Capstone Details

Life Sciences majors are required to complete a capstone project related to a topic in Life Sciences in their final year at Yale-NUS College. Please see details regarding the capstone requirements for the AY 2019/2020 below.

Identification of project and supervisor:

Faculty will make known to students the areas of research that are of interest to them, suggesting general areas and/or specific projects.  Students are encouraged to think about these topics and, where reasonable, develop their own ideas in consultation with the faculty.  The supervisor should be a member of the Yale-NUS faculty, but if appropriate, an outside member of the scientific community may serve as a supervisor.  In such a case, a Yale-NUS co-supervisor must be appointed.  All projects and supervisors must be approved by the Head of Studies.

Range of topics and formats:

The Capstone project is expected to be a significant piece of original scholarly work of scientific research.  This can comprise experimental laboratory work, field-based biological or ecological research, or theoretical, computational or analytical studies.  In unusual cases, the Head of Studies may approve a capstone project of a more interpretive or descriptive nature.  Examples might include an original history of a scientific discovery, meta-analysis or a novel scientific policy analysis.  Original scholarship remains paramount, so surveys of scientific literature will not be deemed suitable.  The capstone project culminates in the preparation of a substantial scholarly document (a thesis) describing the research carried out, placing it in the context of previous and ongoing research in the field, and describing the results and conclusions reached in the course of the research project.

Activities as part of project:

Students are expected to work on the Capstone project throughout the fourth year but may include work done in prior years.  Milestones: (i) week 2, Semester 1, a short oral presentation to classmates and faculty (5 minutes) on the capstone proposal.  (ii) week 15, Semester 1: a 5-page progress report is due.  (iii) Semester 2, week 2: short presentation on progress to date and plans for completion (5 minutes).  (iv) Semester 2, week 10: draft of capstone to be given to supervisor(s).  (v) Semester 2, week 11 (or as defined by the College) capstones due on Canvas. Celebratory oral presentation of Capstone (15 minutes).

Preparation of students:

Students should complete the required Research Seminar course in their third year.  There is no expectation that students will have worked in the laboratory in which they do their capstone prior to the start of Year 4. However, students are strongly encouraged to experience some kind(s) of laboratory, field or computational research before that time, whether at Yale-NUS or elsewhere.  Expectations for student-supervisor interactions and work on the project: Students and their Capstone supervisors are expected to meet throughout both semesters. The Head of Studies may periodically ask for updates from both students and supervisors.

Format(s) of final product:

The thesis describing the Capstone Project is a substantial written document that includes an abstract, an introduction putting the research into context, a description of the experimental or theoretical methods used in the work, a description of the results and conclusions reached, and a reference section. There is no minimum or maximum, but most theses are expected to be in the range of 6000-15000 words. More details on format and requirement for the final document can be found in the document Life Sciences Capstone Project Thesis Format and Assessment.


The Life Sciences Capstone projects will be assessed based on various oral presentations and discussions in the course of the capstone year (30%) and on the written document submitted at the thesis due date (70%). Assessment of the thesis itself will consist of two parts: 1) the scholarship of the written document, and 2) an assessment of the effort put forth by the student in carrying out the Capstone research project.

Examples of past capstone projects:

  • Characterization of Danio Rerio Response to Ethanol in an Acute Self-Administration Assay and the Role of CHRNα5 (Tsoi Sau Yee, Class of 2017)
  • Metabolic Reconstruction of C3-C4 Plant Intermediates (Ang Yukai, Class of 2017)
  • In Silico Metabolic Engineering: C4 Rice (Gan Sylvia, Class of 2017)