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Honors & Non-Honors Research Thesis Program

What is the Biology Honors Program?

The Program in Biology administers an Honors Program to train students to conduct independent research in the biological sciences.  Participating in the honors program allows students to develop their research skills, deepen their understanding of the field, and form productive relationships with faculty and other students.  The achievement is noted on the diploma and official transcript.

In addition to completing all the requirements for the major, an honors degree requires:

(1) a major GPA of at least 3.4, and

(2) the completion of a significant piece of independent research that is

(3) reported in an honors thesis and

(4) presented in a public forum.

Timeline Overview:

Soph. Year:  Apply to honors (or non-honors) program, identify research project and mentor, plan project timeline
Junior Year:  Conduct research with mentor (usually for credit under MCDB or EEB 300/400)
Senior Year:  Continue research, complete thesis, present in public forum
3rd Week of Term you Plan to Graduate: Absolute Deadline to Apply to Declare 
1st of the Month you Plan to Graduate (April 1, December 1, August 1): Thesis Due Date

Thesis Planning, Requirements, & Timeline Details:

Thesis Project Planning (Sophomore and Junior Years)

  • Review the Student Research information and identify an appropriate research mentor (and co-sponsor if necessary).  It is recommended that you choose a sponsor by the end of your sophomore year.  Remember that if your chosen research mentor (principle investigator) is not a research-active faculty member in your major’s department(s), you will need to identify a “co-sponsor” from within the program. The co-sponsor will evaluate the student’s research proposal to ensure it is appropriate for the field.
    • Who can sponsor or co-sponsor?
      • Biology or Plant Biology – EEB or MCDB research-active faculty
      • Biology, Health, & Society – EEB or MCDB research-active faculty *or* faculty in BHS-related fields (see an advisor for more information)
      • Microbiology – EEB, MCDB, SPH, or Micro research-active faculty
      • CMB – MCDB research-active faculty
      • EEB – EEB research-active faculty
  • Declare an honors major by applying for admittance into the Honors Program.
    • It is recommended that students discuss the Honors Program with a major advisor early in their undergraduate careers, and apply for Honors as soon as possible.
    • You are encouraged to apply as soon as you have a general research plan and appropriate faculty sponsor and/or co-sponsor.
    • Even if you participated in the freshman and sophomore Honors Program, you must still specifically apply to declare honors in the major.
    • Students who did not participate in the freshman and sophomore Honors Program are eligible to declare an honors major and are encouraged to apply.
  • Register (or plan) for at least two terms of independent research (usually via MCDB or EEB 300/400 or MICRO 399) depending on the field of study. Most students register for three or four terms of independent research, but a specific number of research credits is not required.  A minimum of two terms of work in a research lab is the recommended minimum.  If you are working with a sponsor who is out of unit and have a co-sponsor, you will register for research credit under the co-sponsor’s research section.
  • Identify 1-2 “Readers” who agree to review your thesis.  These should be research-active faculty members in your major’s department(s) with an understanding of your research topic. You need three faculty total to review your thesis:  one will be your sponsor, one might be your co-sponsor (if applicable), and the other 1-2 must be identified by you.
    • Readers must agree to turn in their evaluations within 10 days of the thesis due date (April 10, August 10, or December 10 for winter, summer, or fall).
    • Students may petition the Honors Committee for an exception to this rule by submitting a detailed reason for the request at least three weeks prior to the submission deadline for the thesis.

Preparing and Submitting the Thesis (Senior Year)

  • The thesis is due on December 1, April 1, or August 1 for graduation in fall, winter, or summer term respectively. If the 1st falls on a weekend, the thesis will be due on the following Monday.
  • There are no set guidelines on how the thesis should be formatted, or a specific page requirement. However, the Thesis Committee prefers a thesis to be written in scientific manuscript format (i.e., abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections). There are examples of theses available to look at in the Bio. Office during regular business hours (1140 Undergraduate Science Building).  There is no need to bind the thesis.
  • You must submit an electronic copy of your thesis by the due date. Plan ahead as the “cover sheet” that must be submitted in advance must first be completed by your mentor.
  • You must present the research results in a public forum such as a class, a poster session, departmental seminar, or a formal presentation in a lab meeting.
    • Note that the UPiN / Bio. Offices organize a poster presentation each April and all thesis students are invited to participate.  This will fulfill the presentation requirement.
    • The mentor will declare in the Student Researcher Participation Assessment  when and where the student has fulfilled the public presentation requirement.
    • Students must fulfill the public presentation requirement by the last day of the term they wish to graduate.
    • Please be aware: Students who have participated in UROP and have presented their work in a public forum have not met the oral presentation requirement for honors.

After Submitting the Honors Thesis (Graduation)

  • Readers of honors theses are expected to file their reports with the Bio. Office (2200 Biological Sciences Building) within 10 days after the thesis is submitted.
    • The reports of all readers will address the quality of the science reported in the thesis, as well as the quality of the written presentation.
    • The report of the mentor will also elaborate on the role the student played in the design, execution, and interpretation of the experiments reported in the thesis, and point out the role that others in the lab played.
    • Based on the material presented in the honors thesis and the mentor’s cover sheet information, the readers of the thesis will recommend a rating of No Honors, Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors.
  • The Honors Committee will meet approximately two weeks after the due date of the theses to review the recommendations of the readers and decide on the appropriate level of honors. The Committee will attempt to maintain uniform standards for honors and is not constrained by the level of honors recommended by the readers. The Honors Committee may decide to table discussion and request the student to revise the thesis if it believes that a revised version might merit a higher rating.
  • Students will be notified by email of the level of the honors earned. It is unlikely that students will know their level of honors before the end of the term or graduation ceremony.
    • Students have the option of participating in the Honors Program graduation ceremony, but they will probably not know what (if any) level of honors they have received before the ceremony.
    • The honors level will be noted on the official diploma and transcript.

Non-Honors Thesis Option

For those students interested in research who do not meet the 3.4 GPA cut-off, a non-honors thesis option is available.  These students must participate in the independent study, thesis-writing, and public presentation elements as outlined for Honors students, but need not meet the GPA threshold.  Student researchers who successfully complete a thesis will receive a letter from the Program in Biology certifying the achievement, but will not receive a designation on their transcript.