be a thoughtful investigation of an aspect of Tetrahymena that interests the student.

Teachers can decide what level of research they are comfortable supporting. Tetrahymena lends itself to research involving a myriad of approaches, from examining behavioral and physiological changes to cytological analysis to molecular changes. Good research does not always require sophisticated equipment, and many meaningful and informative projects can be carried out with basic supplies and equipment. However, if more sophisticated equipment is requested (PCR machines, electrophoresis equipment, micropipettors, or Vernier colorimeters) the supporting teacher must be able to instruct the student and supervise use of the ASSET supplied equipment.

To help us evaluate and improve the program, participating teachers will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire briefly evaluating their experience with the Independent Research Program.


Interested in carrying out an independent research project? Here’s a short summary of what your independent research project will involve.

  1. START EARLY!  A good project needs time for planning, shipping and doing.
  2. Get support from your teacher – this is required!
  3. Identify a question of interest to YOU.
  4. Do some background reading to find out what’s already known about your topic. Check out our resources for independent research for help in obtaining articles and other pertinent background materials.
  5. Think about the methods you will use to investigate your question.
  6. Decide what kind of data you need to collect, and what controls are needed.
  7. Decide how you will analyze and evaluate your data.
  8. Plan a timeline for your experiment. Map it out on a calendar and be prepared for things like snow days or holidays.
  9. Talk to your teacher about what materials and/or equipment you will need to carry out your project.
    • Think carefully about what is needed and how much you need.
    • Plan when you will need things and for how long (since equipment loan will be for a limited time period).
  10. Request materials not available at your school from ASSET. Requests must be related to the project and specified in the project outline.
  11. Prepare and carry out your experiment.
  12. Gather and analyze your data.
  13. Produce a final report.

To help you get started, read the following information about the development of an independent project:

A General Overview of Independent Research in Biology is a general introduction to what is involved in carrying out an independent research project and provides a summary of the steps that will help you carry out a successful research project.

Getting Started with Independent Research in Biology provides a more detailed roadmap of how to develop and carry out an independent research project, including things to consider at each step in the process.

Resources for Independent Research provides information on how to identify and obtain information related to your project.

Presenting your research provides templates and guidelines on how to present your research to others in various formats.

Remember that teacher approval is required for all research projects, so you should enlist teacher support at the beginning of the planning process.

Applying for ASSET support

Once you have identified the question you want to investigate and thought about how you will carry out your project, the next step is writing a short research proposal that clearly states:

  • the scientific question(s) you want to answer
  • a brief explanation of why this question interests you
  • your experimental plan, including controls
  • the type(s) you plan to collect
  • how you plan to analyze your data

Discuss your project with your teacher and friends (science takes teamwork), but your proposal should present your research interests and plans. Your final proposal should be submitted as part of your ASSET project application.

RememberSigned permission slips are required for participation in the program.

If you want to use ASSET materials and equipment, you must have the approval of a sponsoring teacher and complete a project application.

The Selection Process

The proposal review process used in this project is modeled on the grant application process used in distributing grant funds for professional scientific research. Requests for support will be reviewed and evaluated by ASSET staff based on content, creativity, approach, and feasibility (is the project doable). In some cases revisions may be requested before the project can be approved.

Approved projects will be eligible for the free short-term loan of supplies and some types of equipment not available in the student’s school, as well as free cells and media. Only materials or supplies justified by the project proposal will be provided. Teacher approval is required for all requests.

Carrying out the Research Project

Reading about what others have done is an important part of any scientific research project. Your librarian can help you obtain published information (for example, journal articles, book chapters, reviews) relating to your project. You can also visit our Resources for Independent Research page for help in obtaining articles and other pertinent background materials. A good research report briefly describes previous research findings and relates your current work to what has been done before.

When you are ready to start the experimental part of your project, ASSET will provide needed supplies, materials, and equipment for a specified period. Usually equipment is loaned for 2 weeks, although slightly longer periods are possible with prior approval. As you carry out your experiments and collect information and data, you may find that new ideas and questions are generated by your work. That’s the nature of science, but it is important to stay focused on answering your original question as you carry out your project. If your work generates another interesting question, you can always apply for support for an additional research project!

Reporting on your Research Project

Students receiving ASSET materials or equipment are asked to provide a final project report, which may include a Word document, graphs, tables, pictures, micrographs, PowerPoint presentations, posters, videos, and/or other appropriate materials. We have suggestions for how to organize and present your work in different formats. When your project is complete, ASSET may post your final report on our website. All research projects are also eligible for entry into the yearly ASSET virtual online Science Fair.

You might also consider submitting your work to one of the journals that publish student research.