Undergraduate Honors

Formal application for an Honors degree

Once a faculty advisor has agreed to sponsor you for the honors program, you should register with the Department of Biology Honors Committee by contacting Mary Ann Miller.

Scope of the Honors degree

The nature of the honors research project usually reflects both your specific interest area and the focus of faculty advisor’s research program. Given the broad scope of interests represented in the department, a wide variety of honors projects are possible. Undergraduate biology majors can also conduct honors research with faculty in other departments, including the medical sciences, chemistry, psychology, and so on.

  1. An overall GPA of 3.300 or above

  2. Completion of all required coursework for the desired degree

  3. Research work in Biology or in an associated discipline

  4. Successful defense of an Honors thesis as certified by an appropriate faculty committee

What is involved in the successful defense of an Honors thesis?

There are specific rules concerning the completion of an honors degree, as certified by an appropriate faculty member. Refer to the information below, and consult with a Biology academic advisor.

Research rules

Honors research may be performed at IUB, at another campus of Indiana University or at another university, provided that your honors committee evaluates all such research.

The honors committee is comprised of the student's faculty mentor and at least two additional members of the faculty of the IUB Biology department.

Honors research ordinarily encompasses two academic semesters, an academic semester and a full summer, or two full summers. Summers should involve full-time research. Registration in BIOL-X490 during two summer sessions of a single summer does not complete the research requirement for a degree with honors.

If you earn BIOL-X490 credit in a SPEA lab, you cannot convert that research to a Biology upper level lab or use it for the Biology Honors notation.

If you are pursuing the Honors notation and plan to use BIOL-X490 research as an upper level lab in the Biology B.S. or Biology B.A. degree, you must successfully complete the thesis for lab credit.

The honors thesis cannot be used for your intensive writing requirement.

Honors courses

The department offers honors courses equivalent to its main courses, designated with an “S”, to provide opportunities and challenges for superior students.

In addition to covering the basic material taught in the regular courses, these small-enrollment courses offer tightly integrated lecture and laboratory experiences. They include an experimental approach and a quantitative orientation.

Candidates for an honors degree do not necessarily need take these courses, but would clearly benefit from them. The courses include:

  • S211 Honors Molecular, offered Fall semester only
  • S311 Honors Genetics, offered Spring semester only
  • S318 Honors Evolution, offered every Spring and every other Fall

To enroll, you need to have a 3.300 GPA overall and have also completed the prerequisites.

BIOL-X490 and Honors faculty advisors

[links to the list of faculty advisors fed in from the directory when a faculty member checks the X490 advisor box in his/her profile]

Timing of the honors program

What is the preferred timing for the various aspects of a student's Honors degree program?

Although there is only a two-semester BIOL-X490 requirement for an Honors degree, you are advised to begin working toward the Honors degree as early as possible. In that way, you can obtain the full benefits of the honors program.

Undergraduates often underestimate the time required for thesis writing and some have had to abandon their Honors plans as a result. The responsibility for following the timetable outlined below lies squarely with the student.

Keep in mind that the honors thesis does not replace any coursework for the Microbiology B.A. or B.S. or the Animal Behavior degree. If you are doing an Area of Concentration (AOC) for the B.S. in Biology, your Honors thesis will not count as one of the two required upper level labs.

Students engaged in undergraduate research for the honors notation are reminded that the BIOL-X490 experience may substitute for one of the upper level laboratories required for an undergraduate degree in Biology if the honors thesis is approved. Several precisely defined steps must be taken before the department will approve such a substitution. A description of the requirements which must be met for such a substitution is available from the Biology Advisors in JH A115. No substitution of this kind will be made without such approval. Students pursuing a degree with honors can be reasonably sure that such a substitution will be approved upon completion of the written requirements and documentation.

No later than nine months prior to the time the Honors degree is to be awarded, the potential candidate should have identified a probable thesis director and should have established at least a general topic for the work to be done. Students are encouraged to visit with faculty in areas they find most interesting and can seek advice from Biology academic advisors, the Biology Honors Chair, or the Biology Department Chair and Associate Chair to identify appropriate faculty members.

The research should be past the initial reading and discussion stage and into the actual experimental stage early in the semester prior to graduation.

Prior to the last semester, the full committee should be selected and be acquainted with the work being done. This provides the committee with opportunities to make suggestions about the investigations needed to complete the work.

A thesis should be in the hands of the committee no later than April 15 (for May graduates) or December 1 (for December graduates). Ask your thesis director read the first draft and make revisions on the basis of his or her suggestions before circulating a final version to the honors committee.

At least two weeks prior to the end of your last semester, you must defend your thesis before the committee. A general departmental announcement should be made about the defense, and other members of the faculty may attend after notifying the thesis director so that space can be made available. A desirable format is for the student to present an open departmental seminar about his or her work, followed immediately by a defense of the work before the thesis committee.

The candidate must advertise the defense. See Casey Green in Jordan Hall 142 to announce the defense.

Mary Ann Miller, a biology advisor, must certify the successful defense of the Honor's thesis to the Recorder's Office a week prior to the end of the semester. Therefore, the student must submit one bound copy of the thesis, signed by all committee members, to her at the Advising Office (JH A115, 855-3810).

Honors thesis

What type of work is suitable for inclusion in an Honors thesis?

In general, work on an honors thesis is a less ambitious version of a Master’s thesis. This involves performing laboratory or field experiments or make observations generating new data that are then analyzed. A paper based strictly on library research is not suitable as an Honors thesis in Biology, but can be a legitimate X490 experience.

What is the nature of the thesis?

So far as is appropriate, the thesis should be in the form of a paper written for publication. It will typically include a summary, introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion, and it should conclude with a list of literature cited.

While no absolute length requirement is in place, the suggested minimum length is 25 pages, double- spaced, 12 pt. font (any standard font such as Times, Arial, Helvetica), and 1” margins.