Why do Honors Research?

Honors research in MCDB provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in world-class original research. This experience gives students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in lecture classes to unsolved problems in biological research. Graduation with Departmental Honors from MCDB is recognized as an outstanding accomplishment, and the experience gained from having done original research provides a significant advantage for students who wish to go on to medical school, graduate school, or a position in industry.

How do you get involved in Honors Research in MCDB?

Find a faculty member to sponsor your research. You can find out about the research interests of individual faculty members by going to the MCDB homepage. Students have graduated with MCDB honors for research performed in other departments (e.g., Chemistry/Biochemistry, Psychology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and Integrative Physiology).

When should you start your Honors Research Project?

Most students start in their sophomore or junior year and continue until graduation. At least two semesters of undergraduate laboratory research are recommended for graduation with honors so that sufficient data can be collected for the thesis project.  Credit can be earned for this research by enrolling in independent study (MCDB 4840) or Honors Research (MCDB 4980).  Consult with your thesis advisor about these options.  You should start thinking about writing your honors thesis and preparing an oral defense of your project at least one semester before you graduate.  Your oral defense of your thesis will happen during the semester you graduate.

What are the requirements for graduation with departmental honors in MCDB?

  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.3. (This requirement is sometimes waived for students who have done exceptionally well in their research)
  • Completion of at least two semesters of original laboratory research under the guidance of a faculty member. This research experience can be obtained through independent study for credit (the quality of research must be equivalent to a B or higher), or from an equivalent research experience without credit.  Consult with your thesis advisor about these options.
  • Research data that will support an honors thesis. Consult frequently with your advisor to ensure that your project is on track for thesis quality data.

The semester before you plan to graduate.

  • Complete an application for Honors graduation. The honors application requires a brief prospectus, bibliography and timeline for your thesis project. This application is due the semester BEFORE you plan to graduate ( Ex: early October for students graduating in May and late April for students graduating in December ). Visit the University of Colorado Honors Web Page for the current semester deadlines and a link to the application form.
  • Write an Honors thesis. Your thesis should synthesize the results of your honors project and include an abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and references section. Students wanting credit for their thesis should register for MCDB 4990, Honors Thesis, during the semester they plan to defend their thesis.
  • Form a thesis examination committee. This committee will consist of at least three members: your thesis advisor, a representative of the Honors Council, and one faculty member from outside the MCDB department. Contact members for your defense committee when you begin work on your thesis. The committee members can provide support and feedback during the writing process. Give each member of your examination committee a hard copy of your thesis at least one week before your Oral Examination.
  • Complete the Honors Oral Examination. The Honors Oral Examination consists of a public seminar (usually approximately 30 minutes) on the Honors Research followed by questions from the audience and the examining committee.

How is your level of Honors determined?

The examination committee will make a recommendation to the University Honors Council as to whether honors should be granted and if so at which level (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude). Factors considered in the recommendation include the quality of the research, the quality of the thesis, and the student’s performance during the oral examination, and the student’s overall academic record. The University Honors Council makes the final decisions on Honors.

Other Resources

Arts and Sciences Honors Program Website