What is an SMP?
The St. Mary’s Project is a year-long, 8-credit, independently designed and executed course of study intended as a capstone experience for a student’s time at St. Mary’s. Working in close conjunction with one or more professors, in or outside of the department, you have the opportunity to explore, in depth, a question or idea that entrances and intrigues you. Many—although by no means all—SMPs are interdisciplinary, bringing together threads from earlier classes taken across the curriculum. Many are highly personal, involving creative or innovative work that ties together four years of study in a meaningful way. SMPs can, in their final form, take the shape of research papers, collections of essays, anthologies of poetry, films, web sites, suites of paintings, graphic novels, operas—all these, and more, have been done in years past.
The College has established certain guidelines for the SMP:
- It must be student-initiated
- It must demonstrate methodological competence (by identifying an area to be explored and proposing a method of inquiry appropriate for the topic)
- It must draw on and extend knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. It must include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which the project is a contribution
- It must be shared with the larger community through some form of public presentation.
First year students and sophomores:
- Consider your interests and keep track of favorite and interesting topics
- Don’t be too specific, keep it broad
- Talk to friends and seniors doing projects.
- Attend SMPs and look over the archives
First semester of junior year:
- Consider whether you want to collaborate with others. Note that collaborating with students will not necessarily make your work load easier
- Think about whether you want to do the project in two 4-credit blocks or employ some other sequence
Second semester of junior year:
- Narrow your choice to one or two topics
- Discuss and develop your topic ideas with faculty members who might be good mentors.
- Talk to the St. Mary’s Career Center if you want to include an off-campus component to your project.
- Decide if you will be collaborating with a fellow student.
- Have a good idea of what you want to do by advising day.
- Select a faculty mentor in the spring semester.
- Submit a formal proposal
- Work closely with your faculty mentor.
- Submit the budget request form by late October (option to resubmit in March).
- Complete research, hands-on experience, written essay, or poster.
- Present in the Spring semester
How to Choose a Topic
- What areas of biology interest you?
- What are your career interests?
- Do you want a project to include specific experiences such as doing an off-campus internship or conducting on-site research?
- What was your favorite class and why?
- Would a topic from a class be something you would like to pursue further?
- Add/Drop Form (PDF)
- Budget Projection (PDF)
- Expenditure (PDF)
- Release Form (PDF)
- Biology department forms and information
- How to make a good poster
- SMP application form
- Submit a supply order form for your SMP online
Alternative Capstone Experience
Every biology major must complete a St. Mary’s Project.
Highlighted SMP Projects
Biology Department SMP Guidelines
The department chair will send out e-mail notifications in the spring announcing both the due date for the prospectus and the date of departmental advising meetings.
Students planning to begin an SMP in the spring should contact the chair for information on how to do so.
At the beginning of each semester of your project turn in an add/drop form to the registrar.
What to consider when finding a mentor:
- If you don’t select a mentor, the department will assign you one
- Talk to several professors about the project affect your project
- Your SMP mentor is not the same thing as your advisor
- Your SMP mentor does not have to be a professor in your department. Check with the biology Department Chair
For primarily critical projects:
- 1-2 page, single-spaced, project description.
- A basic description of the scope of the project, including questions, issues, or the general area of study that the you wish to address
- An initial list or summary of primary and secondary texts that the you want to use
- The student’s initial plan for research
- An overview of the kinds of arguments that the you expect to make
- A detailed explanation of the work that has prepared the you to undertake the project
- Your mentor’s name
SMP Papers Information
Submit your finished project to:
- Your mentor
- The Registrar (on CD/DVD)
- The Department (on CD/DVD)
- Division Office (on CD/DVD)
Your paper will be sent to Special Collections in the library; unless you request that your project remain private. The departmental copy will be added to a browsing collection of past projects on the department site.
SMP Paper Tips
- Images are acceptable on the title page
- Number your pages.
- If your project contains distinct chapters, essays, stories, etc., include a Table of Contents
- Print your project out double-sided. Insert blank pages throughout your document to keep the page order consistent.
- The Table of Contents, the body of your project, and your Bibliography should all begin on odd-numbered pages.
- Present the paper with a clear vinyl cover
- Your entire project must be submitted in one document in Microsoft Word or pdf.
SMP Papers Structure (suggested)
- Title Page (Minimum Information)
- Project Title
- Year of Completion
- Abstract (approximately 250 words)
- Dedication (if any)
- Mentor’s Name(s)
- Blank Page
- Table of Contents
- Table of Illustrations (if any)
- Acknowledgements (if any)
- Body of Project
- Appendices (if any)
- Bibliography (if any)