Honors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Honors in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) is a culminating experience for eligible senior BMB majors.  It is a means by which a student can do intensive original research in the area of Biochemistry and Molecular 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 BMB (BMB 451 or 452) or through a summer research experience with the Faculty Sponsor.  Through this re-search, 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 BMB Committee (Drs. Jackson-Hayes, Hill, Miller and Loprete).

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 Program Chair.  The Program Chair will confer final approval of the proposal.  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 (BMB 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 BMB

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 BMB 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 Program Chair will confer approval for the conferring of Honors in BMB and to report that action 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 faculty member on the BMB  Program Committee 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.    


College Guidelines, including registration forms, petition forms, and thesis formatting is provided on the academic volume. It is the responsibility of the candidate student to understand and follow the more specific timeline and guidelines found in this document (specific to BMB) as well as the broader college document (\\Fileserver1\facstaff_community\Cares\Public\Honors Research).


Due Dates for Honors Research


Junior Year

Beginning of spring semester  Register for BMB Honors Research with your BMB faculty sponsor

Senior Year Fall Semester

Two weeks after 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 Program 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

Three weeks after first day of classes Last date for the Student to register for Honors in the Registrar’s Office. 
Four weeks after first day of classes Last date for the Thesis Committee to inform Student and Program Chair of its decision to approve proposed work for honors.  If not approved, the student would petition to discontinue honors research, and the credit would revert to directed inquiry or research.

Senior Year 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. 

Two weeks before the end 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
Monday of last week of classes Last date for decision of the Thesis Committee to be approved by the department.  If not approved, the student would petition to discontinue honors research, and the credit would revert to directed inquiry or research. 
Last day of classes  Last date for Candidate to provide Honors thesis abstract to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service (due by 5 P.M.) if approved by committee 
Due date for Final Grades  Last date for department to notify the Registrar’s Of-fice of grades received for Honors Tutorial and of departmental approval to graduate with Honors in BMB. 
Friday following Commencement   Last date for Candidate to provide a clean printed copy of Honors thesis to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service, to be bound and catalogued in the library.  Guidelines governing the form of the preparation of the Archival Copy of the Thesis are available in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Service.