Honors Program

Students working at desk

Exceptional undergraduate biology students are strongly encouraged to develop an honors thesis based on a research project. Qualifying candidates submit a written proposal outlining their idea and then complete the experiment under the direction of a faculty member.

During the senior year, honors candidates complete a written honors thesis and an oral presentation on their research to the entire departmental faculty.


Undergraduate biology majors must maintain a cumulative 3.5 GPA in biological science courses (and 3.0 overall GPA) and complete a research project to be eligible for honors. Students with records that fall below these levels after initiating the program will not be awarded honors.

Questions about the honors program? Contact Adam Smith or Aleksandar Jeremic.


Guidelines for Special Departmental Honors Thesis


Late submissions will not be accepted. Exceptions to set deadlines must be submitted to the entire faculty for approval.

  • Prior to senior year: Students enroll in a lab course on research methods to prepare for working with faculty members on research.
  • Fall semester of senior year: Students submit a final draft of the proposal to their research advisor a week or more before the submission deadline for corrections, edits and approval.
  • September: The research proposal is emailed as a single Microsoft Word document (including signed title page), not a PDF, to the Biology Department at [email protected] with “Honors Proposal” in the email subject line. The file name should be the student’s last name plus “Proposal” (example: SmithProposal.doc).
  • Early April: Honors theses are due to the advisors for corrections and approval.
  • Mid-April: Student emails thesis as a single Microsoft Word document (including signed title page) to the Biology Department at [email protected] with “Honors Thesis” in the subject line. Thesis must be received no later than one week before the oral presentation. The file name should be the student’s last name plus “Thesis” (example: SmithThesis.doc).
  • End of April: Oral presentations (10-minute presentation, five-minute Q-and-A). Students should prepare PowerPoint slides conveying essential information about their research projects such as background and rationale for the study, testable hypothesis (if hypothesis-driven), methods, results and conclusions.
  • Students working in a lab outside the Biology Department must identify a departmental research advisor to approve the proposal and thesis. The departmental advisor must be at least peripherally familiar with the research being done and may not be the same person as the academic advisor.
  • The departmental advisor must also sign the proposal and thesis title page.
Proposal Format

The proposal should include:

  • Background information (i.e., a brief review of the literature) ending in a statement of the question to be addressed.
  • A description of the experiment(s) to be conducted including a description of the method(s) to be used. References to publications that describe the methods are OK to include, but the proposal should also include a brief description of those methods.
  • A working hypothesis or prediction of the results; preliminary results if available.
  • A discussion of the data, including the significance of the results.
  • A list of references cited (including all authors, date, title, journal, volume, pages) — citations for information from the internet (except for sequence accession numbers) are not acceptable.
  • Figures and figure legends, if available, can be integrated into the text or placed at the end.
  • The proposal should be written so that all faculty members in the department can understand it, no matter their research area of expertise.
Thesis Format
  • The manuscript should be written in a format appropriate for submission to a journal for publication. The choice of journal is to be determined by the student and the advisor and should be based on the research topic.
  • A copy of the journal page(s) that describe information for authors, found in all journals, must be included at the end of the thesis document. The instructions to the authors should be followed in formatting the thesis.
  • Documents should be written to accommodate readers who are versed in fields as diverse as ecology and gene regulation.
  • The advisor(s) who directed the research and their departmental affiliation as well as the departmental advisor must be listed on the title page. Download a sample format (PDF) for the thesis cover page.
  • Methods may be cited “as described by … (citation)”; however, a brief description of the method must be included.
  • Although most journals state that figures must be submitted as glossy prints, the departmental faculty will accept photocopies of figures.
  • Because citations for information on the internet (except for sequence accession numbers) are not acceptable in manuscripts submitted for publication in many journals, citations of this type are not acceptable in honors theses.
  • Signatures on the cover page of the proposal or thesis are required to indicate that the advisors have read and approved the document and that the student wrote the proposal or thesis themself.