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 2017/2018 below.

Identification of project and supervisor:

Students will be informed of each Life Sciences faculty member’s area of research interest. Faulty will help suggest general areas and/or specific projects that might be worthy capstone projects. Students are encouraged to think about these topics and, where reasonable, develop their own ideas in consultation with a faculty supervisor. This supervisor must be member of the Yale-NUS faculty. Where necessary a student may request that external members of the scientific community serve as co-supervisors. In such cases, the Yale-NUS supervisor has the same responsibility to the student and to the College as they would if they were sole supervisor of the project. 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, carried out over the course of a student’s fourth year. In all but the rarest of cases, such work will include scientific research. This can comprise experimental 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 for which the nature of the scholarly work is not scientific research per se, but more interpretive or prescriptive. Examples might include an original history of a scientific discovery or a novel scientific policy analysis. Original scholarship remains paramount, however; reviews of existing 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 first and second semester of the fourth year. Near the end of the first semester, students will deliver both an oral presentation and a written description of their progress to that point. Throughout both semesters, students are expected to meet regularly with their capstone supervisor. A thesis describing the research project will be submitted to the capstone supervisor (and co-supervisor if there is one) by the thesis due date, usually around the beginning of April. Capstone theses may include work done prior to the student’s fourth year, but must clearly and accurately distinguish between work done during the fourth year and preliminary work completed previously.

Preparation of students:

Students are encouraged to take the required Research Seminar course in their third year, as this will be very beneficial for their capstone preparations. 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 then, whether at Yale-NUS or elsewhere.

Expectations for students/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:

  1. an abstract
  2. an introduction putting the research into context
  3. a description of the experimental or theoretical methods used in the work
  4. a description of the results and conclusions reached
  5. a reference section.

There is no minimum or maximum word limit, but most theses are expected to be in the range of 6,000-15,000 words.


The Life Sciences capstone projects will be assessed based on various oral presentations and discussions over the course of the capstone year (20%), a five-page written progress report due at the end of the first semester (20%) and the final written thesis document due mid-April (60%). 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)