Honors Guidelines

Advanced Independent Study and Honors Guidelines for Seniors in Biochemistry, working with faculty in the Biology Department.

About Advanced Independent Study

One of the key requirements in receiving honors in Biochemistry, Advanced independent study is designed to provide a capstone experience that will integrate your scientific background, develop your ability to explore scientific questions independently, and present scientific information through a complete research experience. In this research experience you will learn alongside your advisor and your peers. An additional goal of this experience is to strengthen the peer group that exists among seniors conducting research.

Students working with faculty in the Chemistry Department need to follow the Chemistry Department Guidelines

Related Forms


We expect you to be active participants in your research experience. Explore the literature. Discuss ideas with your advisor. Attend and actively participate in seminars. Ask questions of our invited speakers and of your peers to demonstrate your engagement in research beyond your own. Ask questions of your peers during their practice seminars to help them anticipate questions from others. Questions drive the advancement of scientific knowledge – your questioning will help someone to think outside their box. You are encouraged to provide peer-review of posters, oral presentations, and written documents to your fellow students.


In the course of your research experience this year you will:

  1. Develop research goals and objectives
  2. Perform a comprehensive literature review of your research area
  3. Design appropriate experiments to reach your goals and objectives
  4. Conduct well-planned experiments
  5. Analyze your data to understand and interpret your results
  6. Present your findings in poster, oral and written formats
  7. Thoughtfully critique the work of your peers
  8. Stay current with developments in the field by attending weekly seminars featuring invited speakers who will present current and on-going research
Location: Druckenmiller 20
Biology Department series:
Thursdays 4:00pm-5:00pm
Chemistry Department series:
Fridays 3:00pm-4:00pm
Students should attend one of these seminars a week, choosing the most appropriate for their research area. Attendance is mandatory.

Advanced independent study requires a strong commitment to your scholarship and then conscientiousness necessary to participate in an "unstructured" course. Bear in mind that your time commitment is expected to exceed that of a standard Bowdoin course—you will need to spend an average of 10-15 hours a week to meet the above objectives.

Deadlines & Assignments

Your adherence to Fall and Spring deadlines is expected.


The Biochemistry faculty has high expectations of the quality of work produced by all senior research students, and these expectation are elevated for those working toward Honors. Your grade on your independent study project will reflect your efforts in all elements of the research experience documented above and your active participation in the biochemistry research community. Your progress toward achieving the stated objectives of the research experience will be formally evaluated by the biochemistry faculty mid-year and once again at the conclusion of the year. At these points, the faculty will identify strengths and limitations in your progress and performance and either your advisor or a representative biology faculty member will provide recommendations for addressing any concerns in progress. The following criteria will be used to evaluate your performance and progress:(i) your engagement in the project; (ii) independence in the laboratory/field analysis (which we expect will be enhanced over the two semesters); (iii) your ability to incorporate feedback from your advisor in written and oral assignments; (iv) the final quality of your written and oral assignments.


Honors is a distinction awarded at the end of the year to advanced independent study students whose projects merit this recognition, as determined by the Biochemistry Program. Students who receive this distinction for their work must meet eligibility standards (such as grade requirements), must participate in required honors activities (such as attending and engaging in seminars), must present their project in the required oral and written formats (as noted above), and must demonstrate, through their independent engagement in the project, their ability to plan and execute experiments, their ownership of the project and relevant literature, and through the quality of their final thesis, that their project has risen to a level worthy of receiving the award of Honors.

For students pursuing Honors in Biochemistry, you will receive feedback regarding your project with information about areas where you are or are not meeting the expectations for an Honors project. Following your successful completion of two semesters of independent study (e.g. Biochemistry 4000 and 4001), the program will assess whether your final thesis can be recommended for Honors. If you achieve honors, the registrar will switch the course numbers on your transcript to 4050 and 4051.

Grades for Biochem 4000+ are awarded by your faculty advisor. For students undertaking a yearlong project, faculty members often submit a grade of “S” (satisfactory) for the first semester grade. This grade is then replaced by a final grade at the completion of the year. The convention for grading should be discussed with your advisor.

The major differences between honors and independent study projects are:

  • Only honors candidates present posters/talks during reading period.
  • Independent study papers do not need to meet the library formatting requirements.
  • Only honors projects are reviewed by faculty members other than your advisor.