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Biology Honors / Research

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Honors and Independent Study Research

The Biology Department is actively involved in the Honors Program, and many undergraduate students carry out independent research projects under the guidance of faculty members with national and international reputations in their fields. Students can use these research experiences to obtain academic credit through Independent Study (BIOL 3990 and BIOL 4990) and also to fulfill the requirements for graduation with Honors in Biology.

To get involved in a research project, students should contact an individual faculty member to inquire about available openings. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for research-related scholarships. These include scholarships offered by the Department of Biology and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which is administered by the Honors College but is open to all students. Many students also participate in the annual Undergraduate Research Day, a one-day conference, hosted by the Honors College, that showcases outstanding undergraduate research and creative activity for an audience of other students, faculty, and parents.

For Graduation with Honors distinction, the Honors College requires 15 hours of course work - three hours of Hon 2973 (Perspectives course), nine hours of other courses (which can include study abroad, OSLEP, etc), and three hours of colloquium. They also require a minimum of two hours of reading coursework and a minimum of three hours of independent study. These last two requirements are met by departmental requirements for Honors Reading and Honors Research.

Biology requires three hours of Honors Reading (BIOL 3960) and four hours of Honors Research (BIOL 3980). These courses are usually given under the auspices of a single mentor-faculty (but can sometimes be offered by more than one faculty advisor - for example, if a student does research at another institution).

An Honors student usually takes the Honors Reading course during his/her junior year. It can be stretched over two semesters or taken during one semester. Usually the Honors Reading consists initially of background reading followed by in-depth reading of original research in the field in which the student plans to do research. It is hoped that this reading experience will equip the student to formulate questions and hypotheses that he/she can test during their Honors Research work.

Biology Honors Research work is classified as a laboratory course and can be taken during the summer between the junior and senior years, as well as during the senior year. Only three credits can be earned in any one semester and many students take the four credits over three semesters. The result of the Honors Research experience is an Honors Thesis. This thesis must be turned into the Honors College Office in order for the student to graduate with Honors distinction. Our department normally requires the student to defend his/her thesis in front of a small committee composed of two to three faculty. This committee acts much like an MS thesis committee in giving guidance to the thesis while it is being written and signing the top page of the thesis after it is successfully defended. At the defense, the student is quizzed about the thesis and other issues deemed appropriate by the committee. Frequently, the Honors Student is asked to present his/her research results at the Undergraduate Research Day (held in April of each spring).

Upon completion of the requirements for Honors, degrees will be awarded as follows, depending on the student's overall G.P.A. at the time of graduation:




  • 3.40-3.59   Cum laude
  • 3.60-3.79   Magna cum laude
  • 3.80-4.00   Summa cum laude