Honors

As an Honors student, there are a number of things you must consider:

You will have a special section dedicated to the Honors program. This section includes:

  • HONR 387H and 489H (Junior and Senior honors seminar courses)
  • Honors course - this is the honors elective course that you take in your sophomore year Spring semester. This course can count towards your area requirements; for example, if you take the SOC 217H course, this counts towards your S/BH elective.
  • Honors tutorial - you are required to take three. See Notes on Tutorials, below.
  • Honors Project I and II - for Biology majors, these are designated as Biology 488H and 489H. They count as 3 credits each, and they count towards your Major Elective credits. In other words, 6 out of your 42 major credits will be filled by BIOL 488H and 489H in your senior year.

Notes on Tutorials

  • You have to take three tutorials, one of which should be a biology tutorial, and another must be in any other subject (psych, history, etc.). You may opt to take your third tutorial in any subject, including biology.
  • Tutorial courses have a designation of BIOL 385H, 386H or 387H (if you are a junior) or BIOL 485H, etc. (if you are a senior).
  • Tutorials count towards your major and/or minor, so BIOL 385H, 386H etc. count for 3 credits towards the Major Electives. If you have a Psychology minor, and you take a tutorial in Psychology (so that the course is PSYCH 385H, 386H, etc.), then that counts towards your Psych minor. This is a good strategy for fulfilling requirements in minors in subjects such as languages, communications, psychology, etc.
  • If you want a tutorial to count for a Molecular, Cellular, Population, Genetics, or Organismal requirement for the major, you MUST check the box in the tutorial form that allows the course to fulfill a major requirement (rather than a major elective). This needs to be approved by the chair.
  • Tutorials CANNOT count for Writing Intensive or Cultural Diversity

Starting your research project

(see samples of Honors Thesis projects here)

One thing you must realize is that biological research takes a lot of time. It is therefore advisable for you to start thinking about your research project in your late sophomore or junior year and start your research no later than in the summer between your junior and senior years (or earlier, if possible!). Don't delay!

Here is what is involved in a research project

  • First, it is important to identify your interests. Remember that one of the strengths of the honors program is that it allows you to customize your education around your interests and goals. Try to select an honors project topic that interests and excites you.
  • Next, do your background research. Read up on the topic. See what has been done, and what is known about your topic. While you are doing your background reading, ask yourself questions about things that are unclear, or things that are unknown
  • Then try to answer these questions yourself. By doing this, you will identify "holes" or "gaps" in the literature that will serve as a basis for your research inquiry.
  • Faculty will be very helpful to you in this process. Therefore, it is important for you to harness the expertise that is available to you in this university. Don't be afraid or hesitant to approach them.
  • Once you have identified an appropriate research topic, approach a faculty member to see if he/she can be your preceptor (or mentor). It is important for you to select a faculty member who has the expertise to help you think about the subject matter.
  • You can then collaborate with the faculty member and design a research project. You will learn the necessary experimental design, laboratory techniques, and plan out your data analysis. If necessary, you will also conduct some pilot experiments to determine the feasibility of your research project.

Executing your research project, compiling and analyzing your data, and writing your honors thesis can take a lot of time. Your faculty mentor can help keep you on schedule.

Once your honors project is completed, you should think of yourself as an expert in your field. As a researcher, your goal is to learn the facts, techniques, approaches, and thought processes that are needed by science scholars. By doing your project, you gain important experience and expertise that moves you in the direction of becoming a critical thinker and an intellectual leader.

For your reference, see samples of Honors Thesis projects here.