Graduating with Honors

Guidelines and Schedule for Honors in Biology for the Class of 2014

February 27, 2013 (Version 2.2)

            Honors in Biological Sciences can be earned via one of two tracks.  The first, Scholar Honors, recognizes exceptional academic performance (minimum cumulative GPA of 3.6 or above), including submission and acceptance of a scholarly thesis.  The second, Research Honors, emphasizes exceptional achievement in a program of original research (minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 or above) plus submission and acceptance of an in-depth research thesis. 

            For students graduating in Winter or Spring quarters of 2014 only:  Applicants with a GPA between 3.25 and 3.6 may apply for Scholar Honors as well as Research Honors.

            The Biology Honors programs are managed by the Honors Faculty comprising a Director (S. Kron, 2013-14) and Curriculum Committee (currently I. Rebay, G. Thinakaran, J. Greenberg, R. Keenan, B. Key, J. Marks, D. Nicolae, W.-J. Tang, and L. Mets (ex officio), with additional faculty to be added).

            Both tracks require formal declaration of intent to seek Honors by the candidate by the beginning of Spring Quarter of the year before the year of graduation. 

            Acceptance into the Research Honors program includes a guarantee of stipend and fee support for research during the summer prior to graduation.  Half of the support will be provided by the BSCD with matching funds provided or arranged by the research Mentor.  No similar BSCD support will be provided for Scholars Honors candidates who opt to pursue research over the summer, but they are welcome to obtain funding from other sources including their Mentor.

            The details of each Honors program are provided below, followed by templates for the biographical sketch and proposal, and a FAQ.

Scholar Honors

Scholar application format:

            For candidates seeking Scholar Honors for graduation in Spring, 2014:

A)        No later than noon on Thursday, March 21, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of The University of Chicago.  They will be sent a request by the Director via Kirsten Cole for a letter of support and commitment.

B)        No later than noon on Thursday, March 21, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members.  They will be contacted by the Director via Kirsten Cole to submit a letter of recommendation.

C)        No later than noon on Monday, April 8, 2013, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kirsten Cole at kcole@uchicago.edu.

            Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referenced. Figure legends and table entries should be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams should be smaller than Arial 9.

Application Documents:

            Cover letter

1)         A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, the thesis project, selection and qualifications of the mentor, overall intellectual goals and any plans for post-graduate education.

            Supporting documentation

2)         A biographical sketch the format of the Biosketch Template (see following).

3)         An official U of C transcript

4)         A plan for all Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation.  Students planning Fall or Winter quarter graduation must also provide a schedule for early completion of the thesis.

            Proposal

5)         A project description in the format of the Research Proposal Template (see following) or

6)         Abstract of no more than 1/2 page describing overall project goals and rationale and detailed project description in an appropriate format to the field, covering the scientific problem and its significance, aims and methods of study, anticipated results, pitfalls and alternatives, and broader impacts, consisting of no more than 3 pages, inclusive of figures and tables, with numbered citations.

7)         Up to thirty references in PNAS format, with PubMed links to each paper.

Addendum (optional)

8)         Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages.

Scholar candidate selection:

            While a minimum GPA is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree.  Selection of candidates for Scholar in Biology Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based upon, A) the academic record, and particularly the selection of Biology courses completed and grades received (B+ or better), and relevant honors and fellowships; B) evidence of active participation, leadership, advocacy, research or other extracurricular activities demonstrating a commitment to scholarship in biology; C) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letter(s) of recommendation; and D) commitment and appropriateness of the mentor, relevance of the topic to contemporary biology, and rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan.  Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by April 22, 2013. 

            Candidates may contact the Director via Kirsten Cole regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date.  Draft applications must be submitted at least two weeks early to obtain preliminary feedback.  Applications will not be accepted after the due date.

Scholar Honors program:

There are no requirements for specific courses or to be in residence during any quarter.  Any changes in the proposed Biology coursework plan must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed.  The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully. 

Spring quarter (3/31/14-6/14/14):

            By first day of class:  A detailed thesis précis and outline, endorsed by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.

            By end of second week:  The thesis plan must be approved by a committee of three Honors Faculty to be permitted to complete the thesis for consideration for Honors.

            By end of fifth week:  A complete thesis draft, approved by the Mentor, must be submitted for review.

            By end of eighth week:  A final thesis must be accepted by the Mentor and committee of Honors Faculty.

            By beginning of finals week:  An official transcript must be provided showing satisfactory performance (B+ or better) in all Biology coursework and final overall GPA of 3.60 or higher.

            Convocation:  Honors graduates are invited to attend the Biology Honors ceremony along with their families so that they can receive their certificates.

Research Honors

Research application format:

            For candidates seeking Research Honors for graduation in Spring, 2014:

A)        No later than noon on Thursday, March 21, submit the name and email contact of the prospective Mentor, who must be a full faculty member of The University of Chicago.  They will be sent a request by the Director via Kirsten Cole for a letter of support and commitment.

B)        No later than noon on Thursday, March 21, submit the name and email contact for at least one and no more than two BSCD full faculty members.  They will be contacted by the Director via Kirsten Cole to submit a letter of recommendation.

C)        No later than noon on Monday, April 8, 2013, submit all application documents, combined into a single pdf file, via email to Kirsten Cole at kcole@uchicago.edu.

            Format: All pages will use 0.5" margins all around without headers or footers, single column, with text in Arial 11 font, single spaced, with diagrams and tables embedded in the text close to where they are first referred to. Figure legends and table entries will be Arial 9.  No text in figures or diagrams will be smaller than Arial 9.

Application Documents:

            Cover letter

1)         A one-page statement describing motivation to pursue the Honors degree, prior or ongoing research, the research project, selection of the mentor, and any plans for post-graduate research or other training and education.

            Supporting documentation

2)         A biographical sketch the format of the Biosketch Template (see following).

3)         An official U of C transcript

4)         A plan for Biology and other science courses to be completed by graduation. 

            Proposal

5)         A research proposal in the format of the Research Proposal Template (see following).

Addendum (optional)

6)         Additional supporting material can be provided of no more than ten pages.

Research candidate selection:

            While a minimum GPA is required, it is not sufficient to be invited to complete an Honors degree.  Selection of candidates for Biology Research Honors will be made by the Honors Faculty, based on, A) evidence of commitment to and substantive experience in biological research; B) rigor and quality of the thesis proposal and plan; C) Biology courses completed and grades received (B+ or better); and D) evaluation of the candidate regarding both ability and performance as evidenced by the letters of support and recommendation.  Candidates will be informed of acceptance or rejection by April 22, 2013. 

            Candidates may contact the Director via Kirsten Cole regarding questions of suitability of a thesis project and/or mentor at any time prior to the application due date.  Draft applications must be submitted at least two weeks early to obtain preliminary feedback.  Applications will not be accepted after the due date. 

Research Honors program:

            All accepted Research Honors candidates will be awarded a $5000 summer research fellowship consisting of $4000 stipend and $1000 for fees, program and research costs.  Funding for the fellowship will typically be $2500 from the Honors program matched by $2500 from the Mentor or their Department.  Students who are able to obtain a summer fellowship from other sources will qualify for additional funding from the Honors program to pay fees, program and research costs and/or raise their stipend up to a maximum of $5000, as permitted.

            The Biology Research Honors program will require continuous participation from the end of the Spring quarter of the Third year through Spring quarter of the Fourth year.  Any changes in science coursework must be approved by the Honors Director, in consultation with the Curriculum Committee, as needed.  The Biology major and all other coursework required for graduation must be completed successfully. 

Spring quarter (4/1/13-6/15/13):

            Sixth through ninth weeks--Informal weekly meetings for short presentations of proposals

Summer quarter (6/24/13-9/6/13):

            Ten weeks of full-time research on campus or in the field.

            Registration for one pass/fail course unit.  No other coursework is permitted.

            Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

            Retreat symposium with invited guest speakers at end of summer.

Fall quarter (9/22/13-12/14/13):

            Registration for one graded or pass/fail course unit.

            Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

            Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Background" thesis chapter due at end of quarter.

Winter quarter (1/6/14-3/22/14):

            Registration for one graded or pass/fail course unit.

            Weekly Research in Progress meeting led by Honors Faculty.

            Scholarly paper corresponding to draft "Results" and "Methods" chapters due at end of quarter.

Spring quarter (3/31/14-6/14/14):

            Optional registration for one pass/fail course unit.

            Full thesis draft endorsed by Mentor due by end of fifth week.

            Thesis defense to a committee of Honors Faculty must be completed by end of seventh week.

            Accepted thesis signed by Mentor and committee due by end of eighth week.

            Final transcript showing satisfactory performance in all Biology coursework.

            Presentation at Honors symposium and participation in ceremony prior to convocation, open to families.