Dean of the Faculty

Institutional Review Board

The mission of the Southwestern University (SU) Institutional Review Board (IRB) is to evaluate SU faculty and staff research proposals to ensure that human participants are treated with respect and safety and that their rights are protected, following the federal guidelines set forth in the US Department of Health and Human Services’ “Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46: Protection of Human Subjects

The IRB Committee

Committee Members for 2015-2016 include

  • Kathryn Prater, Co-Chair, Department of Education

  • Abby Dings, Co-Chair, Department of Modern Languages & Literature

  • Trey Buchanan, Director of Institutional Research and Assessment

  • Maha Zewail Foote, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

  • Marilee Parsons, external community member

  • Brenda Sendejo, Department of Sociology & Anthropology

  • Max Taub, Department of Biology


Who Must Submit Their Projects For IRB Approval?

With a few exceptions (see pdf below), anyone conducting academic or administrative research with human participants (including research where human tissues or cells will be collected or analyzed) must submit proposals to the IRB. For IRB purposes, research projects include not only standard faculty research but also class research projects, student-led independent studies and capstone research, and administrative research. Examples of research methodologies include (but are not limited to) experiments, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, participant/informant observations, interventions, and program evaluations.

Do I need to submit my proposed research plan to the IRB for review? (PDF)


Class Research Projects

Class research projects do NOT need to be submitted to the IRB if the research activity is designed for the purpose of learning research methods, if the research exposes participants to no greater than minimal risk, if the proposed participants do not include vulnerable populations (prisoners, pregnant women, people under 18 years of age, or other vulnerable groups), if the project does not involve sensitive information (such as sexual activity, drug use, illegal behaviors, etc.) AND if the results and data will NOT be disseminated in any way outside of the classroom. Please note that Capstone and Student Works Symposium presentations are considered to be outside of the classroom and therefore do not meet the criteria for class research projects. In order to protect the rights of participants and ensure ethical conduct by all researchers, faculty members who assign class research projects are expected to review students’ research plans prior to participant recruitment and data collection, as well as to provide ongoing supervision and guidance. All faculty members who assign class research projects are expected to comply with the ethics training requirement below, even if they do not need to submit a research proposal.


Ethics training requirement:

The IRB requires certification of ethics training for all Principal Investigator(s) prior to data collection, as well as for all IRB members. NIH has a free training program that meets its education requirements for grant recipients and provides important information for anyone involved in human research. It takes about 2-3 hours and can be accessed at  A certificate of completion (PDF or screenshot) for this NIH program or a similar certification program (e.g., CITI) dated within the past three years must be submitted to and kept on file. This requirement extends to all investigators (including student researchers) when the proposed research involves more than “minimal risk” to humans based on the judgment of the SU IRB.  “Minimal risk means the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests” (Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46.102).


Forms and information


Submission of research proposal form

The Principal Investigator (PI) should submit research proposals as a single attached file (Microsoft Word or Google Doc) to PIs must be Southwestern University faculty or staff members. Proposals should be submitted no later than two weeks before the proposed start date. Proposals must be officially submitted by a faculty or staff member as the Principal Investigator. For student projects, the faculty supervisor must read and approve the proposal prior to its submission.


Notification of decisions on proposals

The IRB will email the PI a letter describing the results of the review, including reasons for any requested modifications or for denying approval of the project. Researchers may not begin data collection until approval is received.


Extension of previously-approved research

If you have received approval for a class research project in the past, and you wish to repeat the project in subsequent semesters, please send an email to with the following information: proposal number, project title, and the new course number and title where the research will be conducted. If there are minor modifications, please describe. In most cases, we will be able to approve the extension without a new proposal form.



If you have questions about how to complete the form or are unsure about whether your project requires submission, please contact either of the chairs of the IRB, Dr. Abby Dings, phone 512-863-1667, email or Dr. Kathryn Prater, phone 512-863-1978, email


Federal Regulations and Guidelines