Honors Program

Honors theses

The Program in Biological Sciences confers Honors to a select set of graduating seniors, based partly on grades within the major, but more particularly on the quality of research and writing evidenced in formal Senior Theses.

Requirements to Receive Program Honors:

  • Minimum GPA of 3.30 in all BIOL SCI courses through Winter Quarter of Senior year
  • Completion by the end of Winter Quarter of the Senior year of at least two registrations in BIOL SCI 398/399 in a lab, working on a Senior Thesis project
  • Submission of a Senior Thesis:
    • Judged to be professionally written by the student
    • Representing a significant research accomplishment
    • Data in thesis collected and analyzed wholly by the student
  • Recommendation for Program Honors by the Biological Sciences Curricular and Honors Board
  • Acceptance of the Program’s recommendation by the WCAS Honors Committee

Due Dates for Honors Project/Materials:

  • By Fall Quarter of Senior Year: Work on thesis project commences
  • By January 9, 2018: Honors Application to the Honors Coordinator and the Faculty Supervisor, as a Word attachment
  • By April 26, 2018: Completed Senior Thesis to the Honors Coordinator, as a PDF attachment
  • By April 26, 2018: Faculty Supervisor's letter of recommendation to the Honors Coordinator

I. Important Steps Towards Honors:

The Faculty Supervisor’s responsibilities are to provide:

  • Guidance in choosing a unique, thesis-worthy project
  • A supportive research environment
  • Appropriate mentoring regarding experiments and interpretation of results
  • Advice concerning the writing of the Senior Thesis

The student bears responsibility for conducting the research and writing the Thesis. Data collected by others may not be used in the Thesis. Data that will appear in another person's Masters or Doctoral Thesis may not be used, nor data that will appear in papers without the student as a co-author.

II.  Application for Honors

By the January Due Date, the senior submits an Honors Application Form to:

As the student is expected to have done considerable organizing and writing by this time, the complete Honors Application also contains a provisional version of the following sections of the Senior Thesis:

  • Introduction and Literature Survey
  • Materials and Methods
  • Preliminary Results (if any)
  • References Cited

The Honors Coordinator and the Supervisor independently provide suggestions for improvement in the ensuing weeks.

III. Writing the Senior Thesis

The completed Thesis consists of the following sections:

  • Title Page: The title of the Thesis, the student’s name, and the name of the Faculty Supervisor.
  • Abstract: The Abstract summarizes the problem, the experiments, and the conclusion; one page maximum.  Written in third person.
  • Table of Contents.
  • Introduction and Literature Survey: This section places the research in scientific context. Previous work in the field is referenced and discussed, and its relationship to the Thesis experiments is described.
  • Materials and Methods: This section provides details of the experiments and of the analytical (including statistical) techniques utilized. The reasons for choosing the particular method(s) of statistical analysis must be indicated.
  • Results: This section includes the objective results of the experiments. Figures and Tables are included as needed, placed at appropriate points within the text. The data are expected to reflect the work of the student, not the work of others in the lab.
  • Discussion: This section examines the scientific significance of the experimental results, and suggests possible future directions for related research. The relationship of the results to the work of other researchers is discussed. Included is analysis of why particular experiments succeeded or failed.
  • References Cited: References cited in the body of the Thesis should be listed using a format typical of scientific journals in the field. (A consistent style of citation should be used throughout the body of the Thesis; all data or ideas of others must be credited.)
  • Curriculum Vitae: The student’s CV concludes the Thesis.

Examples of successful Senior Theses can be found here and here.

IV. Submission of the Thesis and Recommendation Letter

The Thesis needs to be largely completed by the beginning of Spring Quarter, and submitted to the Supervisor for any comment then. A final version of the Senior Thesis in PDF format is sent by the student electronically to the Honors Coordinator by the April Due Date. A recommendation letter from the Faculty Supervisor must be received by the Honors Coordinator by that same date.

V. Review by Honors Committees

An independent Reader is assigned to each Thesis. When the PBS Curricular and Honors Board meets, letters from the Supervisor and the Reader are considered, along with the Thesis itself. For Program Honors, there must also be a 3.30 or greater average in Biological Sciences courses. After discussion, the Board votes with regard to whether Program Honors should be recommended to the Honors Committee of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. It also votes with regard to winners of specific Research Prizes. The Honors Committee of Weinberg College makes the final decisions about granting Honors.

VI. Special Thesis-Based Prizes

There is also an annual competition for four special prizes based solely on the quality of the Senior Theses and the research they represent. Participation in this competition is not contingent upon participation in the Honors program.

The prizes are named after prominent past faculty: