Honors Projects and Independent Studies

Independent Study Courses

Independent study courses are an excellent way to learn mathematics that is outside of our usual curriculum. Such a course may involve research on a scale smaller than an honors project, or allow you to learn about a topic which is not routinely addressed in our classes. Those interested should discuss the possible options with a potential faculty advisor.  All independent study courses in mathematics require the approval of the department chair and the completion of a department form before registration.

Honors Projects

For students interested in pursuing an honors thesis: This project requires two semesters of dedicated effort, almost always undertaken in a student's senior year. Be conscious that these projects often develop slowly and consider the recommended calendar below. An honors project may begin in the Fall of the student's senior year either as a dedicated honors project course or as an independent study course that subsequently develops into an honors project. Both are excellent ways to make space within the curriculum where a student can work with a faculty mentor to undertake the significant research project that leads to honors in mathematics. Be sure to discuss with your faculty advisor what your expectations are for your study.  All honors courses in mathematics require the approval of the department chair and the completion of a department form before registration.

Timeline

Here is an approximate but recommended calendar to consider when thinking about an honors thesis project, though please appreciate that each project is unique, and your own timeline may vary.

  • Late Fall, early Spring semester, junior year: Begin a conversation with a faculty member about a potential project.  Applications for Bowdoin's Summer Research Fellowships due.  Some honors theses begin with a summer research experience.
  • Summer, rising seniors: Students sometimes begin research, either on campus or remotely. 
  • Fall semester, senior year: Start independent study (possibly leading to honors) or honors project itself. Honors projects include both Fall and Spring semesters. You will give a short talk about your work to the faculty at the end of the semester.
  • Spring semester, senior year: Continue work on the project.  Complete the writing of a senior thesis.  You will defend your thesis to the faculty at the end of the semester.