Honors and Independent Study

The Chemistry Department encourages students to engage in independent research, which may be in the form of Independent Study or Honors Research projects. Requirements for Honors in Chemistry are described below.

Approximately half of departmental majors earn honors by completing two-semester independent projects and then reporting their work in formal Honors Thesis. Many majors not in the honors program also undertake independent research.

In addition to opportunities offered during the academic year, some students are able to participate with the faculty on summer research projects. On all projects, students share with their faculty adviser the responsibility for planning, executing, and reporting their investigations. The department stresses the importance of independent work, especially at the senior level, and believes that these experiences provide a more realistic exposure to science than that gained from course work alone. Students wishing to conduct a laboratory independent study project must have taken at least one 200 level laboratory-intensive course approved by the Department.

See a listing of past student honors projects to learn more.

Important Honor Project Dates


Requirements for Honors in Chemistry

1. A "B" average in courses submitted for the major with the additional requirement that the Candidate shall have received no more than two grades below a B in these courses. Courses submitted for the major shall include work in other departments that may be required for the Chemistry Major. If you have any questions about qualifying for honors please consult with a member of the Department.

2. Two semesters of Independent Study devoted to the study of a single topic.

a. At the outset of the project, the student should clearly define the goals and objectives of the research with the advisor. This may include a written proposal or detailed literature search containing the requisite background material.

b. Because independent study is not a highly structured activity, the department expects students to approach it in a conscientious manner with full knowledge of the time commitment needed. The student should establish a schedule with their advisor which recognizes the commitment involved for the scholarly research proposed. This commitment will typically average 12 hours a week, including time spent in the laboratory, library, examining data, and thinking about your project.

3. Regular Attendance at Departmental Seminars. To a large degree, the education of a chemist goes far beyond course and laboratory work and into the "real world" of the practicing chemist. The department provides the opportunity to discover this world through regularly scheduled Tuesday afternoon seminars presented by chemists in various professions. Typically, the speaker will be available to discuss their job and related opportunities with students at a Kamerling lunch or at pre-seminar socials.

4. Favorable consideration of the project by the Department at a mid-year review. This will be done before the end of the Fall Semester and will contain the following components.

a. A brief written summary of the project by the Candidate due prior to the oral presentation. This paper should be a concise summary of the project background, goals, and work completed to date. It should include a bibliography and should be between five and ten pages in length.

b. An oral presentation by the Candidate to the Department and other interested persons toward the end of the first semester. This will be a 20 minute presentation based on the written summary and any preliminary results. Each presentation will be followed by a short discussion of what was presented.

c. A written response to the Candidate from the Department.

5. Second Presentation. This will be in the form of a poster session normally given during reading period. The presentation will be a summary of the results of the project based on the results and discussion section of the Honors Thesis. Further details will be provided early in the second semester.

6. Favorable consideration of the Honors Thesis by the Department. Requirements for the preparation of the Thesis are established by the Faculty and may be obtained from the Librarian. In addition, the announced deadlines for the production and approval of the thesis must be met.

7. In unusual circumstances, certain students may find themselves unable to meet one or more of these requirements. In such cases, you should meet with your advisor and discuss the possibility of petitioning the Chemistry Department for a modification of the requirements for honors.


In addition to instructions published by the Library, Chemistry Department Honors Thesis should adhere to the following guidelines:

1. Abstract: This is usually one or two paragraphs at the beginning of the thesis summarizing what was done, the results and the conclusions. It sometimes is difficult to summarize a year's work in a brief form, so special care should be taken in writing this important part of your thesis.

2. Introduction: Your thesis should include an introductory chapter giving background material on previous work done on the subject of your project. Other logical sections include an experimental section, results sections, and discussion and conclusions section. Appendices should be used for computer programs and other sorts of detailed information. Sections and subsections of paper should be numbered in some reasonable way (e.g. 1, 1.1, 1.1.2, 1.2, etc. or Roman Numerals) as a guide to organization. These will be the basis for your Table of Contents.

3. References: Should be numbered consecutively with no ibids's, loc.cit.'s, etc. Consult the American Chemical Society Style Guide for proper form for references. References should be grouped together at the end of the paper. General bibliographies of readings should not be given at the end of paper. Give proper credit by giving a proper reference.

4. Figures: These should be numbered consecutively from the beginning to the end of the paper (don't start numbers over for each chapter) and must include proper figure captions. Figures should not have page numbers and should be designed with margins sufficient for final binding. Neatness is parcticularly important here.

5. General advice

a. Plan ahead--leave enough time for figures, copying (if you need special paper, don't wait until the last minute), binding, etc.

b. Read the official "Honors Papers for Deposit in Library." When in doubt or if you feel that there are contradictions between Chemistry Department Guidelines and Library Guidelines, consult your advisor.

c. Consult previous honors papers (there is a good selection on Reserve in the Hatch Science Library) for models of organization, form, etc.

d. When in doubt, ask questions--the final form of your Honors Thesis is the joint responsibility of you and your advisor.