The Undergraduate Honors Program in the Biological Sciences

Learning Goals of the Honors Program

This program is designed to provide Biology students an opportunity to turn their undergraduate research experience into a formal honors thesis.

As part of completing an honors thesis, the student will conduct a results-based independent research project under the tutelage of a Faculty member in Department of Biological Sciences, write an honors thesis, participate in a seminar course designed for the Honors Program, and communicate their work publicly.

As a member of the Honors Program, students will be able to combine their knowledge from courses with a firsthand understanding of experimental Biology. They will interact one-on-one with a faculty mentor, graduate students, and other undergraduate students. They will gain experience in discussing science with others. The primary learning goal of the program is that students are able to integrate all components of the biological sciences into their knowledge base: basic research and the scientific method, study of the primary literature, and communication of the knowledge that is gained.

Students who have experience doing independent research are invited to apply to the Honors Program in March of their junior year. Applications are due by March 30th.

Requirements of the Honors Program

1) A major in Biology and experience doing research with a member of the Department of Biology.

2) A completed application for the Program. This includes:

  1. A one page statement describing the objectives of your independent research and results obtained to date.
  2. Your resume.
  3. Your transcripts.
  4. Contract with your research mentor.

Application Process

Please submit the above items by March 30th of your junior year. Feel free to talk with the director of the Honors Program at any time.

Requirements for Graduation with Honors in Biological Sciences:

1) A student must have completed a minimum of 3 credits of undergraduate research (BIOL 398/399) and a minimum of 2 semesters of research (approved summer research may count as one semester) in the lab of a Biology faculty member.

2) Undergraduate Biology Seminar (BIOL 394) taken during the junior or senior years. In the Honors Seminar, students present their research, present journal articles, discuss ethical issues, visit with invited speakers, etc.

3) Two credits of Honors Thesis (BIOL 415H) during which you will write an Honors Thesis approved by your faculty advisor. The thesis will be evaluated by the Honors committee. This course would be taken in the fall or spring of your senior year. As part of this course, you will also present a 20 minute seminar on your research as part of the departmental seminar series (BIOL 490) as well as participate (poster) in the Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium. Enrollment is by permission of the Honors director, based on evidence that sufficient research results have been obtained as a basis for the Honors Thesis.

4) The departmental Honors Committee is responsible for your acceptance into the Program. For questions regarding the Program or admittance, please contact the Director of the Honors Program, Dr. Sarah Woodley, Mellon Hall 225, 412-396-6320,

Course Descriptions

BIOL 398, 399. Undergraduate Biology Research. 1-3 credits. Laboratory research under the direction of a faculty mentor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Prerequisite: Permission of faculty mentor. May be taken more than once.

BIOL 394. Undergraduate Biology Seminar. 1 credit. Discussion of current issues and scientific literature in the Biological Sciences. Format includes student presentations, faculty seminars, or invited speakers. Prerequisite: BIOL 398 or 399 or equivalent summer experience. May be taken a total of two times for credit.

BIOL 415H. Honors Biology Thesis. 2 credits. A written honors Biology thesis to be based on research that was conducted under the mentorship of a faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences. Also includes public presentations (oral and poster) of the thesis research. Prerequisite: 1-4 credits of research (Biol 398, 399 or equivalent summer experience) and permission of a faculty mentor and the director of the honors program.