Biology Requirements for Honors 2014-2015

The Department of Biology grants departmental honors to a number of senior majors at each graduation in order to reward those who have distinguished themselves through their work in the department.

Those receiving honors achieve this distinction through overall performance in courses, attendance and participation in departmental seminars, and completion of a research project and thesis.  Research is emphasized because it is generally acknowledged that participation in independent studies serves as a capstone on undergraduate training in biology.  Satisfactory completion of a substantial piece of research indicates the student's ability to make use of previous training and experience and to develop new ideas through synthesis of concepts drawn from various sources.

In awarding honors, faculty members look for evidence of critical thinking, creativity, and resourcefulness and for the ability to communicate ideas and experimental results.  Collecting data without attempting to interpret them is not sufficient.  Also, students should be aware that simply spending a great deal of time in the laboratory or field or being an excellent technical assistant is not in itself worthy of the honors distinction.

Since many honors candidates complete a portion of their research during the summer, a student considering honors should consult with a faculty member during the spring semester of the junior year.

The receipt of an honors award will be determined by the biology department faculty upon consideration of both the written thesis and oral or poster presentations as required by the department.

The following are the minimum requirements for honors in biology:

1.  Candidates for honors must have a grade-point average equivalent to a "B" in all Biology courses (other than independent study) and in all other courses submitted for the major (including mathematics, chemistry and physics courses) through the fall semester of the senior year. Under special circumstances the department will consider granting exceptions to this requirement. Exceptions to this requirement will be considered by the entire faculty of the department after oral petition on behalf of the student by the faculty mentor.

2.  Candidates must demonstrate a serious commitment to participate in departmental programs and are required to attend the majority of Biology Department seminars. Candidates are also required to participate in the Senior Honors Seminar series.

3.  During their senior year candidates must complete two semesters of Independent Study (at the 4000-level) devoted to research on a single topic.

4.  The tentative title of the research project, must be given to the Biology Department coordinator, Julie Santorella (Druckenmiller Hall, room 157A,) on October 24, 2014. The Biology Department will assign primary and secondary reviewers (readers) for each honors project and inform the students in early November.

5. No later than Friday, November 28, 2014 each student will submit a preliminary research paper to their research advisor. No later than Friday, December 5, 2014 each student will submit a revised preliminary research paper to the primary and secondary reviewers.

The Research paper will generally include an introduction to the research problem (with appropriate review of the scientific literature and citations), a brief summary of the goals of the project, and brief descriptions of the methods used, results to date, and plans for the continuation of the research in the spring semester. Details of the format and length of the Research Summary should be determined in a discussion between the faculty advisor and the student. It is the responsibility of the student to consult with the reviewers and research advisor concerning his or her project prior to the winter break.

6. Each honors student will present a short, public talk describing his or her project in the Fall semester during Reading Period (Friday, December 12, and Monday, December 15, 2014).  During the oral presentation, the student is expected to describe the background of the project in broad terms and then focus on the specific area being investigated. The length of the presentations in the Fall will be determined by the Biology Department Faculty and notification will be sent to students.

In January, students will be invited into the honors program by the Biology faculty based on the review of their work and academic standing.

6.  Final Honors Presentations will take place at the end of the Spring semester during Reading Period, (Thursday, May 7 and Friday, May 8, 2015, students will describe their final project work and the results obtained. The length of the presentations in the Spring will be determined by the Biology Department Faculty and notification will be sent to students.

7.  Favorable departmental consideration of the Honors thesis and oral presentation are necessary for honors distinction.  Requirements for the preparation of the thesis are established by the Faculty and may be obtained from the Librarian.  In order to have time for adequate evaluation and revision of the thesis, the following additional deadlines have been established:


  • October 24, 2014 – Present poster at the Presidential Science Symposium (Students that were involved in summer research)
  • November 3, 2014 - The tentative thesis title due to Department Coordinator.
  • No later than November 28, 2014** - Submit preliminary research paper to advisor.
  • No later than December 5, 2014** - Submit revised preliminary research paper to reviewers.
  • Friday, December 12 and Monday, December 15, 2014 - Fall semester oral presentations.  

**Your advisor and/or reviewers may require an earlier deadline to review your paper to allow sufficient time for reading and revision.


The Biology Department recommends that you talk with your advisor early in the fall semester about setting additional deadlines for your honors work.

Such deadlines are particularly helpful for people who are more comfortable with more structure, who are inclined toward procrastination or who find writing or reading the literature particularly challenging.

Possible intermediate deadlines you could set with your advisor include:

  • Writing a short project description
  • Assembling an annotated bibliography of papers relevant to your project
  • Writing an outline for your preliminary research paper
  • Exchanging a draft of your paper with a fellow student for feedback
  • Submitting a preliminary draft of your paper to your advisor


In order to have time for adequate evaluation and revision of the thesis, the following additional deadlines have been established in the spring semester:

  • April 3, 2015 - Final thesis title to Department Coordinator. 
    To be forwarded to the Publications Office for inclusion in the Commencement Program.
  • No later than April 17, 2015 - Thesis to advisor.**
  • May 1, 2015 - Revisised thesis to reviewers.**
  • May 7-8, 2015 - Final oral presentation of thesis.
  • May 15, 2015 Final Revised and approved thesis due to library 5:00 p.m. The student should continue to consult with all three faculty members until thesis is ready for final submission. The approval of each of the faculty readers is required before the thesis is submitted to the College Librarian.
  • May 22, 2015 Two Copies of the Final Revised Thesis and one electronic copy are due to the Biology Department Coordinator, Julie Santorella