The Biology Department is committed to supporting student research, and to encouraging our students to present their work at scientific meetings and publish in peer-reviewed journals.

One of the ways we do this is through the Biology Department Thesis Program, which is designed to promote, develop, and recognize individual excellence through directed independent research. Thesis students meeting additional requirements may be awarded Honors or High Honors in Biology.

Thesis Requirements

  • A written thesis proposal describing a specific research project in the biological sciences and candidate’s preparation for that work. 
  • Presentation of a short (~10 minute), public thesis preview presentation as part of a Biology Department seminar along with other thesis students. This group seminar will be scheduled by the faculty Thesis Coordinator as early as possible in the semester preceding the thesis defense.
  • A written thesis describing the completed research project and results
  • A public seminar describing the research project and results immediately followed by a question and answer session with Biology Department faculty
  • Completion of the Biology major course requirements including at least two semesters of independent research (BIO 371/372/373/374/379), or at least one semester of independent research plus a summer spent on the proposed research. (BIO 379)
  • Attendance at Biology Department seminars as follows:
    • At least three Biology Department seminars by outside speakers during the semester of the defense and/or the semester preceding that in which the defense is scheduled. Thesis students will have opportunities to interact with invited speakers. 
    • All biology student thesis defenses during the semester in which the defense is scheduled. 
    • Note: A Thesis Program candidate who performs at least four hours of biology-related community service activities during the senior year can substitute that service for attendance at one seminar, if approved by the Thesis Coordinator in advance. Any schedule conflicts should be discussed with the Thesis Coordinator as soon as possible. 
  • Submission of an electronic copy of the final thesis to the Biology Department & Library.

Additional requirements and more detailed information can be found by reviewing the Thesis & Honors Guidelines at the end of this page. If you have general thesis questions, contact the Biology Thesis Coordinator Prof. Karen Bernd.

Honors in Biology Requirements

  • Successful completion of the Thesis requirements listed above
  • One additional biology course beyond those already fulfilling biology major requirements
  • A final GPA at graduation of greater than or equal to 3.2

High Honors in Biology Requirements

  • Successful achievement of Honors
  • A final GPA at graduation of greater than or equal to 3.6
  • Nomination for high honors by mentor and vote by biology faculty

Thesis & Honors Guidelines

In writing an honors thesis, biology students learn to formulate testable hypotheses and succinctly convey their findings and interpretations in the context of current knowledge in biology and other disciplines. Find more information about the honors thesis process, and contact thesis coordinator Prof. Karen Bernd for additional questions.

Thesis & Honors Guidelines (Davidson login required)