Colby is recognized as a leader when it comes to incorporating research into undergraduate education across the curriculum.Grants from the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and other sources have expanded opportunities for students to learn by doing—in laboratories, classrooms, and in the field. Students have researched how Congressional candidates emerge in national politics and the roles of religious and neighborhood organizations in political campaigns. At national meetings of science organizations such as the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, and the Geological Society of America, Colby students are overrepresented among liberal arts undergraduates presenting research findings.
The Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium, held each spring since 2000, features research from all disciplines presented by more than 500 students. Talks, poster presentations, and performances represent significant research conducted by students, and abstracts from symposia going back to 2003 are online
The Senior Scholars Program gives students an opportunity to devote significant time to a major project in their final year. Students can earn six credit hours for independent research under the guidance of a faculty tutor. Each senior scholar makes a presentation in the spring, and successful project reports become part of the library’s permanent collection. Projects reflect the type of research that usually takes place in graduate schools. Alumni report that Senior Scholars projects gave them an advantage getting into and succeeding in graduate programs.
The Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) provides opportunities for students to conduct biomedical research in collaboration with partner organizations including Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Jackson Laboratory, and the University of Maine. Funded by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institutes of Health to advance biomedical research, Maine INBRE includes 13 partners that in 2009 received a five-year, $18.7-million grant to continue operations.
The Career Center maintains a list of funding resources for research and internships on and off campus. Recognizing that not all students can afford to take an unpaid job or research opportunity during the summer or Jan Plan, Colby has established funds and solicited grants to provide stipends and support for such activities.
Established in 2010, a strategic partnership with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences offers expanded educational and research opportunities in marine sciences for students and faculty. Plans include curricular innovations that combine scientific research with economic and social policy analysis and January Program courses taught by Bigelow's senior research scientists.
CAPS is a summer program that helps students from diverse backgrounds develop leadership skills in the sciences. Participants spend six weeks on campus prior to the start of their first year at Colby participating in a science-focused curriculum that combines course work with research in the laboratories of participating faculty mentors.
Each summer scores of students remain on campus as summer research assistants working with faculty members in many disciplines. The Colby Undergraduate Summer Research Retreat, begun in 2008, is a two-day retreat in The Forks, Maine, held in July and dedicated to student research. A prominent Colby graduate gives a keynote address, and participating students give short talks or present posters on the first day. The second day is dedicated to whitewater rafting or hiking.