Detailed Information for Honors Students
The student should enroll in Biology 401-404: Independent Research (or conduct an Excel project) with a faculty mentor in their sophomore or junior year. The possibility of Honors Thesis should be discussed with your research mentor by spring of your junior year. The student should then begin to develop a research plan for the Thesis work in consultation with the faculty mentor and obtain the department head’s permission to enroll in Biology 495: Honors Thesis. Be aware that research conducted for pay (e.g., Excel) cannot also count for academic credit; the Honors Thesis research must be distinct in some manner from research experiences for pay. Please note that you are required to take Biology 265: Biostatistics if you are going to successfully complete your thesis. Many students do this during their junior year, but can be completed during the senior year (frequently in the fall; Biology 265 is rarely offered in the spring).
Work on Honors Thesis Proposal and begin making arrangements for the thesis committee. At the discretion of the faculty mentor, one or more drafts may be required prior to the beginning of the fall semester.
Having enrolled in Thesis (Biol. 495), the Thesis candidate begins research, likely by performing a thorough search of the scientific literature, getting experiments underway and finishing the Honors Thesis Proposal (see Appendix 2: Departmental Standards for Written Work; Appendix 3 Sample Thesis Proposals). Candidates will receive a copy of the rubric that faculty will use to assess the quality and merit of Honors Thesis research. An Honors Thesis must demonstrate the student’s capacity for quality research and give evidence of mastery of the material. Typically, students meet at least weekly with their faculty mentor for project discussions and review of several Proposal drafts.
A Thesis Committee for the student will be formed in the fall. The Committee will consist of the mentor and at least one other department member. An additional member from outside Biology may also be on the Committee. Regardless, at least three faculty members must be on the Committee (also, see “Spring Semester, #3” below). The responsibilities of the Thesis Committee are:
The format and due date of the proposal is guided by the committee. The following elements are frequently included in the proposal itself:
Sample Honors Thesis Proposals are included in Appendix 3. The student will initiate a Thesis Committee meeting to discuss the Proposal and attendant faculty comments; this meeting may include a presentation by the student. At this time, any changes to the planned research can be discussed. The Committee also will adjudicate the suitability of the Proposal for producing an Honors Thesis and the acceptability of the Proposal as a whole. If the student and mentor chose to deviate significantly from any proposed elements during the year, they should consult with members of the Thesis Committee.
Students should initiate a discussion with their faculty mentor regarding potential research plans over the interim session (see below).
Students should use the fall semester wisely regarding completion of experiments, sample analysis, data management, and interpretation of results. It is unlikely that the entire body of research will be completed in one semester. Thus, both fall and spring must be utilized for making research progress (see Spring Semester, Item 1, below).
If required by the mentor, the student will write and submit a progress report by the end of classes in the Fall semester.
The student should enroll in Biology 40X: Independent Research for the spring semester.
The Committee’s review of the Proposal, a progress report (if required), and an evaluation of the student’s conduct as an investigator by the mentor will contribute to the grade given in Thesis for the fall semester.
During Interim, the faculty mentor will discuss with the Thesis Committee regarding whether the candidate is performing at, above, or below the “acceptable” level in all evaluation categories (refer to Rubric for the Honors Thesis in Biology downloadable here). After the Thesis Committee renders a decision on truncating or continuing Honors Thesis candidacy, the faculty mentor will communicate that decision to the student.
Frequently, with the permission of the mentor, candidates elect to use much of their Interim Session on campus doing research, returning early when possible. While not required, engaging in research during this concentrated period can advance progress significantly because the student is free from competing demands of other coursework and activities. This should be discussed by the candidate and mentor well in advance of the intersession.
The summary timeline below is a resource intended for those who have already read all of the above information. If you do not pay strict attention to the information above, you risk missing important information that will eliminate you from consideration for Honors.
Spring semester junior year
Summer between junior and senior year
Fall senior year
Interim senior year
Spring senior year