Honors in Biology


Honors in Biology is a culminating experience for eligible senior Biology majors.  It is a means by which a student can do intensive original research in Biology and evaluate results in light of current research literature in the field. 


To be eligible for Honors research, a student must have a minimum of a 3.5 GPA (cumulative and in the major) at the time of application and be on track to graduate at the end of the academic year in which the Honors research is carried out. 

Preliminary Activity

It is strongly recommended that students who are considering Honors research get preliminary practical experience in their research topic, either through the course Research in Biology (Biology 451 or 452) or through a summer research experience with the Faculty Sponsor.  Through this research, the student, with the guidance of the Sponsor, will define an appropriate project, gain preliminary familiarity with techniques and relevant literature, and prepare to write an Honors proposal.  In conjunction with the Sponsor, the student will identify two other faculty members who are willing to serve, along with the Sponsor, as members of the Thesis Committee.  Normally, one of the members of the Thesis Committee will be a faculty member outside the Biology Department. 

The Proposal and Approval to Begin Honors Research

Formal application for Honors research is made in the form of an Honors proposal, submitted at the beginning of the Fall Semester of the senior year (see attached timetable).  The proposal must address a research question of an original nature, describing the significance of the project, providing appropriate background to the reader, and specifying the methodology chosen for the study.  Both the background section and the methodology section of the proposal must be supported by appropriate literature references, and a “Literature Cited” section must be included.  A time-line should be included, which realistically estimates the amount of time expected to be spent on various aspects of the proposed research.

The proposal must be approved by all members of the Thesis Committee, who will report their recommendation to the Department Chair.  The department authorized the Chair to confer departmental (final) approval of the proposal and to report that action to the department.  If accepted as a candidate for Honors, the Candidate must complete the appropriate College forms for Honors Registration (available in the office of the Registrar) and must contact the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service to obtain the most current copy of the college-wide guidelines governing Honors Research.  The Candidate must also enroll in Honors Tutorial (Biology 495 & 496) in both the fall and spring semesters, so that a minimum of 8 credits of research will have been completed at the end of the senior year.

Progress Report

At the beginning of the second semester the Candidate will make a formal Progress Report to the Thesis Committee, which serves as an opportunity to evaluate the progress of the project in light if its stated goals, to identify problems that may have arisen, and to offer corrective advice to the Candidate if necessary.  Normally this report will take the form of a PowerPoint presentation, presenting research observations and evaluating their meaning in light of project hypotheses and the relevant research literature.  The Committee Members are expected to provide the Candidate with a written evaluation soon after the report is presented, in which any concerns and suggestions are made clear.  The identification of concerns or the making of recommendations at this intermediate stage does not constitute a “formula for success” or a guarantee that simply addressing these considerations will result in a satisfactory evaluation of the Honors thesis. 

Evaluation of the Thesis and Approval to Graduate with Honors in Biology

By the date specified in the accompanying timetable, the Honors Candidate will submit a final version of a thesis in a format specified by the Thesis Committee.  (Earlier submission of one or more drafts is expected, in order to allow for feedback and revisions.)  To receive Honors, the final version of the thesis must be judged by all three readers to be of A or A-minus quality.  The Candidate will also be expected to present the work publicly at a scientific meeting, either on-campus or off-campus, as an oral presentation if that option is available (otherwise a poster presentation is acceptable), and this presentation must also be judged by the Thesis Committee to be of high quality.  As determined by the Faculty Sponsor, the Candidate’s overall performance in the Honors work must be at least at the A-minus level.  Finally, the Candidate must be eligible to receive a bachelor’s degree with a major in Biology at the next May Commencement, with final overall and final major GPA’s of at least 3.5000. 

Upon the satisfaction of all of these criteria, the department authorized the Chair to confer departmental (final) approval for the conferring of Honors in Biology and to report that action both to the department and to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service

Special Guidelines for Students Doing Research Off Campus

Honors Candidates may do their research under the direction of a scholar at another institution (e.g., St. Jude, UTM, U of M) with departmental approval – a Biology Department faculty member serves as the formal faculty sponsor.  The off-campus Research Mentor is encouraged to serve as a member of the three-person Thesis Committee, but this is not required.  The Candidate doing research off-campus is responsible for making the Research Mentor aware of the timetable and policies governing Honors and for adhering to these requirements.  

Even when not serving as a member of the Thesis Committee, the off-campus Mentor’s opinion will be given great weight by the Committee in evaluating the quality of the Candidate’s work and thesis.  In evaluating final products (thesis and public presentation), the Committee will be particularly concerned to assess what proportion of the research and scholarly input is the candidate’s own work, as opposed to the work of a research team.  Candidates are strongly encouraged to obtain the Research Mentor’s input as a reader of any drafts (proposal or thesis), but both Candidate and Mentor must be mindful that the thesis, in particular, is a graded product expected to reflect the Honors Candidate’s own accomplishments and understanding.

Timetable for Honors Research


Fall Semester

First day of classes               Last date for Student to deliver four copies of the proposal draft to the faculty sponsor for distribution to Thesis Committee and Department Chair.

Before a proposal is presented to the Committee, the Sponsor and potential Candidate are expected to have gone through a sufficient number of preliminary drafts that the Committee need ask for no more than one revision of the proposal before reaching its decision                                                                     

End of the 15th class day        Last date for the Student to register for Honors in the Registrar’s Office. 

End of the 15th class day        Last date for the Thesis Committee to inform Student and Department Chair of its decision.


Spring Semester

First week of classes               Candidate meets with the Thesis Committee to agree on a schedule and format for progress report to the Committee –   normally to be presented by the end of the third week of classes.

Six weeks before end of classes     Recommended date for Candidate to begin submission of preliminary drafts of thesis to Research Sponsor

Four weeks before end of classes   Recommended date for submission of first draft of thesis to the Thesis Committee. 

The preceding recommendations are intended to provide enough time for the Thesis Committee to give feedback to the Candidate upon at least one draft of the thesis and for the Candidate to act upon that feedback before submitting a final version of the thesis.  The Committee may elect another schedule to accomplish the same objectives. 

Monday of last week of classes      Last date for receipt by the Thesis Committee of the final version of the thesis.  Except for minor editorial corrections, no further versions of the thesis will be considered by the Committee.                   

Last day of classes                  Last date for decision of the Thesis Committee to be reported to the Department Chair.

                                                Last date for Candidate to provide Honors thesis abstract electronically to the Special Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty.                                                     

Due date for Final Grades      Last date for departmental approval to graduate with Honors in Biology

                                               Last date for department to notify the Registrar’s Office of grades received for Honors Tutorial and of departmental approval to graduate with Honors in Biology.

Friday following Commencement    Last date for Candidate to submit final print copy and a PDF copy on a CD of Honors Project to the Special Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty.


Additional Information

  1. Catalogue information on the Honors program, http://rhodes.edu/academics/6941.asp
  2. College′s Honors Research Guidelines page, which includes requirements and deadlines, the registration form, and the specifications for the final (archive) copies of the thesis, https://in.rhodes.edu/admin/rhodesexpress/Documents/Reg_Honors_Research_Guidelines.pdf.




                                                                            Updated: 10/26/2012